She emerged over Adam Ant’s shoulder with a British accent, convincing him that he needed a Honda scooter. In the fair-skinned obsessed 80s which had little to no mainstream interest in expressions of black sexuality, this woman captivated me. She was so discernibly black; so discernibly sensual and sleek.*
I had never seen anyone like her anywhere. Perfect white teeth, splitting obsidian skin. Lips that were equally compelling, whether they formed a smile or a snarl. And her body? Just…look at the picture. The entire room sat in stunned silence, absorbing what was taking place on the commercial in front of us. My father broke the silence by saying, “That Grace Jones is definitely interesting.” I just remember thinking that she reminded me of a panther. It was 1984. I was eight when the world introduced me to Grace Jones.
In 1984, you could watch television for hours without seeing a solitary black person, much less a black woman, who was prominently featured. When you did see a black woman, she was a maid, a whore, or an over-done Barbie doll who faded into the background. And then there was Grace. Grace commanded and possessed. There was no waiting for permission. She granted it. She didn’t blaze a trail. Every trailed hoped to lead to the mountain that was Grace.
As a little black girl, I can’t explain what seeing a figure like Grace Jones did to and for me. She didn’t have to look like everyone else to be strong or confident. No, I didn’t have a Grace Jones strut at 8…or even 18. But she showed me that being who you were, in all of its insanity, was perfectly okay. People would slap the label of “crazy” or “scary” on her, but she was truly just brave. Shedding every pretense and indulging your theatrical nature takes a huge amount of bravery.
To call Grace Jones the oft-overused “everything” would be a disservice. It would imply that she walks among us. To call her everything, would strip away her other-worldliness. Ms. Jones was the thing and remains so. There’s Grace Jones and there’s everyone else. Don’t believe me?
Grace is 64 years-old in a body suit, a headdress and a hula hoop and none of us can do a damn thing other than bow down. She still owns all of us.
* They edited out the last few seconds of the commercial, where she bit Adam’s cheek. That makes me giggle.