Gay Iconography | Grace Jones

Gay Iconography: Does Grace Jones Have Iconic Ferocity?


The phrase "gay icon" gets tossed around a lot, but what does that really mean? Welcome to Gay Iconography, a new feature where we present a proposed iconic figure or character and then ask you to weigh in with your thoughts. Last week's post on Sean Hayes provoked lots of passionate discussion about masculinity and femininity. This week's feature focuses on an icon who made her mark with an androgynous beauty that continues to inspire artists today.

This year's pop music certainly had some lofty aspirations. Folks are all still abuzz about Beyoncé's latest artistic achievement, and Lady Gaga made a big fuss over her (less successful) attempt to mix art into pop culture with this year's ARTPOP. All this talk about the intersection between music, image and capital-A Art brings to mind Jamaican model, singer, actress and potential gay icon Grace Jones.

Just as often as the term "gay icon" gets bandied about, so does the designation of "fierce." If any diva embodied ferocity, it was Jones. Her short hair, angular clothes and imposing presence (she's 5'9") made waves long before Rihanna could even say "Umbrella-ella-ella." She left a mark on gay clubs and pop music (and drag queens) that's still felt today.

Revisit just a few of Grace Jones' most memorable moments, AFTER THE JUMP …


From her early days sharing a flat with Jessica Lange and Jerry Hall in Paris, Jones' unique look endeared her to the fashion and art worlds. She modeled for Claude Montana, Kenzo Takada and Yves St. Laurent, and she partied with Giorgio Armani and Karl Lagerfeld. During the heyday of disco, she was a Studio 54 fixture. Her connections to the art scene continued as she transitioned to new wave. Her video for "I'm Not Perfect (But I'm Perfect For You)" above features outfits and body paint by Keith Haring, as well as a cameo by Andy Warhol.



With lyrics like "Grease it / Spray it / Let me lubricate it," it's no surprise the gay community embraced Jones' 1981 single "Pull Up To the Bumper" as an ode to anal sex. Though Jones denied the connection, the grooving R&B track remains a legendary dance hit.



'Tis the season for this amazing clip of Jones performing "Little Drummer Boy" on the fabulously campy Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special from 1988.



Jones' appeal extends beyond her modeling and music. She's also appeared in several films, including Boomerang with Eddie Murphy and the James Bond film A View To Kill. Watch her be a total badass in the clip above from Conan the Destroyer. While filming, she sent two stuntmen to the hospital with that fighting stick.



Now in her 60s, Jones is still performing today. She appeared at Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee last year. You can see her perform "Slave To The Rhythm" (while hula-hooping!) above.


While Grace Jones has done some tangible good for the gay community (her work with amfAR, for example), she's mostly beloved for her outrageous antics and larger-than-life persona. As we continue to discuss those considered gay icons, we encounter figures that are inspirations, representations, advocates or all three. Do you think Jones' contributions earn her the title of icon? Let us know in the comments.

Feed This post's comment feed


  1. The real deal.

    Posted by: tranquilo | Dec 21, 2013 2:00:05 PM

  2. This is my voice my weapon of choice. Does this even need to be debated? Granted to most gays my age and younger we barely know her from her movies and wasn't familar with her body of work musically but images are forever timeless and iconic and then in 2008 released an amazing culturally and politically but unnoticed album to bring her back to the edge of acceptable where we are also. Seriously on a true icon can say you know what I wanna hula hoop for The Queen of Jamaica's Diamond Jubilee Concert and the looks on the faces of Fiona Olgivy, Mike and Zara Tindall and Their Royal Highnesses Princess Beatrice of York, Princess Eugenie and Princess William are totally WTF at 4:20 but understandable considering their ages and who else can pull if opening their concerts like this at 20 let alone 60?

    Posted by: Eric Hufford | Dec 21, 2013 2:03:51 PM

  3. Yeah, she is. But I kind of hate her. Never seen someone leave adoring crowds wait until 3 am to perform when the show was supposed to be at 10 pm, then do 3 songs and leave the stage. She's petulant, beautiful, and not someone I want to see again. Maybe that makes her a gay icon. And I like extreme female performers.

    Her height is uncertain, ranging from 5'8" to 6 feet depending on what shoes she's wearing. I used to adore her, but she's also done a lot of pretty awful things offstage.

    Posted by: Paul R | Dec 21, 2013 2:10:47 PM

  4. Well, Grace Jones IS fierce, I will give her that. Having been a big fan from "Warm Leatherette" onward, Ms. Jones has been very underestimated for her ability to interpret others' songs and make them unique to her own voice and vision. She is a compelling stage presence and I enjoyed all the live performances of Ms. Jones that I have been privileged to see. The times she performed in gay clubs were some of the most exciting and anticipated. However, my problem with Grace Jones being regarded as a "gay icon" is that I think she did not appreciate her gay fans as much as her gay fans appreciated her.

    Posted by: jamal49 | Dec 21, 2013 2:12:20 PM

  5. She dated Dolph Lundgren. Of course, she's a gay icon. LOL.

    Posted by: Sean Maloney | Dec 21, 2013 2:17:11 PM

  6. Yes!!! I had the pleasure of meeting her (briefly) in Phila. back in the early 80s. She was sweet-natured, soft-spoken...and totally in control of the environment. Love Grace!!!

    Posted by: Geoff | Dec 21, 2013 2:18:10 PM

  7. Love Grace.

    I remember when some stupid white boy talk show host said Grace Jones scares him. When apprised Ms Jones seemed honestly baffled.

    Fear should be so fine.

    Posted by: Glenn I | Dec 21, 2013 2:20:56 PM

  8. Grace Jones is GOD!

    Posted by: Frederick | Dec 21, 2013 3:00:08 PM

  9. She is the original, where Gaga is the knock off.

    Posted by: stevetalbert | Dec 21, 2013 3:04:54 PM

  10. If Grace Jones, Judy Garland, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Liza Minnelli, Annie Lennox and Cher are not gay icons, then, there are no gay icons!

    Posted by: RonCharles | Dec 21, 2013 3:27:16 PM

  11. I wouldn't trade her for anything.

    Posted by: zeddy | Dec 21, 2013 4:06:12 PM

  12. I worship Grace Jones. End of discussion. She gives life and is EVERYTHING!

    Posted by: Kieran | Dec 21, 2013 4:07:30 PM

  13. Put some Grace in your face!

    Posted by: no-no | Dec 21, 2013 4:36:39 PM

  14. The hula-hooping alone puts her in contention!

    Posted by: Ernie | Dec 21, 2013 4:58:56 PM

  15. Umm, is this up for debate??

    Posted by: jonny | Dec 21, 2013 5:00:57 PM

  16. As an artist she was good, as a product especially designed, she was perfect. As a human being, alcohol -and maybe other stuff- sabotaged her growth. Sadly, being too wild and bold doesn't make you immune to life realities. She could've been much more, but she was the one anchoring herself back. Even so her music still sounds fantastic.

    Posted by: SAYTHETRUHT | Dec 21, 2013 6:20:17 PM

  17. Grace Jones has paved the path for today's artists with her powerful, original, and unapologetic brand of art. She showed that gender and sexuality are fluid and fun. Her discography is brilliant, cheeky and fun. She is fashion icon. She is THE penultimate gay icon.

    To the guy above who is sore about her chronic lateness: it's something that's known about her. Either deal with it or don't see her live!

    I've had the pleasure of seeing her live twice in the past 5 years, and she has more energy and tenacity on stage than many who are half her age. DIVAAAAA!!!!!

    Posted by: OXD_Josh | Dec 21, 2013 7:04:12 PM

  18. The question should be: Is Grace the standard by which gay iconic ferocity should be judged? I vote YES!

    Posted by: MajorTom | Dec 21, 2013 7:36:08 PM

  19. I saw Grace in the early 90s where she dedicated a song to all of the friends she had lost to AIDS. As she spoke, some neanderthal in the club tried to boo at the mention of her gay friends. She called him out so fast and so thoroughly, he probably slunk out of the place. The whole audience was chanting don't knock it if you haven't tried it when she chided him for never having gay sex. After the show, she was shooting pool with leather fags at one of the last of Atlanta's 24 hr clubs. Yes, she has always been a gay icon, and she always will.

    Posted by: Kenneth | Dec 21, 2013 9:10:31 PM

  20. Say yes to Grace and say it often!

    Posted by: greenfuzz | Dec 21, 2013 9:11:14 PM

  21. Is this really a question? Aside from her talent and creativity, Grace is an icon because her entire persona was about being herself, however strange, dangerous, charming, overtly sexual, enigmatic that may be. She was also a fiercely strong woman. She typified the battle cry of the gay rights movement at that time- the freedom to be who you are, especially when that challenged the status quo. Her music was ahead of its time as well. She is one of a kind, a typical trait of an icon.

    On a personal note, I spent about a half hour with Grace at a baenefit at the long lost Palladium ages ago. She just came out on the dance floor (in her brown leather cat suit with hood and ears, and of course a long tail), smiled, and we danced and chatted for a good while; it was late in the night and the place was not crowded. Her natural speaking voice is actually quite sweet and high and betrays her NY roots. She was incredibly warm and funny.

    Posted by: jar | Dec 21, 2013 10:18:19 PM

  22. "Potential gay icon Grace Jones"?

    Your card, please.

    Posted by: Rick Wright | Dec 21, 2013 10:18:25 PM

  23. What? What is this "feature" and what wet-behind-the-ears sophomore is writing it?

    "a new feature where we present a proposed iconic figure or character and then ask you to weigh in with your thoughts." Please.

    Grace Jones is hardly a "proposed" iconic figure, and the list that Ron Charles posits, above, pretty much covers a goodly portion of that membership (though imho, gaga's still too new to be iconic, yet).

    Sean Hayes? Stereotypical, yes; iconic, not even close. Now or ever.

    Posted by: Kile Ozier | Dec 21, 2013 10:55:29 PM

  24. Just for the discussion I would like to share a clip of Grace's older brother Noel Jones. He is a preacher and has a degree of charisma that rivals his sister (her father was also a preacher). Truly the family is unique and interesting and this clip may add some resonance and insight to The Power of Miss Jones and what will be her legacy as the HIGH PRIESTESS of NIGHTCLUBBING.

    Posted by: starquisha | Dec 21, 2013 11:12:12 PM

  25. What does gay icon even mean?

    Posted by: andrew | Dec 21, 2013 11:57:57 PM

  26. 1 2 »

Post a comment


« «Cracker Barrel Bails on Phil Robertson Products; Under Armour Sticks with 'Duck Dynasty': VIDEO« «