Gay Iconography: Does Grace Jones Have Iconic Ferocity?

 

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.

Comments

  1. says

    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?


    http://youtu.be/yHWO2fkJ2Lg

  2. Paul R says

    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.

  3. jamal49 says

    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.

  4. Geoff says

    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!!!

  5. SAYTHETRUHT says

    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.

  6. OXD_Josh says

    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!!!!!

  7. Kenneth says

    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.

  8. jar says

    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.

  9. says

    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.

  10. starquisha says

    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.

  11. Edgar Carpenter says

    I don’t really understand the gay icon thing, but I don’t know anyone – gay or not – who wasn’t shocked (in a good way) and swept away by Grace when she burst into the national media. She’s amazing.

    How a lot of other icons got that supposed status puzzles me, but (thankfully) my gay card’s validity isn’t based on my understanding of 20th and 21st century pop culture!

  12. Shannon says

    HELL YEAH!!!!!!!!!———ALL——– THE SO CALLED “FIERCE” WHITE PERFORMERS COPIED HERE…AND ALL THE BLACK PERFORMERS WHO REALLY HAD ALL THE DAMN TALENT IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!! IT IS TIME TO GIVE BLACK PEOPLE THE CREDIT THEY DESERVE!!!!!!

  13. Tristram says

    I would call her a minor gay icon – and if that’s not a term I hereby coin it. Other gay icons would be people like Donna summer : gay icons in their time but not really evergreen.

  14. Kevin GT says

    Five years and no less than 8 shows a year at the Hollywood Bowl and she is STILL my favorite performer. Liza, Jewel, Kelly, Faith, Dolly, Diana…still think she out performed each of them. Didn’t know much of her before seeing her at the Bowl, but after one show I was hooked!

  15. StillmarriedinCA says

    Of Course she is! Just watch the video of “I’m not Perfect”. She’s wearing a dress hand painted by GAY ICON Keith Haring that’s as big as a freaking circus tent… and she doesn’t get upstaged by it because she is so intense and magnetic. I rest my case.

  16. Derrick From Philly says

    Tyler, just STFU. She may be abnormally tall for a woman, but not for a Masai female. They were bred to be taller back in the day. So she is just the right height for her kind.

  17. Tyler says

    Oh hey Rick/Uffda. I see you stole Derrick and I’s names to post a anti-women comments in line with your misogynistic outlook on life. Cheers to you, troll. I was too busy having a life to patrol your foolishness.

  18. says

    She’s extraordinary, with a ferocious talent and persona.

    J’adore her.

    BTW, Tyler, I’m sorry that our resident sociopathic closeted-trolls have now set their targets on you. But take solace; they’ll be impotent eunuchs for life. Every time they comment they just prove to everyone how pathetic they are. So, rock on Brother :)

    btw, Jones’ “La Vie En Rose” for the WIN!

  19. Chitown Kev says

    It’s a shame that this is even a question, whether it’s of Jones’ status as an icon or of her fierceness.

    I do have to agree that Lady Gaga is not. Quite. There.

    yet.

  20. Anthony says

    My fav Grace Jones moment, is her as Strangé in the film Boomerang with Eddie Murphy. And the dialog between them when she is trying to bed him during dinner at an upscale restaurant. Fierce, hilarious, and still controversial. “You are not Gay! I know a Gay man when I see one!” Haha she is Amazing! (I’m 26yrs btw and I still remember seeing that as a child 12yrs or so, and it resonating with me till this day.)

  21. Mike says

    Little Kiwi=Tyler=Derrick from Philly.

    It’s all one big nut case. Posting racist and sexist stuff, then responding to those posts, then posting some more about how someone stole their names. All 3 names are from one sicko. So ignore him.

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