The Power of Grace Jones

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Michael Schulman features Jamaican-born singer Grace Jones, the “style icon, disco queen, avant-garde rocker, Bond girl, provocateur and sphinx,” in an article about her life and forthcoming memoir, I’ll Never Write My Memoirs, which will hit the shelves on September 29, 2015. [Many thanks to Thomas Spear for sharing this item.] Here are excerpts with a link to the full article below:

The title is “I’ll Never Write My Memoirs,” a lyric from her 1981 song “Art Groupie.” Why the about-face? “I’m allowed to change my mind, you know,” she said with a grin.

For fans who have relished her contradictory pronouncements, reinventions (though she hates the word) and blasphemies over the years, the book contains a bounty of hedonistic flashbacks from a woman whose greatest achievement has been remaining her defiantly idiosyncratic self.

From her breakout as a model in Paris in the early 1970s, where her roommates were Jerry Hall and Jessica Lange, her predatory, androgynous style subverted notions of race and gender. Embraced as a modern Josephine Baker, she relocated to New York and became a ribald disco sensation at Studio 54 and a habitué of Andy Warhol’s Factory.

When disco turned tacky, she abandoned it for reggae-inflected New Wave rock, sung in her signature deadpan purr. Between albums, she played off her savage persona in movies like “Vamp,” “Conan the Destroyer” and the Bond film “A View to a Kill.”

But the memoir’s deepest revelations have to do with her repressive childhood in Jamaica, where she was born in May 1951. (Or so she says; some reports have her born earlier.) As part of a prominent family of clergy in the Pentecostal church, she and her five siblings were raised under strict religious supervision. Her parents moved to upstate New York when she was small and left the children under the authority of their step-grandfather, Peart, known as Mas P, who Ms. Jones describes as a “ferocious disciplinarian.” For minor infractions, like doing a handstand in a dress, she would be whipped with a leather belt.

She coped through fantasy, the only thing she could control. “Grace lived in her own world, created her own space, created her own imaginative games,” said her brother Noel Jones, a megachurch pastor in California.

The young Grace imagined Mas P’s imperious stare as an “all-seeing eye,” following her even to the gully where she played after school. It wasn’t until years later, while taking lessons with the acting teacher Warren Robertson, that she realized she had unconsciously adopted Mas P’s glare in photo shoots and performances, turning the “all-seeing eye” back out onto the world.

[. . .] Ms. Jones likes to say that she exists in several time zones at once, but most of the time you can find her in London or Jamaica. She had come to New York to headline the Afropunk Fest in Brooklyn, where she performed at Commodore Barry Park two nights in a row. [. . .]

Meanwhile, she is planning to build a house on her grandfather’s land in Jamaica, and has a new beau there, a Rastafarian she met through a friend. [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/20/fashion/the-power-of-grace-jones.html

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