Kalamu ya Salaam's information blog


Jamaica born. In NYC, Grace came of age. You want to talk about an adept at making a fabulous fashion statement? Grace Jones.

In one sense, she was self made. She tacked against the prevailing winds of western beauty. A short haired, statuesque, assertive, Black (color, culture and consciousness) beauty who, in many ways was an hypnotic anti-beauty who was neither blond, nor quiet, nor any-nordic ideal of what a wife, indeed anyone’s wife, would be like.

Grace Jones knowingly observed the sundry influences surrounding her. She twisted, twerked and transformed those realities, and then, on her own terms, consumed Anglo values and conceptions, into her being, her body, her way of thinking, of acting, of existing. Anti-matter. A veritable, non-normal, taste-challenging, un-feminine woman who both frightened and fascinated American audiences.

In another sense, Grace was both a prophet and a scientist. She not only foresaw the dominance of the image, she also enjoyed the constant motion of making and re-making her persona. Which is why she kept on moving. To be alive is to grow. And to grow means never settling for what you already know. Always willing, eager even, to critique cosmetic norms and facades, and thrust herself into the unknown.

She is not afraid of nudity. Not afraid to be different. To be dark and delicious. To explore as though all eyes were sub-consciously fastened on her wherever she went.

She became more than a model. After all, who could really replicate her? No one. She was only herself. She was inimitable. Subversive even. What ever you thought a man could be, Grace was. Whatever you had been taught a woman should be, Grace was more.

This woman made a living being a one-man show! Grace both confronted and epitomized the exuberances, and also the excesses, of the 80s and decades beyond. Moreover, and most significantly, although she is embraced as a hard partying fool–“ain’t no party like a Grace Jones party”–she did far more than simply shake her ass.

She was a “fool” in the Shakespearean sense that she is one of those who dares tell the cold, cruel truth to whatever powers that may be. That’s why tracks like “Corporate Cannibal” and “Hurricane” are cutting edge political statements. She was far more than just a jester. Grace on the case is a bad-mother… shut their mouths!

One day, long after she is gone, we will realize and reach where Grace had been. What Grace achieved.

She is no stranger to the assertive self, regardless of how strange we think that self was. When she sang, it was not mainly, solely, or “only” about the notes, the melodies, the harmonies. Inevitably it was also about acknowledging self worth–often contradictory–even, on occasion, ugly, but never boring, never ordinary, never just a tiny, pet peeve.

Grace waved her freak flag high! She brought the noise. She challenged all she encountered. Secretly, many of us agreed with her: surrendering and acquiescing to being the same piece of political Milquetoast over and over again is so jejune? Grace was never a coward, never feckless.

Grace might have been into haughty parading, into twirling hula hoops and sashaying in asymmetric fashions, but the dust of self-denial never covered her lips. Her dusky skin. Her iconic wild ways.

Being colorful was her calling card. Even when she is blue, she loves wearing red and black. And yellow. Actually, she enjoys sporting oodles of glitter and gold. Plus, of course, royal shades of purple. And yes, all is highlighted by the mirth of her hearty laughter while being militantly forward–yall remember when she slapped that white boy on television?

What is one to make of the person who sees bars as simply something to momentarily hold on to as she claws and crawls up and out, surmounting cages? Her inner spirit glows beyond whatever absence of light with which social adages attempt to cover her. 

She smiles. She sometimes snarls. Her humanity exudes an untamable animal spirit. A lioness burning eternally bright.

Grace. Grace Jones. Amazing. Grace. A slave only to her own rhythms. She is: the one who runs away from conformity.