Skip to main content

Amazing Grace Jones, a Fearless Style Icon

This photo of Grace Jones and Naomi Campbell I found on Essence.com prompted me to republish a love letter of sorts that I wrote to Grace Jones on my former blog, Tracy's Pop & Shop.  She is my hero.  I'm sure Lady Gaga and Rihanna feel the same way.

"You know who you look like?" a woman once asked me while I was getting my hair pressed. I shook my head "No." 

"Grace Jones," the woman replied.

The musky smell of hot hair and Afro-Sheen lingered. My tweleve-year-old face sullened. 

"She thinks I look like that scary lady?" I thought to myself. 

Detecting my dismay, she offered, "I mean that as a compliment." I feigned a smile. 

When the woman left, my hairdresser Shirley reassured me, "You don't look like Grace Jones. You're prettier than that."

You see, at that adolescent age I didn't want to be associated with anyone darker than I already was. Growing up and to this day, the beauty of darker skinned black women is often prefaced with the footnote, "You're pretty for a dark-skinned girl" or the curious cat-call "Hey dark and lovely." I still don't understand what skin color has to do with your degree of beauty.

Yet decades since I was offended that someone thought I looked like Grace Jones (the only real similarity is that we've both been blessed with high cheekbones and deep brown skin), I've re-discovered and embraced that mad icon of brazen sexuality and avant-garde style. 

For years I combed vintage stores for a t-shirt emblazoned with her androygynous image, and finally found one at Zara of all places. At a Brooklyn Salvation Army, I dug in the $1 record crates and found copies of her 1982 Living My Life LP and the 12" single of the rhythmically intoxicating single "Slave to the Rhythm."

The Sally Army sales clerk gave me and the album covers a puzzled double-take. "Isn't that the girl from Conan [the Barbarian]?" he asked. 

I loved Grace as a nocturnal seductress in the campy vampire flick Vamp, as the crazed Amazonian villain opposite James Bond in A View to a Killand as the comical diva Strangee in Boomerang, but I didn't immediately recall her from Conan. An older man standing in line remembered and proudly told the clerk, "Yes, that's Grace Jones."

Weeks later, I was sitting in the Musee' d'art contemporain de Montreal (the Contemporary Museum of Art in Montreal) watching the uncensored version of Grace's stereotype-riddled-redefining (black face, pickinnies, Venus Hotentot), gender-bending, high-art-meets-couture fashion video for "Slave to the Rhythm." 

I was mesmerized. Grace is unashamedly black, bold and beautiful. I strive to be as fearless in my skin as she is in hers. From her '80s heyday to now at age 62,  Ms. Jones is a muse for black girls and self-empowered women everywhere.





Image credit: Web archives

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Conway Discount Clothing Chain Closing in New York City

It's the end of an era. Conway discount stores are closing . As of this weekend, a sign on the sole Herald Square location (34th Street btwn 7th and 8th Ave) says the store will close in "7 Days." Before I relocated to New York City, I was introduced to the discount chain while on a bus trip from Baltimore.  I recall the first time I saw Conway's signature pink bags carried by hurried shoppers in midtown. And Miss Foster, the trip organizer and a bargain hunter from way back, took me to the store for the first time. Conway store in the Fulton Mall./Tracy E. Hopkins When I moved here in 1994, my love affair with Conway continued.  I furnished my first apartment with discount knick-knacks and home goods from the store.  And much to my chagrin, in hindsight, I curated most of my wardrobe for my first full-time job from the long-shuttered 42nd Street and Third Avenue store. One regretful ensemble: Lime green and white checkered pants with a matching lime green

Celebrate the Holiday Season with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City

Watching the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater makes me proud to be a Black woman. This ballet company is graced by dancers of color who can tackle any technique or dance style. But whether the choreography is rooted in jazz, lyrical, contemporary, hip hop or ballet, they do it the Ailey way, which means they move with so much culturally rooted soulfulness and swag that I find myself marveling at their languid form and fierce footwork. In my lifetime, I've seen the Ailey company perform at least a dozen times and each time I picked a performance that included Mr. Ailey's beloved "Revelations." I will never grow tired of witnessing this jubilant homage to the Black Southern Baptist church. By the end I'm always standing, singing and clapping along with the rest of the audience's Amen chorus. Yes, rock a my soul in the bosom of Abraham ! Like most theatrical events and performing arts programs, this is Ailey's comeback season after going dark in 2020 due to

Spring Cleaning: Clean Out Your Closet and Earn Extra Cash

Remember clothing?  As much as we love our athleisure, we can still recall what it was like to wake up and put on something other than hoodies, T-shirts, joggers and leggings. And now that coronavirus vaccines are available and we're resuming some sort of normalcy, we look forward to traveling again and meeting up with fellow vaccinated family and friends for brunch and outdoor fun (still wearing masks and socially distancing in public spaces). We also look forward to refreshing our wardrobe.  But if you want to make room for new garments, it's time to declutter and find a new home for the clothes, shoes and accessories you haven't worn in a season. Donating to a thrift store or charitable organization is always a good option.  For certain items in new or nearly new condition, however, you can also earn some cash by selling them at a consignment shop.   Here are several e-commerce and retail consignment shops we love: thredUp  makes cleaning out your closet easy.  Simply re