Lilian Min
August 24, 2015 3:02 pm

For those of you lucky enough to attend Afropunk, this past weekend’s NYC-based music festival,  you got a real treat in the form of the legendary Grace Jones, who headlined Saturday night’s set. The 67-year-old musician and style icon isn’t strictly a punk act, but her genre-mashing and -bending discography, accompanied by her trademark bold and body-centric imagery, served as the perfect nightcap to festival-goers, and if Instagram is anything to go by, it was a smashing success:

As The Guardian breathlessly described the scene, “[Jones] came out bare-breasted, bare-cheeked, covered in body paint, wearing some inconsequential kind of bottom piece, and standing like a goddess under a billowing black curtain. She changed her outfit many, many times (when you’re naked, the options are endless), dressing up like a lion and a horse, and ending the evening with her hit ‘Slave to the Rhythm’ while hula-hooping in heels. At age 67. Still topless.” Um, considering even most of us at much younger ages can barely pull off walking in heels and are still navigating the hostile public conversation around bared breasts, Jones is an inspiration, and has been for decades. In the wake of her show-stopping performance, let’s break down some of the many ways we’ve looked up to and loved Grace Jones: A trailblazer, a visionary, a voice unlike any other.  

Her voice comfortably covers over two octaves, meaning she can hit the lowest low notes and the highest high notes with ease.

If you try to get your voice to go up or down a full octave, chances are that you’ll end up with some weird guttural rasping or a screech. But for Jones, she can slink up and down her considerable range, and the result is a catalogue of songs that rumble, roar, and soar in equal measure.

She’s pushed for female body acceptance and gone topless in public for decades.

As her Afropunk set showed, Jones has been performing publicly topless for years, well pre-dating the current #FreeTheNipple movement, and has no qualms about using her body as a vehicle for her art and pushing for free self-expression for all, and truly all. One of her most circulated quotes goes, “I don’t like people who hide things. We’re not perfect, we all have things that people might not like to see, and I like to show my faults” — a sentiment she expanded upon in her song “I’m Not Perfect But I’m Perfect For You.”

For artists from Andy Warhol to Keith Haring, she’s served as a muse and helped define and redefine modern art and culture.

She’s been the subject of Warhol’s own work and adoring words in his Interview magazine, and the living canvas for Haring’s geometric art.

She’s an amazing hula hooper, which doesn’t necessarily sound that cool until you realize that she does it while performing.

Most people can’t even walk and sing, let alone rock their body continuously while swinging a giant plastic hoop around their body. But Jones is a master of the hoop, and even manages to look downright regal while swaying in a circle. (Pretty sure most of us look like we’re fighting a sudden cramp when we’re hula hooping.)

Those. Clothes.

Outrageous stage-wear for performers is nothing new; modern day performers like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Nicki Minaj all know how to whip up colorful and exaggerated silhouettes and shapes. But Jones set the bar for the self-presentation aesthetic at the beginning of boundary-shattering art experimentation, and nobody has even come close to touching her headwear game; check out this Essence roundup for a primer on Jones’ singular style.

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This rad little girl recreated photos of iconic Black women throughout history

(Image via Instagram, YouTube, Shutterstock and Tumblr/BBC.)

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