The iconic singer’s gender and sexuality has been speculated on many times, and she pushes our expectations once again in what might be her boldest appearance yet.
As the final show in an epic Hollywood Bowl season – which included a diverse set of stars including the American Ballet Theatre, the B-52s, and Kanye West – Grace Jones stunned last night in an epic set that had almost as many costume changes as it did songs.
The night opened with Future Islands, a band with audience appeal that extends to this summer’s Glastonbury Festival at the end of June. They are well-known to many for their explosive appearance on David Letterman early last year, especially for the notable strong strange presence and persona developed by their lead singer. But nothing any man fronting a band, even an extremely charismatic and engaged one at that, was ever going to truly prepare the audience for was the sheer force of nature that the headliner was about to project into the audience.
As the opening chords of the first song played, a spotlight grew on Grace Jones, who appeared wearing only an underbust corset, thong, and incredible metalwork skull face mask that slid up for her to sing past. The rest of her was not at all naked, covered as her skin was by the chalk-white body paint in the style that Keith Haring made iconic on her so many years ago. Check out the patterning in his epic 50 foot skirt in one of her most classic videos, I’m Not Perfect, But I’m Perfect For You, a title she co-wrote with Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones and notably self-directed.
All the usual words – striking, bold, unique, etc – applied the instant that she appeared. But the audience still didn’t know what was in store.
Read on to the next page for so much more of the singer, and very NSFW details.
Grace Jones has long been known for her striking looks, first when modeling in the 1970s and 80s and also when socializing in gay bars and with the likes of icons such as then models Jessica Lange and Jerry Hall, and designers Karl Lagerfeld and Georgio Armani. Additionally, questions have been raised about the combination of her square jawline, and long, lean aesthetic, along with her strong connections to the gay community. Many people speculated on her primary gender identity, wondering if she was a gender-bending star.
Throughout the years, Grace Jones has been a forward-thinking advocate of the LGBTQ community at large, refusing to insist on her biology for people and laughing at commentators who have repeatedly insisted on varying gender identities for her.
Last night, when she stepped on stage for her song My Jamaican Guy, she’d already made a laughing reference to gender ambiguity and repeatedly relished her power and sheer stage presence taking over the mammoth Bowl, where over 17,000 tickets had been fully sold out by the time the show began. The singer then stepped into the spotlight and pushed open her boxy, fringed jacket to reveal that in addition to the Haring-style painting on her skin and around her hips, there was a similarly painted icon of lesbian sex: a strap-on.
From that point on it became clear that not only is Grace Jones an icon of strength in her own skin and how to age (dis)gracefully – aged 67, the singer stood proud and tall (literally – at 5’9″, clad in platform spike shoes, and frequently aloft on platforms, she towered over everyone else on stage) in almost total nudity – she’s also here to play with the audience’s preconceived notions of femininity and gender and masculinity, and the audience, regardless of gender identifications, was rapt.
We knew she wasn’t about to stop being the icon of queer culture that she’s been since the 70s. If you haven’t yet got into her work, you probably want to read her upcoming memoir. We sure do.