Grace Jones is a Jamaican-born American model, record producer, singer, and actress who came to prominence in 1981 after the release of her fifth album, Nightclubbing. Over the last three decades, the multi-talented entertainer has parlayed her musical popularity into enviable heights, especially in the very competitive arena of Hollywood. However, if all you know about Grace Jones is the glitz and glam of celebrity life, there’s more to the entertainment legend that you haven’t explored.
Grace Jones passed through hard times before stepping into the corridors of fame. From a suppressed childhood to an equally rough early adulthood laden with drugs and other vices, this piece walks you through lesser-known details about the veteran entertainer.
Who is Grace Jones?
Grace Jones was born, Grace Beverly Jones, on 19th May 1948, in Spanish Town, Jamaica; to Robert W. Jones and Marjorie Williams. As the third of six children, Jones spent her childhood in Spanish Town alongside her five siblings, most popular of whom are Bishop Noel Jones and Chris Jones. Her father, Robert, was an agricultural labourer who became a Pentecostal minister after having a spiritual encounter on the brink of suicide. Her mother, on the other hand, was an athlete popular for being prohibited from taking part in an Olympic event; because of her faith.
Grace Jones’ Fact Sheet
Her Rough Upbringing
When Grace Jones was young, her parents moved to the United States to seek greener pastures. At the time, she and her siblings went to live with their grandmother who had a new husband by the name Peart. Grace Jones describes Mr. Peart or “Mas P” as a disciplinarian who derived pleasure in beating children. Jones recalls that her childhood was characterized by the Bible and beatings. She and her siblings were beaten for the minutest acts of dissent. The greater the offence, the bigger the beating.
This went on to scar her for the rest of her life as she admits. The treatment she received growing up informed her philosophy and choices, including the calibre of men she found pleasure being around. Jones added that her childhood reeks of brute discipline and militancy which has somewhat spilt into her adulthood.
Being a Pentecostal, she joined prayer meetings and Bible study sessions and was enrolled in the Pentecostal All Saints School. She was however pulled out of the school and enrolled in a nearby public school. Though Jones excelled in sports and athletics, she was often an object of mockery and jest from the other kids, for her skinny looks.
Delving into Drugs
When Grace Jones clocked thirteen, she joined the rest of her siblings and moved to the United States to meet their parents. The Jones had settled in Lyncourt, Salina, New York and she would continue her schooling at Onondaga Community College where she majored in Spanish. However, things went bonkers when she began to go against her upbringing.
First, Jones started abusing alcohol and frequenting gay gatherings alongside her brother. Around this time also, she took drama and theatre classes in college and even accompanied her drama teacher on a summer tour in Philadelphia. When she got to Philadelphia, Jones went knees-deep into the Counterculture of the ’60s. She began living with hippies, making a living as a go-go dancer, and abusing drugs.
At age eighteen, after her return to New York, Grace Jones started working as a model with Wilhelmina Models, a talent agency. As she recounts, her skinny physique didn’t get much appreciation in the United States and so, she relocated to Paris, France, in 1970. There, she found enough room for her kind. She landed her initial gigs with clients such as Yves St. Laurent and Claude Montana. She also graced the cover pages of widely-read magazines such as Elle, En Vogue, and Stern.
By 1974, Jones began to deploy her musical gifts and joined Island Records. Fast-forward to three years later, in 1977, she released her first album, Portfolio. Then came Fame which answered to its name by becoming a hit. Nevertheless, her big break came in 1981 when she released her third album Nightclubbing. The album was such a hit that it became platinum and gold-certified in no time. It is still okay to cite her other albums such as Slave To The Rhythm, Living My Life and Inside Story as successes, Nightclubbing still trumps them all.
When most artists would rest on their oars, Jones did the exact opposite. Now famous in music and modelling, she had her eyes on Hollywood, thus, in 1973, she debuted in the movie Gordon’s War in which she appeared as Mary. She played Zula in Conan the Destroyer (1984) and in 1985, she appeared in the James Bond series A View to a Kill. Then came other appearances in Cyber Bandits (1995), Straight to Hell (1987), No Place Like Home (2006), Wolf Girl (2001) and more recently Gutterdämmerung (2016). She has so far appeared in over twenty-eight films and documentaries. All of these efforts have surely yielded returns not only in cash but also in recognition.
Grace Jones’ Awards and Achievements
Grace Jones has been nominated for not less than thirteen awards and clinched three wins. Her first recognition came in 1983 when she was nominated for the Billboard Music Awards in the Top Disco Artist female category. She then won the “Best Female Actress (Silver)” at the 1985 Bravo Otto Awards. Below is a rundown of her feats over the decades.
- 1983 Billboard Music Awards for Top Disco Artist – Female category (Nominated)
- 1984 Grammy Awards for Best Video Album (Nominated)
- 1985 Bravo Otto Awards for Best Female Actress (Won)
- 1985 & 1986 Saturn Awards for Best Supporting Actress (Nominated)
- 1986 MTV Video Music Awards for Best Female Video (Nominated)
- 1987 Saturn Awards for Best Supporting Actress (Nominated)
- 1988 Razzie Awards for Supporting Actress (Nominated)
- 2009 Helpmann Awards for Best International Contemporary Music Concert (Nominated)
- 2014 Rober Awards Music Poll for Best Reissue (Nominated)
- 2016 NME Awards for Best Book- I Never Write My Memoirs (Nominated)
- 2017 The Voice of a Woman Awards for Lifetime Achievement Award (Won)
- 2017 Bahamas International Film Festival Career Achievement Award (Won)
From being a model to a musician, as well as an actress, Grace Jones’ career has evolved over the decades, keeping her relevant for much longer than anyone who started with her would’ve imagined. Those efforts have paid off massively as well. As of the time of this writing, she is reportedly worth over $7 million.
Interesting Details About Her Failed Marriages
In her 2015 memoir, I Never Write My Memoirs, Jones dispelled rumours surrounding her love life. One of which is, she has been married twice. Though she’s been in several relationships, Jones insists that she has been married only once, to a Muslim man from Turkey, Atila Altaunbay. Her earliest recorded relationship was with Jean-Paul Goude, whom she met in 1977. What began as a photographer-client relationship quickly waxed into a romantic affair. They had a child, Paulo Goude, in November 1979. However, their union lasted only a few years. By 1983, she met the Swedish actor, Dolph Lundgren. Although Lundgren served as her security at the time, things got steamy and they dated for the next three years.
After her split from Lundgren in 1986, Jones reportedly had flings with Chris Makepeace and Chris Stanley. So far, she considers Atila Altaunbay as her only ex-husband. Although the divorce was unofficial, they were done for good. Grace Jones also dated film director, Quentin Tarantino, Danish actor, Sven-Ole Thorsen; music producer, Ivor Guest, and a few others.