Grace Jones has been a force of nature throughout her entire career. Whether acting, singing or as an artist, she has always taking chances but it is also about the journey within and out of the spotlight. Jones and the director of the documentary Sophie Fiennes sat down at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival to discuss personal style, body confidence, the influence of Jamaica and flying amongst the stars.
What was the intention doing this movie?
Grace Jones: It was for sure a “rencontre”, a get together between Sophie Fiennes the director and through my brother. She had done a movie with my brother [Noel] who is a preacher in Los Angeles and I was invited to the screening. And this is how I fell in love with Sophie’s work…
Sophie Fiennes: I like to say we met in Church! Haha!
GJ: She is so funny. And in a way Sophie and my brother have the same mind and vision of life. And I do have deep discussion about the meaning of life with my brother. We love to dig into various philosophical ideas and twist them around. And it’s never an argument but a sharing of various ways of believing such and such things. Sometimes it’s a mirror image of opposite thoughts but it’s always stimulating and enlightening to talk with my brother. This way you learn more about each other. And this is the way your mind expands. And I do have a similar relationship with Sophie in that way. Our minds expands with our deep conversations. It’s funny because Sophie and my brother are born the same month. They are both Aquarius. Sophie is an Artist like me…she is very visual. She is about the depth of what you see and what you hear.
Where does your visual style come from?
GJ: It is for sure a combination of many things. First it’s about Jamaica! There were tough rough days [growing up] in Jamaica with no electricity most of the time. So I think this immediately informed me with a specific sense of lighting…a very organic and natural approach. We used oil lamps and this gives a very deep sense of lighting instead of these awful neons. I hate neon light.
SF: And I did try to bring a sense of this rich visual sense you only get in Jamaica. And this was truly amazing to film over there. And I always try to show Grace’s point of view. I wanted people to see what she is looking at.
GJ: And my visual style comes also from my pure imagination…from what is there in my mind. I also learned at an early age to do crochet and to sew thanks to my mother and my aunt. And this nourished my fashion style for sure. You do develop a sense of detail when you start at that age and working from scratch.
SF: And also working with all these great creators such as [Jean-Paul] Gaultier and [issey] Miyake certainly helped you develop your own style…
GJ: Absolutely! And when I started to model they were attracted to me and the way I would present myself…a total stranger way back, with only the equivalent of 5 euros!! I believe there are magnets in the world we don’t see. And certainly we are attracted each other with these various designers…like the opposite sides of magnets do. It’s simply mesmerizing how you are drawn to somebody at a certain time. I remember a place where I used to shop called The Drag Queen and I would buy very old antics for nothing and put myself together an amazing look. And people would go crazy for it. It was a very instinctive process. It’s funny how people would find accessories and clothes for me just based on how I look physically. I’m lucky to have a body that talks to people and makes them see what I should wear or not.
Where is the balance of difficulty to reveal enough of yourself in this film without totally lifting the veil of mystery of Grace Jones?
GJ: it was a difficult task to go far enough to explain where I come from and who I am without exposing everything and all of my secret gardens. There is so much more about me beyond what this film is showing. Yes…there is still a mystery about myself that even as myself I don’t know! I trusted Sophie a lot to show what she wanted to show without fully getting me “naked”…even so I’m quite naked in the movie! Haha!
You did full frontal!
GJ: Did you notice that?! I didn’t! Haha! I’m surprised there was no more frontal nudity as I’m a nudist and I am always naked at home! Everything sees me naked all the time!
Were you always that much at ease with you body?
GJ: Not at all! Are you kidding?! I had a very tight church upbringing and therefore nudity was out of the question! But little by little I freed myself from this upbringing. I revealed to myself my true nature, and it is the one of being a nudist! Haha! I joined a nudist colony and this is how it freed me from being so tight with my body. I had a hippy boyfriend and I was even with a Hell’s Angel at time. But yes, I was surprised that there wasn’t more shots of me being naked in this film. And this is not about sex…this is just about the organic pure beauty of the body BEING. Being naked and being FREE.
It’s also quite amazing how the music structures the movie?
GJ: Right! I love it as music is me and I am music! My music is like my beautiful children. I love to play with them and I don’t feel I sing them. I live them and perform them in so many different ways. Sometimes I even rap them because my voice is not where it should be. I’m very playful and it’s amazing to be able to do this with your Art. I love also going to the opera style and I learned it from Pavarotti. It was amazing to sing with him and it taught me so much…
What did you discover about yourself that you didn’t before and why do you think Grace Jones is so relevant today?
GJ: It’s a mystery to me but I’m amazed how anybody is still in love with my music. I’m still in the present and I’m still vibrant. I never look back and live in the past. I think people love this ALIVE aspect of me. Maybe I give them a sense of energy…a sense of fully “alive and kicking”. I surprise myself after all these years to still never be bored with my life and performing my songs…!
Is it true nobody knows really your age?
GJ: I’m ageless! I don’t age! It’s in the genes of my family! Only the FBI knows my age because lately they asked me to come in to renew my passport. I don’t know why, they were saying I’m under the radar. And they checked my age and they couldn’t believe it! I guess I have been blessed. It’s the land of Jamaica. It makes you immortal, ! Haha! My dad passed at 84 and he didn’t have a single line! And it’s amazing I’m still going strong, especially after everything I’ve taken and drunk! But of course when I was very young I was super healthy and I still swim. I love to swim as I feel out of space. This is where I have always wanted to go: in space. Do a concert with Michael Jackson and David Bowie and sing in outer space. Well, I guess that plan is slightly compromised for now! I guess at the end it’s all about balancing your gravity and keep the floating going in your mind…in your inner world. Just saying…!
Interview By Emmanuel Itier