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Grace Jones slays Rihanna, Miley, Gaga and Kanye in this exclusive extract from her autobiography

One of music’s most original thinkers throws a whole load of shade at copycats, clones and fake divas as she reveals how she fought for her fame

© Adrian Boot
Grace Jones

I come from the underground. I am never comfortable in the middle of the stream, flowing in the same direction as everyone else. I think people assume that’s where I want to be, famous for being famous, because as part of what I do there is a high level of showing off. But my instinct is always to resist the pull of the obvious. It’s not easy.

Trends come along and people say, ‘Follow that trend’. There’s a lot of that around at the moment: ‘Be like Sasha Fierce. Be like Miley Cyrus. Be like Rihanna. Be like Lady Gaga. Be like Rita Ora and Sia. Be like Madonna.’ I cannot be like them – except to the extent that they are already being like me.

I have been so copied by those people who have made fortunes that people assume I am that rich. But I did things for the excitement, the dare, the fact that it was new, not for the money, and too many times I was the first, not the beneficiary.

Rihanna… she does the body-painting thing I did with Keith Haring, but where he painted directly on my body, she wears a painted bodysuit. That’s the difference. Mine is on skin; she puts a barrier between the paint and her skin. I don’t even know if she knows that what she’s doing comes from me, but I bet you the people styling her know. They know the history.

‘If the fuck don’t feel right, don’t fuck it’

Grace Jones © Adrian BootGrace Jones © Adrian Boot

I remember when one of the singers on the list of those who came after me first said that she wanted to work with me. Everyone around me is going: ‘You have to do it, it will be so good for you, it will introduce you to a whole new audience, you will make a lot of money’. No! It will be good for her; she will draw from everything I have built and add it to her brand, and I will get nothing back except for a little temporary attention. No one could believe that I said no, but I am okay on my own. I am okay not worrying about a new audience. If the fuck don’t feel right, don’t fuck it.

With this one, who I will call Doris, I thought she was trying on other people’s outfits: she’s a baby in a closet full of other people’s clothes, a little girl playing dress-up, putting on shoes that don’t fit. I could see what she wanted to be when I watched her doing something when she started out that was starker and purer. Deep down, she doesn’t want to do all the dressing-up nonsense; she loses herself inside all the play-acting.

‘You have to fight the system to keep being the outsider’

Grace Jones © Aurelien GuichardGrace Jones © Aurelien Guichard

The problem with the Dorises and the Nicki Minajes and Mileys is that they reach their goal very quickly. There is no long-term vision, and they forget that once you get into that whirlpool then you have to fight the system that solidifies around you in order to keep being the outsider you claim you represent. There will always be a replacement coming along very soon – a newer version, a crazier version, a louder version. So if you haven’t got a long-term plan, then you are merely a passing phase, the latest trend, yesterday’s event.

They dress up as though they are challenging the status quo, but by now, wearing those clothes, pulling those faces, revealing those tattoos and breasts, singing to those fractured, spastic, melting beats – that is the status quo. You are not off the beaten track, pushing through the thorny undergrowth, finding treasure no one has come across before. You are in the middle of the road. You are really in Vegas wearing the sparkly full-length gown singing to people who are paying to see you but are not really paying attention. If that is what you want, fine, but it’s a road to nowhere.

‘I am not a diva. I am a Jones’

Grace Jones © Adrian BootGrace Jones © Adrian Boot

I look at Doris and I think: Does she look happy? She looks lost, like she is desperately trying to find the person she was when she started. She looks like really she knows she is in Vegas, now that Vegas is the whole entertainment world filtered through the internet, through impatient social media. I don’t mind her dressing up, but when she started to dance like Madonna, almost immediately, copying someone else, it was like she had forgotten what it was about her that could be unique. Ultimately, it is all about prettiness and comfort, however much they pretend they are being provocative.

Kate Moss often says to me that I am the only performer around at the moment who deserves to be called a diva.That gets us arguing, seemingly a little too serious if anyone hears us. I hate that word diva. It’s been so abused! Every singer given a makeover or a few weeks on a talent show seems to be called a diva these days! Christ almighty. Where’s the exclusivity? It’s so commercial now. For me, a diva is like the great opera singer, the great film star – out of reach, in their own world, with a real gift for invention, attention-demanding performance artists with a flamboyant, compelling sense of their own importance, so special and inimitable it verges on the alien. And of course the word is usually used to describe an apparently erratic female whose temperamental qualities, survival instincts, and dedication to perfection are seen as weaknesses, as self-indulgent, not a strength. So, Kate, I am not a diva. I am a Jones!

‘You have become only your fame, and left behind most of who you were’

Grace Jones © Lawrence WatsonGrace Jones © Lawrence Watson

This is what I would say to my pupil: you have become only your fame, and left behind most of who you were. How are you going to deal with that? Will you lose that person forever? Have you become someone else, without really knowing it? Do you always have to stay in character for people to like you? Do you know that you are in character?

Doris, I would say fame is all well and good if you want to take it to another level. If you have some greater purpose. Me, I am just a singer, on one sort of stage or another, who likes to have an audience, but not all the time. Listen to my advice; I have some experience. In a way, it is me being a teacher, which is what I wanted to be. I still feel I could go into teaching. What is teaching but passing on your knowledge to those who are at the beginning? Some people are born with that gift. With me, the teaching side morphed into the performing side. It’s in there. And these are my pupils – Gaga, Madonna, Annie Lennox, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Miley, Kanye West, FKA Twigs and... Doris.

I’ll Never Write My Memoirs’ by Grace Jones is published by Simon and Schuster on September 24.

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Isabel I

I feel like this woman has so much to teach to her pupils as she calls them, but she loses herself into the acknowledgement of her own importance and her own uniqueness. 

I feel like she's losing her wisdom into criticizing others and taking herself too seriously as the origin of everything. At least it's what her writing suggested to me; I could see a bitter diva, talented and precious, but almost losing my admiration by putting down other artists and feeling allowed to judge them. 

Angel B

Grace Jones is a real talent! The world needs more artists like her!   Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Rita Ora, Lady Gaga are all supported and controlled by Marc Jacobs. He is responsible for their image, clips and songs. Jacobs wants to control everyone. He's been terrorizing me, copying my style and my designs for many brands for 7 years meanwhile doing anything he can to keep me in a secret. I started a blog where I exposed the truth about him. More than 1 million 140.000 people have read the truth. You can check it at:  http://styleangelique.blogspot.com/

Sydni .

Who is Doris? I'm thinking it's either Beyonce or Gaga because Gaga has always been accused of imitating Madonna but not Beyonce and plus Beyonce never danced like Madonna. However, Grace mentioned Sasha Fierce, not Beyonce. But, she did mention Gaga AND Doris but not Beyonce... Hm, I'm really curious about who Doris is. I feel like it's Gaga, I really do, but she could be talking about Beyonce. But .. thinking about it extensively, Lady Gaga is the one who is famous for her wardrobe, but Beyonce I feel wears a mask for the world. Shes' conformed and Beyonce is looked at as perfect, someone who just can't fuck up. So, when she said she looks at Doris she wonders if she's happy I thought about Beyonce. She could also be talking about Britney Spears too. Please, someone tell me. I'm curious. Beyonce hasn't danced like Madonna and she isn't really known for the way she dresses and I looked up pics to see if her and Grace ever took a pic together or something and I found nothing. Just w. Grace and Gaga. But, Gaga was included in the list excluding Doris but Grace didn't say Beyonce, only Sasha Fierce. & Sasha Fierce is Beyonce's "alter ego".. her mask? Ugh, someone help me out pls.

Sasha w

I definitely strongly feel she's referring to Beyoncé..

Caribbean K

@Sydni . I think Doris is a general name to any of these

pop vapid acts. could be any girl... even britney. 

Eric H

SOME PEOPLE REALLY NEED TO READ ... before they start reading Grace!

The first sentence said "I come from the underground". 

If you have a tiny clue about the underground scene from back in the day, you'll know it was a melting pot.

Not a talent show pot or a popularity pot BUT a pot overflowing with creative, street fashion,  

purpose and definitely paying your dues on the scene.

It wasn't about lights, camera and becoming a pop star! 

if you was an underground artist it was about performing in shitty bars and clubs, 

most importantly, it was about going out every night and exceeding your audiences expectations

with a fierce ass performance. (... on stage, in the clubs or in the streets) 

Grace and other underground artists really wasn't interested in copying and pasting 

especially if was basic pop culture. 

Yes, Grace did disco (and yes, some of it was bad disco). 

If we gonna talk disco... almost every recording artist in the 70's had a disco beat or song. 

(No, record company was signing artists (singers and non- singers included) who didn't do disco.

And NO major producers (aka... Tom Moulton) was producing if you wasn't recording a disco song. 

Before music... It was about Grace Jones captivating beauty... Her Black beauty! 

Grace Jones was a fashion model in the states and abroad, she traveled all over the world.  

Gays, freaks and late night-crawlers were her friends and mentors before it was popular and trendy.

As for as Josephine Baker, Josephine never had aspiration to be different! 

She wanted to become a major superstar (or pop icon... as they call it now)!

Being different was never on her palette....

All she ever wanted was to be famous and popular like other white singers and dancers. 

Unfortunately, her skin color prevented her in America.  

Sadly, Ms. Baker ended up hating what made her famous.

Grace Jones never aspire to be a pop icon. 

She wanted to kissed by fame and also earn a living for her craft. 

But never to become a cotton candy pop princess! 

Grace Jones & Betty Davis (Miles Davis, ex wife, the black one) were the exclusivity!

Drugs... if you came out of the underground scene from back in the day... 

singer, visual artist, actors, fashion models, writers and/or fans

Then it's really not about how much drugs you did but that you are still alive to tell your story.

And what rock and roll, country and/or soul artist or performer who was major in the 60' 70's, 80's, 

and even 90's don't live off their visuals or music they created.

Tony Bennett is the master for taking music from his past recordings 

and introducing those songs  to new audiences (especially younger listeners)

Grace Jones isn't perfect but she is legendary! 

Neville R

@Eric H, I have something to post that's a rebuttal to your comment and this article:

No way. An aging pop star and a magazine decide to get the "Kids these days!" crowd to stop yelling at clouds for five minutes by appealing to nostalgia and going after the low-hanging fruit of them not understanding or enjoying modern pop stars and music (just like every prior generation) so that she can publicize her new book and the magazine can get some clickbait headlines? What an amazing development! It must be a day ending in "Y."

Bully for you, Grace Jones. Shake your fist at "THE ESTABLISHMENT" by saying one of the most establishment things that is humanly possible to say. Maybe come out with another interview about how Hollywood movies are all the same now, and lack the creativity and subtlety of a Conan the Destroyer or a A View to a Kill.

Guess what. Current pop stars aren't trying to appeal to you, just as the pop stars you liked growing up weren't trying to appeal to your parents and grandparents. If you can break the mold and like something outside of your demographic, that's great. More power to you for your open-mindedness and willingness to try new things. But it baffles me that people continually expect modern music to always remain in touch with their preferences indefinitely, even after having experienced the same thing with their parents and grandparents grumbling about not getting their music. 

Musical tastes evolve, and just because it evolves in a way that no longer appeals to you doesn't make it of an objectively lesser quality.

Maria C

Grace Jones seems to have a very selective memory since she took everything from Josephine Baker and was even called the Disco Josephine Baker for a while. She forgets that before Jean-Paul Goude came onboard she was doing very awful disco records, even the producer of these records, the legendary Tom Moulton said she could not sing at all and it was a nightmare to get her to sing a song in tune. She seems to forget that she spent the late 80's to the mid 00's her head sunk in a coke mountain and was unable to create anything...she now lives off the visuals she had in the late 70's and 80's but she's not a creator anymore.

S'al A

@Maria C  - If that is what you think of Grace Jones, then you know nothing about her. Josephine Baker's demise is exactly that, but it does not take away the talent and contribution she made to music.

Jean-Paul Goude may have had lots to do with Graces success, but that was his job and it's called a "collaberation" because without each other, THIS might not have happened. HE also became Jean-Paul Goude because of her success.

Your dislike or jealousy of Grace Jones has apparently consumed you with bitterness. Move along old girl, your day must have past you while YOU were sucking up some of that mountain of coke.

Stephen W

@Maria C @Maria C  "she now lives off the visuals she had in the late 70's and 80's but she's not a creator anymore."

All this shows is that you haven't been paying attention. Her appeal was, and is, far more than just her visuals. Yes, her legendary "One Man show" at Drury Lane was visually stunning, but without the great songs and her mesmerising performance it would've been empty. She proved this when she was touring the brilliant, self-penned, 'Hurricane' album in 2008. 

A few hats and costume changes for visual appeal, but it was her performance of her songs that was electrifying. And that album alone is more personal and more creative than anything the wannabes have produced.

Angel B

Grace Jones is a real talent! The world needs more artists like her!   Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Rita Ora, Lady Gaga are all supported and controlled by Marc Jacobs. He is responsible for their image, clips and songs. Jacobs wants to control everyone. He's been copying my style and my designs for many brands for 7 years meanwhile doing anything he can to keep me in a secret. I started a blog where I exposed the truth about him. More than 1 million 140.000 people have read the truth. You can check it at:  http://styleangelique.blogspot.hu/

Maria C

@Angel B You again ? You're crazy. You're the laughing stock of the internet but i guess it must fulfill your ego. 

rune .

i love grace but she forgets that her image was created for her by a lot of creative people. she is very far from her public image in real life - she is quite kind!


SO looking forward to reading this in its entirety! But WHO is Doris? I thought it was Gaga but she's mentioned in a sentence with Doris. My wager is it's either Britney or Beyonce'!

Evan P

@k c @Dragstrip 6  You're probably right. Although, let it be known that she did shade Beyonce when she included Sasha Fierce in that sentence because some members of the Beyhive are already claiming on Twitter that she shaded all of Bey's competition, but not Bey.

Sydni .

@cane m True but Beyonce never danced like Madonna and she's not known for her wardrobe.

cane m

@Evan P @k c @Dragstrip 6 She's talking about beyonce... In the last mention of all the names GaGa is mentioned seperate from Doris, and Sasha Fierce is not in the picture anymore *sips tea*