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March 19, 2021

March is Women's History Month! MCA Denver Staff Shares Their Influential Creators

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Throughout the month of March we celebrate Women’s History Month! It is a dedicated time in the year to recognize the monumental impact women have made to the United States in history and contemporary society. In celebration of Women’s History Month, we asked our staff to share women artists/creators that have impacted their lives or inspired them in some way.

This week, Marketing & Community Specialist, Tai-Michelle, shares and celebrates one of her inspirational female creators, Grace Jones. 

black and white portrait of Grace Jones
 Photo by Robert Mapplethorpe

“I believe in individuality, that everybody is special, and it’s up to them to find that quality and let it live.” - Grace Jones

Grace Beverly Jones was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica on May 19, 1948, one of six children born to Marjorie and Robert W. Jones. She grew up in a religious household in upstate New York where her father, Robert Jones, was a Pentecostal minister and had established his own ministry, Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ. 

While in college at Onondaga Community College, Jones took a theatre class and traveled with her drama teacher in the summer to Philadelphia on a summer stock theatre tour. She was taken by the city life and decided to stay there after the theatre tour ended. Jones immersed herself in the counterculture of the 1960s, living in communes, performing as a go-go dancer, calling herself Grace Mendoza, and dropping LCD, which she praised the use of as “a very important part of my emotional growth...The mental exercise was good for me.” 

photo of Grace Jones, red background with an accordion
 Photo by Adrian Boot/Urbanimage

 At the age of 18, she moved to New York City and signed with Wilhelmina Modeling Agency. In 1970 she moved to Paris and became part of the Parisian fashion scene. Her striking cheekbones, sculpted ebony physique, and androgynous bold look were sought after for fashion houses and she walked the runway for designers like Yves St. Laurent and Kenzo Takada, and was the cover model of magazines like Vogue, Interview, and Jet magazine.

Jones released her first album, Portfolio in 1977 and went on to make eight more albums between the years 1978 through 2008, that include some fun club hits, “Pull up to the Bumper'' and “My Jamaican Guy.”

album cover photo for Nightclubbing
Album cover for "Nightclubbing" - 1981
Photo by Jean-Paul Goude

Grace Jones was the ultimate muse in fashion and art and influenced the cross-dressing movement in the ’80s. She was part of creating that visual landscape of the New York art scene in the 1980s befriending artists like Andy Warhol and Keith Haring and brought about the iconic photoshoot of her painted head to toe by Haring and photographed by Robert Mapplethorpe for Interview Magazine. She would then do a series of collaborations with Keith Haring, including Untitled (body painting)

black and white photo of Grace Jones performing at a nightclub
 Performing at Studio 54 in NYC. Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/IMAGES, via Getty Images

I celebrate Grace Jones today and always. As a dark-skinned little girl, seeing how she was celebrated in the fashion and art world, her new wave sound varied from the RnB and soul that I was used to hearing in the house, she introduced me to a world where the beauty of black skin, being a black female was unabashedly front and center, mused and celebrated, fully her own.