What Grace Jones Taught Me about the Word Entitlement

Grace Jones Livin' It Up Wikimedia Commons: Madinka 22 June 2007
Grace Jones Livin’ It Up
Wikimedia Commons: Madinka
22 June 2007

“I was an outcast because of my funny accent, the color of my skin, a strange-looking face according to the New York fashion world, and because in so many ways I didn’t fit in. Black, but strangely full of myself. Oddly entitled seeming, which the African-Americans weren’t. I was expected as a black model to act a little humble, a little grateful. No way.”

-From Grace Jones biography I’ll Never Write My Memoirs

I always hated the word entitlement. It brought to mind technology crazed millennials who had parents on speed-dial and 7th place soccer trophies. It brought to mind #firstworldproblems and blatant chauvinism.

Entitlement.

Ew.

And then I read this one part in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. The book is all about the why’s of success stories, the social reasons that are often left out of the equation of rags-to-riches legends.

Entitlement was not painted as a four-letter word here. It was one of the many behaviors that separated those who succeeded in life and those who did not. When you are entitled, you expect good service, you expect people to take you seriously, you are not afraid to make choices that benefit Y-O-U. (Stay with me here, I promise this is not Donald Trump speaking.)

BUT. Entitlement can also veer out of course, resulting in everything from grown-up tantrums to chaotic violence.

So what’s a girl to do?

Enter the Empress of Weird. I’ve always admired the craziness of Grace Jones. There aren’t that many courageously zany yet elegant black women who did what she did (and does). She was completely unapologetic in the way she created herself and credits her childhood in Jamaica for instilling this pride,

“…I grew up in a world where our family was at the pinnacle of everything, in religion and politics, so discrimination didn’t mean anything to me. Being black didn’t hold me back in Jamaica, and I rarely thought of it in America.”

I wish I could say I had the same experience, but I myself have been painfully aware of the politics of gender and race for as long as I can remember.

What's in a word?
What’s in a word?

My parents raised me and my siblings to be proud of who we were, but living in this country and being presented with redundant often uninspiring, dangerous, and downright idiotic ideas of blackness is a hard thing to ignore.

Still.

I think I want some Grace-Jones-entitlement in my life.

Even a sprinkle of what she has going on would benefit me.

For way too long in my life, I have expected to be treated in ways that don’t benefit me—or anyone else. I have been hesitant and yielding. Politeness and reservation were also behaviors which my parents taught me. Service above self is a motto that my time in the Coast Guard branded into my consciousness.

And I believe in these messages. I really do.

However comma: I also believe in self-care and self-respect.

And a little bit of entitlement.

My favorite piece within the definition of entitlement is the fact of having a right to something.

I don’t have a right to everything. Like, duh. That’s just bananas. I know there will be experiences I don’t get, places I’ll never venture, prizes I won’t win.

And I am not Grace Jones (insert crying emoji…)

I do have a right to a LOT more happiness, silliness, glamour, and weirdness than I have previously allowed myself. And it’s totally okay to enjoy the fullness of these desires out loud.

Entitlement doesn’t feel like a curse word to me. Not anymore.

Entitlement feels like a life where I take responsibility for my desires as much as I can. Life is short and I am not going to be around forever. So why not enjoy this ride while I can? Why not expect to enjoy life as much as I can?

Entitlement. It’s beginning to have a bit of a ring to it.

Black Weirdo Month-That’s a Wrap!


Apologies for the late posts, but hopefully you found a black weirdo you never knew and fell in love.

Photo: Fotos International/Getty Images
Photo: Fotos International/Getty Images

Rick James and Grace Jones hanging out. How adorbs.

Well, that’s a wrap! I hope people enjoyed this visual project. Any Black Weirdo you would’ve added? Be sure to check out theesatisfaction.blogspot.com for their Black Weirdo of the Week posts!

Love,

Hannah

Black Weirdo #21: Grace Jones

Photo from zedhair.com
Photo from zedhair.com


The Guardian by Simon Hattenstone

“In New York, she hung out with Warhol and the Factory crowd. “I’d go every day, have lunch, just chat. Andy wanted to know everything that was going on. We were just this group of people who loved the arts and the art world. I was modelling and had started singing.” In the early 70s, it was the boys (Bowie, Bolan, Iggy) who glamorised androgyny. But by the late 70s Jones was outdoing them. She exuded both grace and menace, femininity and masculinity, and of course sexuality. Helmut Newton adored her – from a distance. “When I was modelling, he would call me all the time to work and then, when I got there, he would say, ‘Oh my God, I forgot you don’t have big tits’, and send me back. Then we ended up working together quite a lot, and my tits didn’t matter any more because he loved my legs. Hehehehe!”


❤I call her the patron saint of the alternative black girl. Check out her 1980s performance on Pee Wee’s Playhouse and be amazed.❤

Love,

Hannah

The Patron Saint of the Alternative Black Girl

Photo By: Jonathan De Villiers
Photo By: Jonathan De Villiers

Don’t you just love her?

I’m old enough now to know that some of her antics may have been due to the opiate-fueled 80’s, but still.

Photo by: Jean Paul Goude (Also an awesome album)
Photo by: Jean Paul Goude
(Also an awesome album)

You hardly ever see the quirky black girl in major media outlets. You hardly see very complex renderings of women in general in those parts. Things are getting better and worse simultaneously when it comes to showing a woman’s story. Le sigh.

I love Grace Jones because she is wonderfully strange, gorgeous, and ever so talented.  I’ve read that Jean Paul Goude who photographed many of her most iconic shots (and with whom Jones has a son)  had a lot to do with her outre looks.

However, not just anyone can pull off wacky and sexy like Ms. Jones does.

Photo BY: Jean Paul Goude
Photo BY: Jean Paul Goude

Jones was born and spent her most formative years in Jamaica. Her family was very religious. She’s been her own woman for a long time.  She’s definitely more than just an image.

Sometimes when I get a little depressed over the media proliferation of the mammy or the Jezebel stereotype and want to cry over  80% of VH1 programming , I google Grace Jones images.

I toy with buying a t-shirt or a too-expensive-for-my-budget painting of her. I watch her live performance on Pee Wee Herman’s Christmas special. She sings “Little Drummer Boy.” (If you haven’t seen it, go do it now. I’ll wait…)

I listen to “My Jamaican Guy” or my personal favorite: her disco enthused rendition of “La Vie En Rose.” (The fact that Adrien Brody strips to this in Summer of Sam made me love him even more back then, but that’s another blog post.)

Photo By: Jean Paul Goude  One day I will be brave enough to imitate this picture.
Photo By: Jean Paul Goude
One day I will be brave enough to imitate this picture.

They say that you cannot become what you do not see, but I disagree with that. How did a Grace Jones emerge then? While I’m sure her style was influenced by countless fashion rebels that came before her, she really did defy expectations of the Proper Black Woman.

And I love her for that. As much as a grown woman can love someone she has never ever met.

If quirky black girls had their own patron saint of weirdness, it would be Grace Jones. We’d utter Hail Graces in dub rhythms, wear platform boots and neon shorts to Mass, and our penance would be  khaki pants.

Essence, June 1985
Essence, June 1985

All Hail Grace.

Thank you for being You.

Love,

Hannah