Grace Jones: ‘Even if I stand on my head, I still can’t do it. How these young girls twerk, I don’t know’

The actor and singer, 74, talks about working as a go-go dancer, hanging out with Keith Haring, dropping LSD in the 60s and missing out on Blade Runner

I was raised in Spanish Town, Jamaica, by my grandmother and step-grandfather. My grandmother’s brother was a Pentecostal bishop, so we were made examples of at the Jamaican Pentecostal church, where the Bible is interpreted very literally. I wasn’t allowed to wear trousers or straighten my hair, so combing my hair was very painful, and I would be punished if any of my actions were considered idle.

At 18 I travelled to Paris, Italy and New York – and took a lot of acid. I found it mind-opening. There were always doctors around, so it never really felt dangerous, even when I took an STP, a super trip pill, and couldn’t come down for at least three days.

I decided to pursue acting after performing at my first summer stock musical at Saint Joseph’s college in Philadelphia. The modelling was just a way to pay my rent. I didn’t want to go home to Jamaica. I thought: “If I’m going to act, I might as well try everything.” I took as many jobs as I could – for one week, two weeks, a month – just to learn the process.

The first magazine to hire me was GQ in New York, but they wanted me to wear a wig. I remember flicking through it and thinking: “I don’t even recognise myself. This isn’t going to work.”

I never wanted to move to Hollywood – I never did – so when I first went there to film Vamp, I surrounded myself with friends: Keith Haring [who body-painted Jones], Andy Warhol, Antonio Lopez. I lived like a vampire: up all night, asleep all day.

Roger Moore made me laugh on A View to a Kill. I’d heard he had a reputation that lightened the mood: he’d hide sex toys around the bed and goose you with them. I beat him to it. I went down to the prop room and found a huge black-and-white polka-dot dildo, strapped it on under my robe, and surprised him instead.

My biggest regret is not doing Blade Runner. Jean-Paul Goude – my son’s dad – and Ridley Scott were very competitive as artists. Ridley wanted me to play a snake lady, but Jean-Paul was very French and didn’t like to share.

My son, Paulo Goude, is my greatest achievement. He’s a songwriter, producer and incredible musician – and my beautiful granddaughter, too.

The last time I cried was during Covid. I got detained at an airport. I’m not going to say which country. I like to leave a little mystery.

When I worked as a go-go dancer, I called myself Grace Mendoza. I learned how to tweak one side of my ass, then tweak the other and make it jump. Now I can’t do the dances they do in Jamaica. I try so hard to make my whole butt bounce up and down, but even if I stand on my head, I still can’t do it. How these young girls twerk, I don’t know.

How would I like to be remembered? Remember me as the whole tequila, worm and everything.

I’m not scary if you haven’t done something to make me scary. I’ve realised that when some people lash out, it’s not really me they’re lashing out at. They usually have a problem with themselves. So I stopped hitting people. Let’s just say that I don’t beat anybody up any more.

Grace Jones has partnered with Boy Smells to launch the limited-edition Grace candle, available from Space NK


Rich Pelley

The GuardianTramp

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