This Queenager is a FORCE - Grace Jones and the art of true confidence!

The Queenager: Eleanor's Letter (31st July 2023)

I may just have seen the best gig of my life! Why I love Grace Jones and all she represents

Dear Queenagers!

Greetings from a speeding train somewhere between Lulworth Castle in Dorset and London Waterloo. I write this damp and soggy from my Camp Bestival weekend; muddy calves, hiking boots (still with some Moroccan dust…) and typing on my phone. So forgive any typos!

Last night I saw one of the great musical sets of my life – Grace Jones (above in a pic from the gig) . She might be 75 (which makes her a super-Queenager) but my God the woman is a FORCE. She growled, she strutted, she dazzled in a rhinestone hat under a spotlight spinning diamonds across the arena. There were 30,000 people at the Featival – we were all agog. My 13 year old friend Jake couldn’t stop taking photos; he is half Jamaican and he loved her rendition of My Jamaican Guy, replete with Haille Salassie-style head-dress. She may be nearer 100 than 50, but Grace Jones has more energy, attack and heart-stopping sexiness than any woman I have ever seen! I loved her as a teen in the 1980s with her strong androgynous energy and her incredible skin-tight Azzedine Allaia clothes. Unlike other models she never looked girly – she looked, fierce, naughty, in control. She still does. I only know one other 80 year old with the Sass of Grace Jones – and unsurprisingly the two of them are great friends in Jamaica.

Last week the papers were full of two very different pop icons; the tragic Sinead O Connor whose death at only 56 should make all us Queenagers feel lucky to be still here; to remember that getting a chance to be old is a great blessing. Sinead’s life – bravely and outspokenly conducted particularly in relation to Ireland and the Catholic Church where she was ahead of all the terrible revelations about women in the Magdalene laundries – took its toll. She was a victim both of her abusive childhood and the Irish state and of the misogynist looks-obsessed music industry who have wanted to put women in easy man-pleasing boxes forever.

All sorts of music types hailed Sinead as an icon last week but as Morrissey pointed out – none of them would actually give her a contract – even the label for whom she’d sold 7 million albums.

And last week Mick Jagger turned 80 – no-one accuses him of being wrinkly and past his prime; and I don’t see him resorting to the kind of self-inflicted baby-face remodelling that a female star like Madonna, nearly two decades younger, feels she has to do to keep herself relevant.

But that is why Grace Jones was such a revelation. Age cannot wither her or custom fade her infinite variety; She wears her years with pride, waggles her booty and her endless legs like a teenager but does not hide her 75-year old face. And happily takes a hand to help her down steps in her high boots. She is sexy and 75 and proud of it. This is a woman who lives life on her own terms, who called for red-wine and gulped it down half way through her act. I don’t hear from friends who know her that Grace is queen of clean-living… she likes a party, loves sex, takes no prisoners. This is a woman who never shrinks who and what she is to make herself more pleasing and palatable to others. She embodies truly not giving a fuck! As she put it herself:‘My childhood] was all about the Bible and beatings. We were beaten for any little act of dissent, and hit harder the worse the disobedience. It formed me as a person, my choices, men I have been attracted to… It was a profoundly disciplined, militant upbringing, and so in my own way, I am very militant and disciplined. Even if that sometimes means being militantly naughty, and disciplined in the arts of subversion.’

It is the naughtiness I love; which is perhaps a key Queenager tenet – choosing our rules, deciding what we will and won’t do for ourselves.I wasn’t the only one. Grace’s confidence was infectious. In the crowd last night I was surrounded by Queenagers overcome by a similar adulation. ‘What a woman!!!’ Sighed one. Another – in a camouflage DryRobe – was weeping with joy as Grace Jones rotated a giant  Hula -hoop languorously round her hips solidly for the entire  10 minutes of Slave to the Rhythm.

She lay on the stage. She crawled. She purred through Love is the Drug and roared out Pull Up To The Bumper Baby….We were putty in her amazing hands.

What a headliner and what a reminder that older women have power; that it is our life-force, our energy, our personality, our self belief – our true manifested selves which emit our real force. The And if we have that, it wanes not with the parting years, we just become more concentrated, more powerful expressions of ourselves! Like soup simmered and improved.

And prior to Grace I was in the Bollywood-themed dance tent – rammed with youngsters dancing so hard it was impossible not to feel a contact high. And to my delight, the DJs spurring them on were all women – young, fearsome women; reading the room, rousing the crowd, playing epic tracks while hundreds of ecstatic people danced in the palms of their hands. That was a revelation to me. In my raving days I jumped around in a lot of fields and clubs to some awesome DJs but they were always men, as if only the chaps could be trusted with that seminal role as master of ceremonies. not any more! Hooray for the boss-girl DJs of today inspiring a generation of young women to see that they can be anything – can spin the tunes, pull the strings – no longer be puppets of powerful male music industry execs who see a female artist’s primary power not in her artistry or her talent but in how sexy she looks. And hooray for Grace the path-finder showing them how it is done!

So Sinead and Grace and DJ Emma and Krystal Rocks – go ladies – when you play you redefine the world for all of us.

And what is funny to me is that the girl DJs play 90s club anthems but then drop in a kicking jungly base, so everyone is happy; those of us who loved those tunes back in 1992 and the 16 year olds who were only born in the late Noughties.

Talking of which I’d forgotten the sheer joy of a massive sound system in the middle of a field, the booming base the grass, the trees, thousands of excited ravers jumping up and down….the criminal Justice Act when it banned raves with repetitive beats put a stop to that kind of outdoor fun for a long time. Hooray then for festivals that bring it back; at their best they are about thousands of people of all ages singing about love and feeling it in a field. And even in the rain there is the good old Womens Institute serving home made carrot cake and bacon buns in a tent more reminiscent of county fairs.

So what a great weekend: Queenagers, super- Queenagers and Queenagers-in-training all in fine fettle. And biggest thanks of all to my dear friend Decca for the free tickets – and my husband the amazing dezza who heaved the wet camping kit up the hill in the pissing rain.

Festivals – not for the faint hearted but always worth it. And Grace Jones? I am a FAN!!!! If you get a chance to see her – go, before it’s too late. And in the meantime we can All channel a bit of her fierce force!

Lots of love


By Eleanor Mills


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *