I’m Not Perfect, But I’m Perfect For You

Grace Jones (née Grace Mendoza) burst onto the fashion, music, and art scenes in the early 1970’s. Throughout her tumultuous career, she has garnered praise and criticism for her bold, assertive inquiries into sexual roles and power, race, and gender legibility (via androgyny).

In this 1986 music video to the single “I’m Not Perfect, But I’m Perfect For You”, we see many of the hallmarks of Grace Jones’ videos from the 1980’s and 1990’s – namely stop animation, montage, cameos, and selective speeding-up/slowing-down of motion sequences. However, the video also depicts (intentionally or not) a certain reality of the non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual body in American culture. From the first few scenes, we see Grace waxed, styled, tweaked, and prepared for the stage – often to the pleasure of the white “professionals”, but to Grace’s horror. It all culminates in Jones’ performance for an adoring throng, clad in a dress/tent painted by Keith Haring in black and white – one of many deployments of whiteness and blackness shown in this video. (Also note the white face and white bath.)

Near the middle of the video, Grace’s outfit reaches out and injures her fans. At the end, driven mad by the “beautifying” process, Grace seems to move erratically and destabilize. Perhaps it’s a suggestion that, even subjected to the white, male-determined rules of beauty and desirability, Grace can use hope, agency, and queer madness (not to mention the political power of her presence as a non-apologetic, aggressive woman of color) to attack the very system that tried to normalize and regulate her. (I’d like to think so, and I’d like to think that’s why she’s such a queer icon.)

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