From the age of three or four I knew I was different from the other little girls. I had a very low, husky voice; even lower than all the boys in my pre-school class. I used this to my dramatic and comedic advantage, with constant encouragement from my theatrical parents. At the dinner table I would morph into this sophisticated, older British woman, or a weathered, Southwestern cowboy. I had this Joan Crawford-esque alcoholic character I would step into (before I knew what an alcoholic was). An old home-video shows a group of about 15 five year olds sitting around a birthday party table. As soon as I felt the camera on me, I exclaimed, with a dramatic gesture, "Please give me a drink. I would love one!" (Someone, pass the apple juice!).
I also knew, from an even younger age, that I was born to sing. But growing up in my tall, thin body, with my low voice, proved to be a real struggle at times. I was told my voice didn't "match" my look. I was rejected from the children's choir at the local music school because my voice was too "different" and the director was afraid my voice would stand out. "And where would I place her?" she asked my mom. "I can't really put her with the girls." While I definitely dealt with rejection, and felt the pain of it all, it always propelled me forward.
And then when I was 7, I got sick. I lost all my hair. I was pre-pubescent so people thought I was a boy. My mom would always dry my tears and say, "Those people are simpletons, Auds. How can they think you're a boy with that beautiful feminine face and those gorgeous cupid lips?!" To make a long story short, I got better, I grew out my hair for a short period, and then realized I owned my bald head. I've pretty much kept my hair short ever since, changing the style and/or color every few months. This was the true start of my development of self-identity.
In adolescence I started becoming obsessed with strong women in music. I would blast Janis Joplin, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Sarah Vaughan, Grace Slick, Anne and Nancy Wilson, Joan Jett, Kathleen Hanna and then I discovered Grace. Grace Jones, that is. Obviously, I immediately identified with her low, sultry voice, but it was more than that; her sense of style, her fearlessness, her confidence, her true femininity. She was in charge of her sexuality, whether or not it was acceptable or appropriate.
At this point in my life, high school, I was noticing how much I stood out physically. My eccentric style was an intentional statement of course, but as my face started to mature, I realized I was striking. I had big lips, big cheekbones, a strong jawline. I was super feminine, hyper feminine, and that scared men...well, boys. Grace Jones became a model (no pun intended) for me; a low voiced, short haired, stylish, sexually charged teenaged girl, who wanted to express herself in every way possible, and who never really fit into a mold. Since then, I haven't stopped looking up to her.
It seems almost too apropos now, that in much of the press I received for my debut EP, I have been likened to Miss Jones. It is an honor, and empowering, to be recognized, as a strong, loud, fierce Woman (yes, with a capital "W"), like Grace. I am so excited to finally pay her tribute, by publicly singing her songs, literally, after all the time i've been singing them figuratively.
"Grace. Period." Audra Isadora Sings the Songs of Grace Jones - February 3rd at 54Below, in New York City.