Op-Ed: Grace Jones’ Autobiography Was My Idea

Originally published in StarWipe 10/22/15

Grace Jones is receiving heat for punches she throws in her new autobiography, I’ll Never Write My Memoirs, but the controversy goes much deeper than that. The book was my idea. Believe it or not, I’m the one who originally thought of a book about the life of Grace Jones written in first person. Me, StarWipecontributor Janie Stolar. Now, I’m speaking out.

As a writer, I never know when inspiration will strike, so you can imagine my surprise when, out of the blue, I came up with a brilliant idea: I should write a book about the incredible life of a gender-bending model/musician who was born in Jamaica in 1948, then raised by strictly Pentecostal grandparents before overcoming all odds and achieving global renown. A pretty incredible story, right? And I realized it would be even more incredible if it were written in first person, to properly capture the experience firsthand.

Little did I know that soon after my epiphany, Grace Jones would flat-out steal my exact idea.

Indeed, it seems Grace Jones has penned a memoir that also tells the story of a young girl moving to America and quickly becoming a titan of music, modeling, and film. Coincidence? No way. I call it plagiarism. And in case you’re not convinced, the list of telltale story parallels don’t stop there.

I spontaneously decided that halfway through Jones’ studies at Syracuse University, our protagonist would be approached by a drama professor who would cast her in a play in Philadelphia, catalyzing a string of events that would lead to an illustrious career in the arts and entertainment. Think that’s a great idea? Yeah, Grace Jones did too, apparently! She made it a central plot point in her book, almost as if I hadn’t been the one to come up with it.

At this point, skeptics may be saying that these story overlaps are simply a coincidence. Well, the similarities have just begun! Get ready to be infuriated!

Yep, Jones and I both decided that our protagonist would sign with Wilhelmina Models and become a staple of the gay club scene and Studio 54 in the 1970s. We both decided that this model would release several hit singles as a recording artist, going on to top international charts. And—get this—we both decided that the main character would write a memoir in 2015, using a title that expresses their reluctance at doing so.

I mean, are you kidding me?! What the fuck, Grace Jones?

Look, I admit that creativity works in mysterious ways. And I’d love to believe that two people could independently dream of a book about a celebrated predecessor to Lady Gaga and Rihanna, written in the first person. But I’m not stupid.

In face, perhaps the one detail we both forgot to include in our respective books is this: Grace Jones is a goddamn thief.

Smash cut to 2015: A book by Grace Jones is hitting the shelves, and it’s exactly the same as my story, yet I get zero credit. Has society learned nothing from our experience with The Fat Jew? Already Jones’ memoir is receiving critical praise—to which I respond, “Thank you. I came up with it.” And all the while, I am filled with an unrelenting, all-consuming rage. But what recourse do I have? It’s a classic case of small-town author vs. world-famous supermodel who made androgyny fashionable in the 1980s. In other words, I don’t stand a chance in court.

In the end, I just hope that Jones apologizes for stealing my idea to write about her life in unflinching personal detail. But I mostly hope that “her” story serves as both an inspiration and warning to young artists: You never know where your next big break will come from, but you should make damn sure Grace Jones isn’t around to steal it from you.

Janie Stolar is a writer and comedian and author of Grace Jones’ life story.