African-American Style Icons & Fashion Stars Past and Present

From Diana Ross to Beyonce Knowles, this is our countdown of the top 20 black style icons who have been inspiring how America dresses for decades with their individual take on fashion (21 Photos)

Fiorella Valdesolo on Feb 1, 2013 at 12:23PM

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African-American Style Icons & Fashion Stars Past and Present

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Grace Jones

This outrageously leggy Jamaican was setting the public’s tongues a’ wagging before Lady Gaga was even born. Grace Jones started her career as a model—understandable considering her sharp-as-cut-glass cheekbones and formidable 5’ 10 1/2” stature—but she never cared for mannequining, and when she shaved her head and eyebrows the bookings stopped. So Jones traded the runway for the stage, performing at Studio 54 (she was known as the queen of gay discos) and hanging out with Andy Warhol and his crew, before securing a deal with Island Records in 1977.

With her singular electronic sound—hits like “Pull Up to the Bumper” and “Slave to the Rhythm” still hold up today—came a new, just as singular, look, thanks in great part to a collaboration with stylist (and longtime lover) Jean-Paul Goude.

Severe, androgynous and overtly, but never obviously, sexual, Jones gravitated towards striking, angular designs (for her hair too; it was usually a square or tilted flat-top). And Jones’s concert attire was even more over-the-top: Keith Haring painted her head-to-toe with tribal patterns for a 1985 show at the Paradise Garage and for Halloween at Roseland in 1978 Goude dressed her as a cat, in a performance that also involved a Bengal tiger and raw meat (take that, Gaga).

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