She was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica and raised by her grandparents. When she was thirteen she and her siblings moved to her parents' home in Syracuse, New York. Jones started out as a model, initially in New York state, then in Paris, working for Yves St. Laurent, Claude Montana, and Kenzo Takada, and appearing on the covers of Elle, Vogue, and Stern working with Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin, and Hans Feurer.
In 1977, Jones secured a record deal with Island Records. In 1980 Jones, with the aid of Compass Point All Stars moved into New Wave, scoring Top 40 entries on the UK Singles Chart, with "Pull Up to the Bumper", "I've Seen That Face Before", "Private Life", "Slave to the Rhythm" and "I'm Not Perfect". Her albums include Warm Leatherette (1980), Nightclubbing (1981) and Slave to the Rhythm (1985).
In America she appeared in some low-budget films in the 1970s and early 1980s. Her work as an actress in mainstream film began in the 1984 fantasy-action film Conan the Destroyer alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the 1985 James Bond movie A View to a Kill. In 1986 she played a vampire in Vamp, and acted in and contributed a song to the 1992 film Boomerang with Eddie Murphy. She appeared alongside Tim Curry in the 2001 film, Wolf Girl.
In 1983, Jones's One Man Show was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Long-Form Music Video next year. For her work in Conan the Destroyer, A View to a Kill, and Vamp, she was nominated Saturn Awards for Best Supporting Actress. In 1999, Jones ranked 82nd on VH1's 100 Greatest Women of Rock and Roll, and in 2008, she was honoured with a Q Idol Award. Jones influenced the cross-dressing movement of the 1980s and has been an inspiration for artists, including Annie Lennox, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Brazilian Girls Roisin Murphy, Nile Rodgers, Santigold, and Basement Jaxx.
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