The Incredible Transformation Of Janet Jackson

On May 16, 1966, Janet Jackson was born into one of the most famous families in the world and still managed to stand on her own two feet, despite being the youngest of nine children. She has continued to remain a high-profile pop culture icon and is known for being one of the most successful entertainers of all time.

With a career spanning more than five decades, she has been considered a blueprint for a number of stars that have followed in her footsteps. Whether it’s for her showstopping performances or her feisty anthems, you can’t deny the impact Jackson has had on the likes of Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, and Bruno Mars, to name a few. To date, she boasts five Grammy Award wins, 11 American Music Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an Oscar nomination, seven No. 1 albums on the US Billboard 200, 10 No. 1 singles on the Hot 100, and over 77.1 million sales from her studio albums alone, according to Chart Masters.

Janet Jackson is a woman of many talents and continues to inspire a whole generation. Keep reading to find out how she managed to become the living legend that she is today.

Janet Jackson got into the family business

Janet Jackson entered the world of entertainment by default, whether she liked it or not. Her brothers — Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and Michael Jackson — had already started to pursue their careers as The Jackson 5 in 1965, a year before she was born. As mentioned in her BBC Documentary “Taking Control,” by the time Janet was 5 years old, her brothers had already achieved four No. 1 singles on the US Billboard Hot 100, signed a record deal with Motown, and had their own cartoon television series. 

Not before long, Janet followed in her brothers’ footsteps and appeared on “The Jacksons” variety program. She also performed Sonny and Cher’s “The Beat Goes On” with her older brother Randy Jackson on an episode of “The Carol Burnett Show.” As she recalled in the doc, her work on the small screen caught the attention of television producer and writer Norman Lear, who saw her potential as an on-screen actor and cast her as Penny in the sitcom “Good Times.”

Life as child actor wasn't always a good time

Before her groundbreaking music career, Janet Jackson was making waves as a child actor. In 1977, she made her acting debut as Penny in the CBS sitcom “Good Times.” According to IMDb, she appeared in 48 episodes and the final two seasons.

Even though Jackson started filming the show when she was just 11 years old, she was made to feel that her appearance wasn’t good enough. In a 2012 interview on “Anderson Live,” she reflected on her time on the popular sitcom, which wasn’t always a positive experience. Jackson explained she started to develop very early and that the women in charge of the wardrobe told her they had to bind her chest. Before they started to shoot the following season, she said she was told she was “too heavy” and that she “needed to lose weight.”

“I look back on those episodes and I go, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m not a heavy kid by any means,'” she shared with ABC News in 2011. “I internalized it and I never told anyone about it, and kept it inside for years.”

On the plus side, Janet Jackson’s impressive acting abilities helped her land roles in “Different Strokes,” “Fame,” and “The Love Boat” in the 1980s.

Early on, Joe Jackson was at the helm of his daughter's career

After Michael Jackson decided dad Joe Jackson would no longer be his manager, the patriarch of the musical family used his time to manage Janet Jackson.

At 16 years old, Janet Jackson released her self-titled debut album in 1982. As noted in the BBC Documentary “Taking Control,” she did not get a chance to contribute much to the sound and the songs were already written for her. According to Billboard, the LP peaked at No. 63 on the US Billboard 200 and didn’t make much noise. Two years later, Janet dropped her second album, “Dream Street,” which failed to make much of an impact at all, only reaching No. 147 on the chart.

Janet had yet to make her mark on the music industry. However, things would change when she took her career and her life into her own hands.

Janet Jackson eloped with '80s singer James DeBarge

Janet Jackson eloped with fellow ’80s singer James DeBarge on September 7, 1984. James is most known for “Rhythm of the Night,” a hit single he released with his family group DeBarge. Janet was 18 years old when she tied the knot with James, who was three years her senior. Joe Jackson, who was still Janet’s manager at the time, was not happy about their marriage and tried to put a stop to it.

And so, just one year later, the patriarch of the Jackson family had the marriage annulled after it was revealed that James was struggling with drug addiction. According to the doc “Taking Control,” Janet saw her marriage to James as a way of getting away from her controlling father. However, things didn’t go to plan when their relationship turned sour and she was set free from James in 1985.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Control took Janet Jackson's career to new heights

After her first two albums, Janet Jackson was determined to rule her own destiny. After moving to Minneapolis, she recorded her third studio, “Control,” with hitmakers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, which proved to be a wise decision. 

Released in 1986, “Control” was a huge success and identified with listeners. As noted in “Taking Control,” it was the first time fans heard Janet writing and singing from her own real-life, personal experiences. The record peaked at No. 1 on the US Billboard 200 chart and spawned five top five singles and her first No. 1 hit song, “When I Think of You.” As reported by Chart Masters, “Control” took Janet’s career to new heights and was a worldwide success, selling over 9.2 million copies.

Not only did the album introduce her music to audiences around the globe, but she finally started to be respected as a musician in her own right. Janet was no longer just considered the sister of Michael Jackson. She was Janet Jackson the powerhouse superstar.

Janet Jackson went on to break numerous records

“Control” was Janet Jackson’s breakthrough album and it was certainly no gimmick. When it came down to following up the release with another studio album, Jackson knew she had to step up her game to prove that she was no one-album wonder.

1989’s “Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814” cemented Janet’s status as a pop icon and helped her set and break records no other artists had achieved. According to Billboard, the LP became the best-seller of 1990, is the only album in history to have seven singles peak within the top five on the Hot 100 chart, and helped her become the first female artist to be nominated for Producer of the Year at the Grammy Awards in 1990. At the time, she was the only act to produce No. 1 hits on the Hot 100 chart in three different years. 30 years later in May 2021, The Weeknd became the second artist to achieve this impressive record she had held on her own for so long, as noted by The Official Charts.

Fans certainly weren’t willing to give up Janet Jackson’s crown and neither was she. Things only went from strength to strength during the 1990s.

Janet Jackson embraced being a sex symbol

1993’s “janet.” saw Janet Jackson re-invent her image once again. This time, she was ready to show off her sexy side. Jackson hired legendary fashion photographer Patrick Demarchelier to shoot the album cover for the LP. In the photographs, Jackson is topless and in a pair of unbuttoned jeans, her breasts covered by the hands of her second husband, René Elizondo. Her label at the time thought the image was too risqué.

“That was supposed to be the album cover,” she stated in the BBC “Taking Control” documentary. “So I said OK that’s fine, don’t use it for the album cover. Let’s use it for a magazine cover instead. So that’s when we went to Rolling Stone and they fell in love with it.” And with that, her iconic Rolling Stone cover happened.

Jackson had no problem celebrating her own sexuality. As The Mary Sue wrote, the “That’s The Way Love Goes” hitmaker’s lyrics focused on her sexual pleasure and desire in various songs throughout the 1990s and 2000s, such as “Anytime, Anyplace,” “Rope Burn,” and “Moist.” During her 2001 “All For You” tour, she turned up the heat and invited a member of the audience on stage, who she strapped down and teased while performing “Would You Mind” in a black skintight PVC catsuit.

Fans screamed for Michael and Janet Jackson's duet

A duet between Janet Jackson and her King of Pop brother Michael Jackson had been a long time coming. In 1995, the two superstars came together and released the powerful single “Scream.” 

Both Janet and Michael were known for their next-level music videos. However, for “Scream,” they knew they had to take it up a notch. And that, they did. Shot on an elaborately built spaceship set, the visual cost $7 million to make, according to Forbes. While it was often hailed as the most expensive music video ever at that time, director Mark Romanek would later tell NPR that there were  “two other videos of the era … that cost millions more.”

Either way, the money was well spent. According to Forbes, over an estimated 64 million tuned in to watch the video’s premiere. The following year, Janet and Michael won Best Short Form Music Video at the Grammy Awards and nabbed three MTV Video Music Awards. All there is left to say is: name a more iconic duo.

Janet Jackson signed multiple huge contracts

After achieving huge success with “Control” and “Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814,” record executives were clamoring to sign Janet Jackson to their label. As “Taking Control” recounted, her deal was completed with A&M Records, Janet signed to Richard Branson’s label, Virgin Records, for $40 million in 1991 — the largest contract in history at the time.

“Did it shock me? No! This was my 9 to 5, it was my work,” she explained in her documentary. “I hate to make it sound like this but it was like ok you get a promotion, — but what a huge promotion it was — but I’m doing my job and I try to do it to the best of my ability.”

Later on, Michael Jackson and Madonna would surpass the record by signing deals for $60 million, according to the AP. However, in 1996, Janet renewed her contract with Virgin for $80 million, signing the largest contract in history for a second time. In a 1997 interview with Giselle Fernández, Janet was asked what it felt like being the highest-paid entertainer in the world. “I really don’t think about that, being the highest paid, really,” she said. “Once the deal was done, it was just done. I went on about my life like I normally do.”

Janet Jackson kept her second marriage under wraps

It’s no secret to Janet Jackson fans that she is a very private person. Therefore, it wasn’t too much of a surprise when they found out she had secretly married Mexican dancer, songwriter, and director René Elizondo, who directed her music videos for “That’s The Way Love Goes” and “Again.”

The duo tied the knot in March 1991 at home in North San Diego County. However, they ultimately called it quits and announced they would be filing for divorce after about nine years of marriage. “We simply grew apart,” Elizondo told E! in 2000. “We became more business and creative partners than actual lovers. We’ve been in negotiations for the past four to six months, and we decided to file for divorce and get this over with.

In a 2000 tell-all interview with Matt Lauer on “Today,” Jackson admitted that she told very few friends and family members about her second marriage, only ones who she believed would keep the secret. Elizondo told Jet that he would “never” be involved in any sort of tell-all about his relationship or Jackson. “I never respected people who do that.”

Janet Jackson's halftime show helped launch YouTube

Janet Jackson’s 2004 Super Bowl performance has been well-documented over the years and remains a hot topic. For those that have been living under a rock, Jackson performed during the halftime show and invited Justin Timberlake on stage with her. At the end of their set, Timberlake ripped too much of her attire off and exposed her breast. Some people believe it was a publicity stunt while others believe it was an accident.

After the incident, Timberlake’s solo career continued to propel while Jackson’s definitely took a hit. According to Billboard, her videos and singles were blacklisted from all the TV channels and radio stations Clear Channel Communications owned, which included MTV. During an appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Jackson explained she regrets issuing an apology for something that wasn’t done intentionally. Winfrey informed viewers that the Federal Communications Commission received more than half a million complaints and that CBS was fined $550,000 dollars. 

As Forbes noted, the wardrobe malfunction more or less helped a now-popular video platform hit the ground running. “Once YouTube launched, it was an enormous success, thanks in part to people looking for clips of Janet and Justin’s performance,” the outlet explained.

Jackson’s next album “Damita Jo” failed to match the success of her previous projects. With that being said, the record was still certified platinum by RIAA and received two Grammy Award nominations. 

Janet Jackson started a family with her third husband

According to E! News, Janet Jackson met her third husband, Wissam Al Mana, in April 2010. Two years later, the pair tied the knot at a private ceremony. However, Jackson didn’t inform fans until the following year. “The rumors regarding an extravagant wedding are simply not true,” they shared in a joint statement on the singer’s website (via E! News). “Last year we were married in a quiet, private, and beautiful ceremony.”

“Our wedding gifts to one another were contributions to our respective favorite children’s charities,” they added. “We would appreciate that our privacy is respected and that we are allowed this time for celebration and joy. With love, Wissam and Janet.”

In April 2016, Jackson shared in a video that she and Al Mana were expecting their first child. The duo welcomed son Eissa Al Mana in January 2017. Three months later, Jackson and her husband announced they were getting a divorce after five years of marriage.

Janet Jackson's first album in seven years was a hit

There was a moment where Janet Jackson fans wondered if she would ever return with any more music. After years of being absent from the music scene, the “Call On Me” singer gave everyone the announcement they had been waiting for when she revealed she would be returning with a new studio album and a world tour in 2015.

Janet released her 11th studio album, “Unbreakable,” in October of that year, which saw her collaborating with Missy Elliott and J. Cole. It was her first release since 2008’s “Discipline” and was praised by music critics, receiving a score of 75 on Metacritic. As noted in Entertainment Weekly, the album became her seventh chart-topper on the US Billboard 200. Not only that, Janet became the third artist to have a No. 1 album across the last four decades, alongside two other legends: Barbra Streisand and Bruce Springsteen.

The tour of the same name proved to be a huge success and grossed $15 million at the box office from 33 shows alone, according to That Grape Juice.

Janet Jackson is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

After such a long, successful, groundbreaking career, it was time for Janet Jackson to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In March 2019, the talented entertainer’s hard work throughout the decades was honored by fellow musician Janelle Monae. “History is not complete without you, Janet. That’s why we bow at your altar tonight,” the “Make Me Feel” hitmaker expressed, according to Pitchfork.

Jackson gave an endearing and humble speech. “As the youngest in the family, I was determined to make it on my own. I wanted to stand on my own two feet. But never in a million years did I expect to follow in their footsteps. Tonight, your baby sister has made it, she said, according to Pitchfork. “I also wanna say a personal word to each and every fan. You’ve been with me every step of the way—through all my ups, all my downs. I have never, never have and I never will, take you for granted. I love you with all my heart,” she said.

“And I just, I wanna thank my baby, my beautiful son,” Jackson continued. “He wakes me up every single morning singing his own little melodies. He’s only 2, you guys. And I want you to know you are my heart. You are my life. And you have shown me the meaning of real unconditional love. Mumma loves you, Eissa, ra-ra-ra!” 

Sin City welcomed Janet Jackson to the party

In February 2019, Janet Jackson announced her first-ever Las Vegas residency, “Metamorphosis.” The shows took place at the Park Theater in the Park MGM resort and ran from May 2019 to August that same year, according to NME. “The [center piece] of this all new thought-provoking show will be Janet herself, captivating your senses with electrifying visuals, explosive dance numbers, chart-topping hits and fan-favorite deep cuts,” her press release stated.

Being the powerhouse entertainer that she is, Jackson’s show made a lot of noise and had a whole range of high-profile stars in attendance. As noted by Inquisitr, Kelly Rowland, Beyonce, Queen Latifah, Gabrielle Union, Hailee Steinfeld, and Lil Kim were a few of many who went to watch the show. The residency may have been a lot shorter than most, but she sure racked up the money. According to Billboard, she brought in a whopping $13 million from 18 shows, which meant her average nightly haul was around $722,000.

Janet Jackson is currently working on many things

On February 10, 2020, Janet Jackson announced via Instagram that she will be releasing a new album titled “Black Diamond” that will be promoted with a world tour. As of this writing, “Black Diamond” has yet to be released and its tour was put on hold due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

While fans wait for new music, they can look forward to her own two-part documentary that is scheduled to air in 2022 on A&E and Lifetime. As reported by Billboard, Janet plans to tell her story like never before. The private singer is set to discuss the death of her father, Joe Jackson, and older brother, Michael Jackson, and will share her side of the story surrounding the 2004 Super Bowl performance. Viewers can also expect to see her open up about motherhood.

In 2021, Janet revealed she will be auctioning her personal belongings in May in Beverly Hills with Julien’s Auctions. “Over 1,000 of Janet Jackson’s most spectacular music video, tour and television performance worn costumes and ensembles, red carpet appearance gowns as well as personal items and accessories owned and used by the five-time Grammy award-winning singer,” will be available to purchase, according to their website. “A portion of the proceeds from the auction will benefit Compassion International, a global child-advocacy ministry that partners with churches around the world to release children from spiritual, economic, social, and physical poverty.” It seems Janet wants to give back to her fans for being so loyal.

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