Here follows Janet’s most recent interview in Ebony Magazine. Thanks to Cody for transcribing it:
Janet Jackson appears demure and fragile as she sits on a low but comfortable sofa in a West Los Angeles recording studio. She offers to share her Asian lunch of rice and seaweed and a large green salad tossed in a teriyaki dressing. It is 10 days after the Super Bowl incident, and she is trying to get on with her life. She has an album to finish, a tour to organize, videos to shoot, and a personal life to nourish. In a barely audible angelic voice, she insists that she is “okay”, that she’s strong and can tough it out. But the hurt and embarrassment are evident on her hauntingly beautiful face and in the language of her lithe, well-toned body.
“This is the first time I’ve ever had to deal with something like this,” she says softly.
Until Super Bowl Sunday, Janet was often referred to as the most balanced Jackson, the quiet and talented one among the huge and talented Jackson clan. No trouble, no controversy. She sold out concerts and spun out platinum-plus albums. Yes, she had survived two broken marriages, but that only made her more human, more normal.
But that all changed at halftime of the Super Bowl, when during a performance with Justin Timberlake her right breast was suddenly exposed. She and Timberlake immediately said it was an accident, that it was a was a “wardrobe malfunction”, a theatrical moment that went very wrong. A media brouhaha and moralizing followed. The FCC threatened to fine CBS and MTV, which produced the halftime show. (Both are owned by media giant Viacom.) Despite Janet’s taped apology being broadcast worldwide, she was “uninvited” to participate in the Grammy Awards (also on CBS) one week after the Super Bowl. Then she and Timberlake were told they could participate in the music industry’s biggest event if they apologized during the program. She declined; Timberlake agreed and did participate in the show.
Topping off a wild week of media frenzy, the FCC hosted media decency hearings on Capitol Hill, during which CBS and MTV executives testified they knew nothing about the Jackson performance stunt.
“It was not intentional. It was a costume accident,” says soft-spoken Janet during an exclusive interview with EBONY, the first media interview she has given since the Super Bowl. “I’ve moved on. I feel fine. There’s been a lot of support. There’s still a lot going on,” she says of the media onslaught that has been called “unfair”, “blown out of proportion” and “racist”. Why did it all happen? “It was an accident,” she says. “That was basically it.”
When asked if she felt her family gets singled out and picked on because they are Jacksons, she said: “Yeah. I was with my brother Mike and my brother Randy just yesterday morning. And I was thinking about that. I think a lot of times that it very well may be because of who we are. It’s a lot harder. A lot of times I think it’s because of who the family is,” she continues, then hesitates, pondering her words. “We’re very strong, as a people period. And I have a very strong family. We can handle it. What’s so funny is that this is my first time of truly having to deal with something like this, which I’ve never experienced before. My brothers and sisters have though. But I’m okay.”
“People have always said that I look like my mother, I feel that I look more like my father. My mother’s so beautiful. But I have my mother’s strength more so than anything. I realize that now. She’s a warrior. And I’m realizing I have that.
She is very strong. she’s gone through a lot too. Since she was a baby, having polio when she was younger. Every time her children go through something, just being a parent, she goes through it too. That was my worry when this happened. My parents, and my nieces and nephews. Kids at school can be so cruel with all the jokes and teasing. And there are so many of them [more than 20 nieces and nephews in all]. It’s going to take a while to touch base with each one of them, but I’m working on it. It’s not an easy thing for them to deal with. And it’s not their fault. They just have that last name.”
Jackson. It is a name symbolic of talent and music and family. In recent years, it is a name associated with unusual behaviour and scandalous headlines. In past years older sister LaToya has made headlines, and brother Michael, who along with Janet is the best known and most successful of the Jackson clan, is now embroiled in a court case in which he is accused of child molestation.
Janet says there have been so many mistruths concerning the Super Bowl performance that she can’t keep up with them all. “I’m now told that Luther said he didn’t want to receive the Grammy unless I presented it to him, but I was told initially that his family thought it was better that I not present it to him. But that didn’t come from his family. A lot of things they put a hush on, like his statement.”
She goes on to say that some television stations didn’t run all of her taped apology. “Sometimes they cut out that I said it was an accident,” she says. “That’s what the media does, that’s the way they are because they want it to be told a different way. I probably should have done it live, but there was so much going on at the time that I needed to just get it done. It is what it is. And it will pass and I’m fine with it. I’ve already moved on to completing my project.”
That project, Damita Jo, will be Janet’s eighth album, five of which have been No. 1. She also has five Grammy Awards, and she’s done two films and gotten an Oscar nomination. She’s sold millions of records, but this recording will be a departure for the pop diva. Whereas in the past she has worked exclusively with super producers Jimmy (Jam) Harris and Terry Lewis, this time she is working with the dynamic duo in addition to a variety of other hot producers, including Kenneth (Babyface) Edmonds, Kanye West, Dallas Austin and Rockwilder. In the days and weeks after the Super Bowl incident, she has busied herself in the studio doing what she does best—making great music.
And everywhere she goes, the camera-toting paparazzi aren’t far behind. “I’ve always had the paparazzi around me, but now they are getting on my nerves,” she confesses. “I stop at a light and they get out of their cars and try to take photographs of me. That’s a bit much. They followed me here. I get followed all the time.”
Jackson describes herself as a very giving person. “I put others first and worry about other people’s feelings and their issues before I worry about myself,” she confesses. “It’s not a good thing because you are supposed to take care of yourself first. How can you be there for someone else if you can’t take care of yourself?
And I definitely have a bad temper, but you’ve got to push me for it to come out. When you push me, you see horns and the steam and my eyes turn red.” She laughs.
“Do you cry?”
“Of course, I cry,” she says confidently. “But not in anger. I get mad though, and that’s not a good thing. My anger displayed itself when my brother had his hearing.”
She tells us how as they were leaving the courthouse, she Michael and her mother all witnessed incidents in which the police were mistreating fans. “My brother and mother saw the cops with dogs take a girl by her hair and yank her down to the ground. At the same time I saw a cop take a girl and shove her right in the throat, and she fell back. We put our heads out the windows and yelled at the cops. But the TV cameras didn’t show what the cops were doing. And the kids weren’t doing anything wrong. They were just excited. You know where my head went immediately? Back to the civil rights protests when they had the dogs. For a split second my head went back to all that footage I’ve seen. People were getting pushed and yanked, but the media didn’t show that side of it. So, that was a little bit of my anger.”
The softer side of Janet Jackson comes through when she peppers the conversation with references to her romantic partner, renowned record producer Jermaine Dupri. She turns rather girlish and giggly when his name comes up. She tells how she took him to one of her favourite vacation spots, Peter Island in the British Virgin Islands, because she wanted to share it with him. She is delighted that her family likes him.
“Things are great with us,” she says, hiding her blushing face behind two well-manicured slender hands. “I’m sorry, but I get so tickled when you say his name. It’s so funny because I’ve never been in a relationship when my friends adore him and my family just loves him. It’s a first for me. But more importantly, I love him. Everything is great.”
She tells how Dupri teases her because she can’t remember when they first met, but she says they have known each other for several years and gradually became close friends before falling in love. She says they have been “committed” for about 16 to 17 months.
“How did I know he was the one?” she asks, repeating the question. “It just sneaked up on me. I didn’t expect it. There is something different about him. And even my sister LaToya, just being the big sister that she is, just embarrassed me when he visited the family. She said, ‘You know Janet has never brought anyone she’s dated home to meet the family before.’ She was just telling him all kinds of things about me, about my cooking, and he’s looking at me with those big eyes, and I’m still getting questions about why I won’t cook for him. Honestly, Lynn, it just hits me and it just keeps getting stronger and stronger. When I think it can’t go any further, it gets stronger. I’ve never had anyone who has been this supportive in a relationship. He’s just been there for me. It’s weird because you go through so much bad crap in your life, so much pain, and you never think you’ll get it right. Everything just fell into place.”
She goes on to say that “everything is special about him,” that “he’s so nice.” One sure sign that he’s the one is that her family loves him. “You know that it’s something different when your whole family falls in love with him, when your brothers and sisters love him. And with me having eight brothers and sisters, there are some major eyes on him. And they all adore him. So that’s really good.”
Asked how she responds to those who say that she and Dupri are not a good match, she says: “People need to stay out of other people’s business. Honestly, how can they say what is a good match for me and what is a good match for him? They really don’t know us. That’s for us to decide. They need to stay out of other people’s business and deal with their own issues.”
Miss Jackson has spoken.