Janet has given a new interview to Hong Kong’s Prestige magazine. In the candid interview, Janet talks about her boyfriend, her career, her upcoming album and plans for 2008. The magazine also features several new photos taken by fashion photographer Mark Liddell. View the photos at Prestige’s website.
You’ve lived your entire life in the limelight. Everything has been recorded for better or worse. How do you keep it all in perspective? What’s life like for Janet Jackson?
It has its moments; I can’t complain. There are moments when it’s a little boring. There are a few times when it’s a great deal of fun. There are times when it’s a lot, a lot, a lot of work.
Is right now one of those times?
Yeah, you don’t get much sleep. No you don’t . . . it’s the day-to-day. The last project – when I was in Europe doing a promo – by the time I finished my day I was so exhausted and everyone would e-mail me and I would just have a list of things to do before I could go to bed and I found myself getting only, at most, three hours, sometimes literally only one hour of sleep. Then I would have to get up, go to a photo shoot and do interviews the following day – and it was like that the entire time. But it’s work that has to be done.
When you’re off, is life a little more manageable?
Yeah, it definitely gets lighter. There’s always something going on. It still gets lighter and that’s probably when it gets a little boring. Then I’m ready to get back to it again.
As a Jackson, was entertainment the only plausible trajectory or did you want to be something else when you were young? I heard you wanted to be a jockey?
Yeah, I started riding when I was five. I’ve been so scared to get on a horse since what happened to Christopher Reeve. That really frightened me. That could be me, that could be anyone. I wanted to be a racing jockey when I was a kid, and when I was in high school I wanted to go to college to study business law. God saved me, or my father, I should say, saved me and said, “Nah you’re not going to do that.”
You started your career as a TV actress. Was it daunting to make the transition as an adult into films?
When I was 10 I started to act. It wasn’t difficult [to make the transition]. A lot of things happened to the kids I was around, like Todd Bridges, Gary [Coleman], Dana [Plato], and everyone would say to me, “Why hasn’t something like that happened to you?” I’ve just been thankful and never tried to think about it. I just thank God. Everyone’s life is different. Not to say their parents raised them incorrectly, but I think a lot of it does have to do with their upbringing. But then again, you never know what that person is going through, how it affects them. One minute you’re adorable, you’re cute and you’re working, and you go through your adolescence and you’re not quite as adorable because you’re a little awkward and you feel like no one wants you anymore. And you’ve got pimples. It’s not easy being a teen. And then you’re not getting the parts you were getting. So I think a lot of times you can internalise and say, “What’s wrong with me? What did I do?” But it has nothing to do with you – how do you explain that? I’ve just been very fortunate because at that point I started into music – that’s how the energy transitioned for me.
In Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?, you play Patricia, an author/psychologist who writes about love. What drew you to that role?
I thought [Patricia] was a really good person. I could relate to her in a sense because, well, it’s weird, I don’t know why, but my friends call me – and you’re supposed to be there for your friends – but some of them call me their therapist. Like I’ve got the answer, and I don’t. I mean, I hear what they’re saying and I try to give them the best advice, but more than anything I just try and be there to listen. I’m nowhere near a therapist, but obviously I’m doing something right . . . they pour their hearts out. Everybody needs to vent sometimes. And it can’t be because I was married twice and divorced twice, because I wouldn’t listen to me! But [my friends] say, “You’ve done it twice, haven’t you learned from your mistakes?” And I say, “I’m still trying to figure it out!”
Who do you vent to?
I still have conversations with God. And you know, I’ll talk to . . . I have so many brothers and sisters, that’s the good thing about having such a big family. You’re best friends with this person this week and best friends with this person the next week, and I’ve got eight of them, you know?
Do the Jacksons still get together for family gatherings?
We didn’t this year and my nephew, bless his heart, said, “We’re not getting together this year and I’m really mad because it’s going to fall on my birthday so everyone was going to be there for my birthday!” Some of us don’t celebrate birthdays because we’re Jehovah’s Witnesses, but he was still going to pretend and be like, “This is a party for me!”
What were you like as a girl, away from all the hoopla and flashbulbs?
I stopped playing with dolls at the age of 10, which when I look back, I think that’s young. But I was working so much that there was just no time. But we had a lot of animals – that was my thing. I used to take care of the animals, feed them, clean their cages, wean them from the bottle. I got a lot out of that. We had dogs, one cat, we had a giraffe, an ostrich, peacocks, pheasants, it was really different, a llama.
There’s been talk of a Jacksons world tour. Will it happen?
I really don’t know. I hope it happens. I would love for it to happen. I’m probably [my brothers’] biggest fan. I think it would be great if they did. They’re so loved and definitely missed and there’s so much history there, musically speaking even, there’s so much that they have to give . . . there’s so much youth still there. I think about how Mick Jagger is 65 million years old, like a dinosaur or something, all of them [The Rolling Stones], and I look at my brothers and none of them look their age. Not that they’re old, they just still don’t look their age and it really trips me out. And I hope they do [stage a world tour]. They still love their music.
You’ve moved to Island Records and you’re working on your new album with your boyfriend, Jermaine Dupri. Since you and Jermaine live together and work together, is it difficult?
No, from my perspective it’s not. But you’d have to ask him for his perspective, if I’m difficult [laughs] – I don’t think I am! I think there’s such a thing as being a team player with whatever it is you’re doing, and granted it’s your career, so you should have a final say, but still it’s about a team effort and you could never do it alone. But if there is something that we both feel differently about, it just should really be talked about and that’s the way we’ve always done it. Except this time around I see Usher and Mariah [Carey] coming out of the studio and I say, “Okay, wait, aren’t you supposed to be working on my stuff? We’re supposed to be doing our stuff together.” And he goes, “Well yeah,” and I’m like, “Why are they here, don’t I come before them when it’s time for the album to be released?” Not because I’m his girlfriend [laughs], but for the release of the album. Mine has to be released first, so doesn’t it make sense to get me out of the way first? But it’s all good.
At least this way you get to spend more time with one another.
But that’s something I don’t think we will ever get enough of because we’re always working. Like he was up here in New York for maybe a week and we really didn’t see each other. When you’re working in the studio you work really late at night, so by the time he’d get back from the studio I’d be getting up because I’d have something to go do, so we kept missing each other like that. It got really bad, so we’d send messages all day long saying how much we missed each other. It definitely helps to know that you’re missed. It does keep a little fire to it.
There are conflicting reports of Jermaine being your boyfriend, your fiancé or your husband.
We’re not married. I call him my boyfriend. Jermaine calls me his wife, I’ve heard him say that as well . . . But not yet. I don’t know if that will ever happen. Maybe, I really don’t know. It’s because, at least for myself, this space that we’re in I think is so nice. I feel like maybe marriage is a jinx for me. I’ve done it twice; I’m not trying to be Elizabeth Taylor and do it eight times. Where we are is good and we’re happy and there’s no drama. And plus, I think there’s something about having a spiritual connection where you don’t have to have a certificate to validate the love. So it’s all good – if you make those vows to one another and you know that you have a connection, that’s all you need. I really do think [marriage] is just a way for the government to keep tabs on everybody, I truly do. Now people think you’ve got to grow up and get married and have a family, you don’t have to do that if you don’t want that. Just because everyone else does that doesn’t mean you have to.
How did you and Jermaine meet?
We first met at my concert in 1990. He came backstage and said hello and I think I was married, or I got married right after, I don’t know, I can’t remember. We’d see each other here and there, we did a couple of remixes and stuff, and from those remixes we became friends. We really connected.
Where do you spend most of your time?
Right now I’ve been spending a lot of time in Atlanta because that’s where I’m recording the album, but it’s between LA, New York and Atlanta.
Where’s your favourite place to be?
I’ve got more than one. Somewhere on an island where the sand is white and the water is turquoise-y, aqua, and it’s nice and warm outside and there’s a beautiful breeze. I live for that. And Europe, I love Europe – and I live for Asia.
Will you do a big world tour when your album is released?
Yeah. I was actually supposed to tour with the last album, but we didn’t because I was actually in Atlanta and Island asked me if I would consider not going on tour, start the new album and then go on tour.
When a platinum hit is born, do you just know it?
You can hear it. You can hear it because it has all the right elements after you’ve sung it; you can hear it. But to the magnitude it will be, you don’t. If it will spend one week at number one or six weeks at number one, you just don’t know. You can have all the marketing in the world and all the publicity in the world, but if the music isn’t right, then you have nothing.
Have you been surprised by a song that hits it big or isn’t as big as you thought it was going to be?
No, not really. When I really think that a song is going to be successful, for the most part it is. I thought “Together Again” would be successful, but to the magnitude that it was, that I didn’t know. There’ve been a couple of those instances. Sweet surprises.
I think many of us imagine the Jackson/Dupri household as an absolute love fest of music, singing and dancing. Is that the case?
There is always music flowing through. It’ll be about video games, it’ll be about things that we enjoy doing, doing together. But there’s still always music flowing and all types of music flowing through it.
Do you ever listen to your own music?
The only time I listen to my music is when we have to put a tour together. Isn’t that crazy? It’s so funny because I was just speaking to someone the other night and he said that his wife was pregnant and they wanted to thank me and I said, “Why are you thanking me?” And he said, “Because the baby was conceived because . . .” of me! You don’t know how much I get that. I get that so often, it’s so funny. People are listening to my music having children and I don’t listen to my own music and I don’t have any kids [laughs] so maybe I should listen to my music! People walk up to me and introduce me to their daughters and say she was conceived because they were listening to me. They’ll tell me what album. It’ll be The Velvet Rope or the Janet album, more so than the others. It’s so weird. I’ve always called it baby-making music. You know, let’s do a baby-making song.
You’re working on a new book that chronicles your struggle with weight?
It’s not necessarily about yo-yo dieting, it’s coming from my soul. It has been tough at times – even when I was younger – so it talks about those times and what triggered me to come out of it. Also it gives little nutrition tips in the back on how I did it. It’s not strictly about nutrition . . . it talks about the struggle that I had.
Do you watch what you eat every day?
I watch what I eat, but I still have my moments as I’ve gotten older. I never had a sweet tooth before, never did, but now – I mean I’ve always loved strawberries and whipped cream but that’s healthy – I’ve got this thing for caramel apples, and I used to love caramel apples when I was younger but now it’s bad. There’s a spot in Atlanta that sells them all year around – I find a way to find them [laughs]. They want me to have them!
When will the book be out?
Hopefully sometime in 2008. So many people have asked me, ”How did you do it? What caused it [the weight fluctuations]?” So I thought, let me just write about this to let them know. This is what worked for me. I don’t know if it will work for them, but this is how I went about it.
How do you spend the holidays?
I normally go away for the holidays, by the water. This year I’m going snowboarding. I enjoy snowboarding even though I haven’t done it in forever. When you wake up the next morning and everything hurts – your toes from gripping, all the way up – you can’t move anything, everything hurts. I snowboard in Colorado.
What makes you nervous?
I don’t like speaking in public. I’m more of a listener. I don’t mind going to functions but I like to stay quiet and listen and be more of an observer. But to get up in front of a sea of faces, and everyone’s quiet and you have to speak, to give a speech because you received an honour – I get embarrassed. People say, ”I think you picked the wrong profession if you don’t like people staring at you.” But if I’m moving around on a stage, like a moving target, it doesn’t bother me. But the minute I’m still, I really don’t like to . . . I get so embarrassed.
What are your New Year resolutions for 2008?
This is awful, but I’m going to try and stop cursing as much. I know that sounds crazy. I didn’t used to curse, but when I did Poetic Justice I had to curse so I was practicing my cursing and I haven’t stopped. It’s bad, I do it too much. It’s a bad habit. That and to become more environmentally friendly. I’ve already started with my little energy-saving light bulbs; I’ve been testing them out. And I was thinking about getting a hybrid but I love these big cars, I love trucks and stuff. I’m awful. Slowly but surely I’m getting there, slowly but surely so that it’s not too drastic. But yet [laughs] I try to do it fast enough so that I won’t be the cause of the end of the world! They’ll say, ”If she moved just a little quicker, this wouldn’t be happening right now!”
What’s an ideal day?
I enjoy keeping busy, actually. Both ways. I enjoy working, working, working until I’m really tired, really tired. Then I enjoy getting away for a couple weeks, being with my family, being with my friends and just chilling out. Nothing special, nothing big, just chilling out.
I love Europe. I’m down to go to Europe and Asia anytime, whether it’s to go to work or just to tag along. I love visiting countries and sightseeing and learning about the culture, the people, listening to the music and testing the food – I just enjoy stuff like that. Then once again, I love being on a nice warm beach, where there’s sand – the ocean just calms me. I love just being on a yacht and chilling out.