Janet Jackson: 13 Facts About The Pop Star

When discussing the trailblazers of music, you can't go too long without mentioning Janet Jackson. With a last name that holds that much weight, many would've thought that the King of Pop's little sister would've crumbled under the pressure. With a distinct style, Jackson managed to carve out a lane for herself and for other female artists who followed behind her. 

Her hits are easy to name, and the influence on artists such as Britney Spears, is easy to spot. Jackson is one of the most influential artists in music and it's no surprise that she finally was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019. With as much scrutiny as she experienced in her career, Jackson has been fiercely private of her personal life and distrustful of the media. 

It wasn't until her 2022 Lifetime documentary that Jackson began to pull back the curtain back a bit and reveal a new side of herself to fans. Longtime Jackson fans will already have a deeper understanding of the entertainer, but with several decades in the industry, there's still a lot to learn about the Queen of Pop. Here are 13 facts about the "Rhythm Nation" icon.

Her iconic look came from a household chore

In music, Janet Jackson is known as an innovator who is always pushing the boundaries. From her lyrics to her costumes, Jackson set herself apart from her peers and cemented her place in history. One iconic look that she's known for is the key earring worn throughout the "Rhythm Nation" era. The military-style costume worn in the music video featured hoop earrings with a key dangling from it. The all-black look was objectively cool from the start, but as the album became a hit, the look became iconic. 

With the lyrics tackling social issues like racism and sexism, many suspected that the signature earring held a deeper meaning. Jackson revealed the origin of the look during an interview with Jimmy Fallon. She explained that the key was in fact a real one and used to complete household chores. The home she shared with her family had many exotic animals roaming around and Jackson was enlisted as the caretaker. "So, it was my job to feed them, to clean the cages," she told Fallon. "That was my chore. It was a working key. So all through school, I wore hoop earrings and I would keep the key on my earring."

Decades later, the "Rhythm Nation" look remains classic. In 2014, Beyoncé paid tribute by dressing up in the costume for Halloween, key earring and all. She posted a photo on Instagram that included her daughter dressed as none other than the King of Pop.

She didn't dream of being a performer

In the 1960s when it was difficult for Black entertainers to get a foot in the music industry, the Jackson family still became a household name. The Jackson 5 was a worldwide phenomenon in the 1970s and as Rolling Stone noted, their level of fame was on par with the Rolling Stones. With that amount of success, it was no surprise that patriarch Joe Jackson was ready for lightning to strike again. Alongside Randy Jackson, Janet Jackson made her debut on "The Carol Burnett Show" and began laying the foundation to be a successful entertainer. 

Despite a young Janet diving headfirst into the entertainment industry, it wasn't done on her own accord. Janet revealed that she had aspirations outside the family business but couldn't pursue them. In an 1987 interview on Countdown, the singer revealed she originally dreamed of being a horse racing jockey. "I never thought I'd be in the same business with my family until my dad asked me to when I was seven years old to perform with my brothers and sisters," she revealed. Per Variety, she explained in the 2022 documentary "Janet Jackson" that she was ready to study business law in college when her father pushed her towards singing instead. "What parent doesn't want you to go to college?" she said. "But he said, 'No, you're gonna sing.' I would've liked to experience staying at a dorm, being around other kids. But I was very, very naive, very shy, not worldly at all."

She wrote Nasty after being harassed on the street

In 1986, Janet Jackson was ready to take control. By then, she made the difficult choice in firing her father as her manager. "I knew that I had to take control of my life. I wanted my own identity. I wanted to go on my own," she explained in her "Janet Jackson" documentary, per TooFab. "The first thing I had to do was to let my father go." 

Around that time, she had her tumultuous marriage to James DeBarge annulled. Her fierce new outlook on life inspired the bold lyrics on her third album, perfectly titled "Control". Now in charge of her own voice, she was instrumental in writing records like "The Pleasure Principle" and of course, the hit "Nasty." Though the lyric "It's Janet ... Ms. Jackson if you're nasty" is an iconic line, the backstory may have flown under some fans' radars. 

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Jackson revealed she wrote the song after a scary experience while out and about. "The danger hit home when a couple of guys started stalking me on the street. They were emotionally abusive," she recounted. "I took a stand. I backed them down. That's how songs like 'Nasty' and 'What Have You Done for Me Lately' were born, out of a sense of self-defense." Jackson's extensive catalogue features many fierce tunes with one common theme: female empowerment.

She developed body image issues as a young girl

Outside of her catchy music and intricate choreography, Janet Jackson is also known as a sex symbol with her sultry style and signature abs. However, it's clear that her body wasn't always something she was comfortable with. 

On an episode of "The Graham Norton Show," she shared that her family gave her the nickname "Dunk," a comment on her backside in connection to the word donkey. Comments about her body from family and even producers of "Good Times" left the star with low self-esteem from a young age and made her overly critical of her weight. Both the media and Jackson have zeroed in on weight fluctuation. "Knowing I have these problems with body image, I ask my friends and family to tell me when I've lost too much [weight] too," the singer told Prevention. "Because I will continue to pick on myself, like all women do, and say, You need to [lose] more here, more there."

In the Lifetime documentary "Janet Jackson," the star opened up about the cruel words her older brother Michael Jackson called her and how she began to internalize the verbal jabs. "There were times when Mike used to tease me and call me names. 'Pig, horse, slaughter hog, cow,” she revealed, per the Daily Mail. "He would laugh about it and I'd laugh too, but then there was some­where down inside that it would hurt." 

These Britney Spears hits could've been Janet Jackson songs

In the music industry, it's not uncommon for more than one artist to be presented a song by producers and songwriters. For an artist of Janet Jackson's magnitude, getting her to record a song of yours is an opportunity to make a name for yourself. In 2001, Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, the duo known as the Neptunes, made a song that they hoped would land on Jackson's album. 

"We made 'Slave 4 u' and [Janet] actually recorded it but just didn't use it," Pharrell revealed during an interview on "Drink Champs." "When she didn't use it we gave it to Britney Spears." The rest was pop music history. "I'm A Slave 4 U" wasn't the only Spears tracks meant for Jackson. In an interview with Ivors Academy, songwriter Cathy Dennis shared that she penned the hit "Toxic" with Jackson originally in mind. 

It's no secret that Jackson is an important artist to Spears. When asked about the "If" singer at an MTV event, a young Spears was nothing short of effusive. "She's just mesmerizing," she gushed. "I've looked up to her my whole life."

The rumor about a secret child was a lie

The Jackson family is no stranger to bizarre stories about their personal lives. During Janet Jackson's rise to fame, she had plenty of rumors to debunk, but no other rumor picked up steam quite like the rumor of a secret child. Following Janet's secret marriage to James DeBarge in 1984, the story of them also hiding a child spread like wildfire, per The Mirror. Janet went years without addressing the rumor, which only seemed to give it validity amongst the public. 

Per ET, DeBarge himself added fuel to the fire by confirming the rumors on "Growing Up Hip Hop" and alleging that Janet lied to him about it. As per People, in her 2022 documentary "Janet Jackson," the singer cleared the air once and for all. Janet believed the rumors of the pregnancy started on the set of "Fame" when she gained weight after taking birth control. At the time, tabloids claimed that Janet gave birth to a baby girl and made sister Rebbie Jackson secretly raise her. "I could never keep a child away from James," the singer declared. "How could I keep a child from their father? I could never do that, that's not right."

The behind-the-scenes tension of Scream

As their respective careers shot through the stratosphere, fans far and wide desperately awaited a collaboration between the powerhouse sibling duo of Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson. That collaboration would finally come to fruition in 1995 when the two icons came together for a duet titled "Scream" which appeared on Michael's "HIStory" album. In Janet's Lifetime documentary, the singer spoke about putting the track together and even gave fans a home video of them writing it. The two shot a music video, and in true King of Pop fashion, it became the most expensive music video of all time

Despite the historic moment of the two siblings coming together, Janet remembered feeling a rift between them. "Michael shot nights. I shot days," she recalled in the "Janet Jackson" documentary. "His record company would block off his set so that I couldn't see what was going on. They didn't want me on set. I felt like they were trying to make it very competitive between the two of us." 

During this, Michael was dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse and Janet described desperately wanted to be there for him. Between the monster levels of fame post-"Thriller" and the accusations weighing over him, the relationship between the two siblings changed. Their own teams apparently treated the two as rivals, not siblings. "I wanted it to feel like old times between he and I, and it didn't. Old times had long passed," she said.

Her Grammys invite was pulled after the Super Bowl

One defining moment in Janet Jackson's career was the Super Bowl halftime show in 2004. As the biggest televised event of the year, millions tuned in to see the singer deliver another electric performance. The live show was just as amazing as you would expect a gifted entertainer to deliver. However, the infamous wardrobe malfunction with Justin Timberlake left Jackson's name in the muck and the brunt of the blame on her shoulders. 

With executives like Les Moonves fuming over what happened on the broadcast, Jackson's career took a significant hit. According to HuffPost, Moonves allegedly wanted to tank Jackson's career. Following the halftime show, the CBS chairman banned both Jackson and Timberlake from attending the 2004 Grammy Awards as punishment. However, after Timberlake reportedly cried through an apology, the *NSYNC alum was let off the hook. Not only did he go on to perform at the Grammys, but win; Jackson, who Moonves declared not apologetic enough, was still not welcome. Jackson later reflected on her Grammy invitation being revoked, telling ET, "I was disinvited. I don't want to be anywhere that I'm not wanted."

She was rumored to have received $200 million in divorce

In 2012, Janet Jackson shocked fans when she confirmed to Entertainment Weekly that she had married Qatari billionaire businessman Wissam Al Mana. This was Janet's third time getting married in secret. The wedding to Al Mana was low key but the two looked joyous in rare public appearances together. After postponing her "Unbreakable" tour in 2016, Janet announced in a People exclusive that she was expecting a child. 

All things seemed well between Janet and Al Mana as they were growing their family. Three months after the birth of their son Eissa Al Mana, People confirmed Janet split from her husband. Sources indicated Janet felt controlled by her husband. Her old brother Randy Jackson told People that the singer was suffering in the marriage. "It was quite an abusive situation," Randy claimed. "It came on later in the relationship, verbal abuse and being [made to feel like] a prisoner in her own home. No pregnant woman needs to go through being called a b***h every day." An attorney for Al Mana disregarded the allegations. 

The issues between Al Mana and Janet couldn't be reconciled and the two went forth with the divorce. Very few details were revealed during their divorce hearings, but Page Six reported that their prenup agreement meant that Janet was eligible to receive up to $200 million. The singer was reportedly entitled to $100 million if they were married for up to five years and another $100 million if they had a child.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

She's struggled with depression throughout her career

Contrary to popular belief, being a superstar known around the world can still be something that brings a feeling of loneliness. Janet Jackson is just one of many superstars that have opened up about feeling depressed at the height of their success. In her 1997 album, "The Velvet Rope" the superstar delivered her signature angelic vocals while singing about feelings of depression, heartbreak, domestic violence, and loneliness. 

The single "Together Again" features an upbeat sound, but contains a deeper, sadder meaning in its lyrics. The song was done as a tribute to Jackson's friends who died from AIDS. "I may have seven, eight friends who have died of AIDS, and the song reflects their personality, the energy they had," she said in an interview for MTV. "It's rejoicing." In 2018, Jackson graced the cover of Essence and wrote a vulnerable piece about mental health. "These were difficult years, when I struggled with depression. The struggle was intense," the singer wrote (via Vulture). "I could analyze the source of my depression forever. Low self-esteem might be rooted in childhood feelings of inferiority."

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

She found peace through motherhood

Since the moment a young Janet Jackson stepped into the spotlight, she dedicated so much of her time to honing her craft and entertaining the world. As hard as she worked throughout her life, it meant she had to sacrifice a lot in her personal life. So in 2016, when the star announced she was delaying her tour to begin a family, diehard fans were happy to see her put her personal life first.

The singer becoming a mother at 50 was something that made headlines with many speculating on whether a pregnancy at that age was safe, however, Jackson explains motherhood brought her great joy. In a 2018 interview with Billboard, the singer listed her son as a source of her drive. "Let me also say that my son, even in his short 17 months on the planet, has showed me that love, no matter how deeply you believe you have experienced that emotion, can always go deeper," she explained. When her son, Eissa Al Mana, turned three, the singer posted a tribute on Instagram. "3 yrs ago today God blessed me, at the age of 50, with the greatest gift of all. My baby! Happy Bday sweetheart," she wrote. "Mama loves you more than anything else in this world!"

Motherhood continues to be a source of joy. "Day after day and night after night, holding my baby in my arms, I am at peace," she explained. "In those moments, all is right with the world."

Her $80 million record deal made history

If you're curious about how big Janet Jackson was at her peak, look no further than her 1996 record deal. In an effort to cash in on the hitmaker, Virgin Records offered Jackson a blockbuster record deal worth $80 million. Per the Los Angeles Times, this made her the highest-paid recording artist at the time. The hefty payout put her above other acts like Madonna and even her brother, the global superstar Michael Jackson. The singer was the label's highest-selling act at the time and her deal was sweetened with plenty of perks worthy of a superstar. 

She was reportedly paid a $35 million advance, guaranteed an estimated $5 million advance per album, and given 24% in royalties. Virgin Records got its money's worth because the following year Jackson released "The Velvet Rope" which went on to sell 10,000,000 records worldwide. Her follow-up studio album "All For You" had her highest opening week numbers with 650,000 records sold and is considered one of the highest-selling albums of all time, per ABC Audio

Despite the historic deal, Jackson remained modest when discussing the accomplishment. "I don't think about that," Jackson said in an interview. "Once the deal was done, I went about my life like I normally do."

She auctioned off thousands of iconic costumes

With a career spanning over 40 years, Janet Jackson has a lot to show for her success. In 2021, diehard fans were able to own a piece of Pop history with memorabilia from her own personal collection. According to Variety, Jackson partnered up with Julien's Auctions to auction off thousands of her most prized artifacts. The collection included costumes from her most iconic music videos and live performances, childhood toys, and personal items like her wedding dress. Some included a handwritten note by the superstar herself.

Jackson wasn't just clearing out her storage for fun, the auction was actually done for a good cause. The massive auction coincided with the singer's 55th birthday and proceeds went to a charity of her choice, child-advocacy charity Compassion International. The founder of Julien's Auctions explained that Jackson put together the collection during the pandemic. "Because she was gonna be locked down, and she just started realizing she has all these things in storage, she never gets to enjoy them," The CEO explained. "And she wanted to do something good with the proceeds to benefit a charity she cares about." 

The original "Rhythm Nation" costume sold for over $80,000, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Kim Kardashian got in on the action and purchased the outfit Jackson wore in the music video for "If" for $25,000. An auction of this magnitude shows how universally loved the Queen of Pop truly is.