Janet Jackson’s highly anticipated four-part documentary event, simply titled Janet Jackson., finally hit airwaves last night. The global superstar gave fans a glimpse inside her notoriously private life, sharing her personal views and feelings on her life’s events, interspersed with statements from close family members and famous industry friends and coworkers.
The songstress graciously shared never-before-seen footage of her private moments, and behind-the-scenes looks at the recording process and tour performances of Rhythm Nation. However, it often felt as though she was holding back a bit on topics surrounding her upbringing, the circumstances leading to her decision to break free from her father’s management, and why she kept the secret of her marriage to Rene Elizondo, Jr., for nearly ten years.
LOS ANGELES – AUGUST 01: Pop singer Janet Jackson poses for a portrait session in August 1985 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Despite the somewhat reserved nature of Jackson’s documentary, fans were still left with some new information and first-person perspectives from the superstar about her childhood, romantic relationships and the early days of her career.
Take a look at several of the fresh takeaways and revelations we were left with after parts one and two.
Randy is Janet’s closest sibling
Janet and Randy share a special bond. They each revealed that they talk about everything together. The brother-sister duo even co-executive produced the documentary together.
Janet never actually wanted to be an entertainer
When the Jackson family secured a Las Vegas residency and later a television variety show, Janet was quickly slotted in to sing, dance, and act alongside her famous brothers. She says she was never asked, just shoved onto the stage at age 8. Later in her teen years, she was again pushed by her father to release an album and tour, despite the fact that she actually wanted to get an education and a career outside of entertainment.
Joe Jackson kept her from attending college
After performing on her family’s variety show for several years, Janet had plans of “retiring” and going to college. She revealed that she wanted to go away to school and major in economics. However, once her brothers severed ties with their father Joe as their manager, he focused all of his energy on her as his next big act. Janet was pushed into recording her debut album Janet Jackson in 1982 and her second album Dream Street in 1984.
Janet hated her second album
Under her father Joe’s control. Janet had little to no say in the direction of her first two albums. For 1984’s Dream Street, the sound, the songs, the look all were selected by those around her, and she felt none of it spoke to who she was. Even the albums cover was a photo that she did not like as the final selection. Ultimately, the album turned out not to be the runaway success that Joe Jackson had hoped, giving Janet the prompt to go in her own direction like her bothers had before her.
LaToya encouraged Janet to rebel and get married
Janet expressed frustration that her life wasn’t her own. She felt that the only effective way for her to step into her independence and take charge of her heavily-controlled destiny was to marry her teenage sweetheart, James DeBarge. When she told her sister LaToya about her feelings, she told her sister to follow her heart and proceed with the marriage…which she did in secret.
Her marriage to James DeBarge quickly ended due to his drug abuse
Married in secret when she was 18 and he was 21, Janet was ultimately unable to handle all the turmoil that came with being wed to someone with an addiction to narcotics. She revealed that on her wedding night, immediately after sharing vows, he disappeared, leaving her alone and waiting for him in their honeymoon suite for over 4 hours while he was using. Still a naive teenager, Janet had no idea what exactly was going on with her husband for months on end. They were only married for one year.
No, her eldest sister Rebbie did NOT raise a ‘secret love child’ on her behalf
Janet used this platform to shut down a decades-old rumor once and for all. She and her eldest sister Rebbie finally addressed longstanding chatter that the starlet had had a child with her first husband James DeBarge, and passed the baby off to be raised by the family in secret. Janet insisted that 1. She could never keep a child away from James, despite his rampant drug use, and 2. The weight fluctuation that the rumor mill weaponized against her as “proof” of a secret pregnancy was actually (quite ironically) the result of a birth control medication she began taking once she was married.
She felt shrouded in her brother’s shadow
If your brother is an international superstar known affectionately as The King of Pop and the architect of modern R&B/pop…it’s only natural that it would weigh on you as you enter the same industry. But Janet was constantly bombarded by questions and comparisons in the early days of her solo career, while she was still diligently working to establish her own identity as an entertainer.
Her second secret husband, Rene Elizondo, Jr. filmed most of her life for 10 years
Perhaps the biggest hook for Janet’s documentary event, viewers were given fresh, never-before-seen perspectives of the star’s life via the multiple personal home movies Jackson’s second husband took of her over the course of over a decade. We were even granted a glimpse of their 1987 proposal, which took place on a remote beach in Hawaii in the middle of a rainstorm. Janet revealed that the moment was extra romantic, as she had never experienced a proposal, nor even been given an engagement ring in her first marriage.
She seriously butt heads with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis
Despite the genius songwriting and production team Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis often being credited with “creating” Janet’s signature sound, never-before-seen archive footage showed Janet Jackson not only writing many of her own lyrics but getting into tense, heated disputes with her creative collaborators while crafting what would become her worldwide breakout hit album, Rhythm Nation 1814.