In her upcoming documentary, Janet Jackson opens up about the “scrutiny” that comes with having a famous last name, and years of living in her brother Michael’s shadow.
“Janet” chronicles the life of the 55-year-old pop star in the doc that airs this Friday, Jan. 28 on A&E and Lifetime — and revealed a darker side to her relationship with her iconic brother.
“There were times when Mike used to tease me and call me names. Pig, horse, slut, or hog, cow,” Jackson said.
“He would laugh about it, and I’d laugh too, but then there was somewhere down inside that it would hurt,” she continued. “When you have somebody say you’re too heavy, it affects you.”
Well after her brothers had hit big as the Jackson 5, an 11-year-old Janet finally caught her own big break with a role in 1970s sitcom “Good Times,” playing Penny, a young girl from an abusive home who is adopted by the Woods family during the fifth season.
That’s when her weight issues began: “I did ‘Good Times’ and that’s the beginning of having weight issues and the way I looked at myself,” she said.
“I’m an emotional eater, so when I get stressed or something is really bothering me, it comforts me,” said Jackson, whose weight has fluctuated over the years.
In 2006, she grew to 180 pounds for a role, but keeping the weight off had been difficult. She later became a Nutrisystem spokesperson in 2011.
Adding to the awkwardness of Hollywood adolescence, she recalled, “I was developing at a very young age and I started getting a chest and they would bind it so I would look more flat-chested.”
Jackson also said that she believes fame is responsible for many of her troubles. Without it, she said, “I probably would have wound up not having a problem.”
Having the Jackson name comes with “a great deal of scrutiny,” she said — especially during Michael’s widely publicized controversies and court battles.
“It was frustrating for me,” she said. “We have our own separate lives and even though he’s my brother, that has nothing to do with me.”
“But I wanted to be there for him, to support him as much as I possibly could.”
Michael’s legal troubles began with an accusation by 13-year-old Jordan Chandler in 1993, who said the entertainer had touched him inappropriately at his Neverland Ranch home. They settled out of court in January 1994 for $23 million.
She added, ”Michael wound up giving money to the family. He just wanted it to go away, but that looks like you’re guilty.”
As a result, Janet’s career also suffered: “When that came out, Coca-Cola said, ‘No, thank you.’ Guilty by association. That’s what they call it, right?”
She and Michael would later collaborate on “Scream,” a song written about his public trials.
“It was his song and I was there to support him,” she said — though she hardly got a chance, as she described a divided production.
“Michael shot nights, I shot days. His record company would block off his set so I couldn’t see what was going on. They didn’t want me on set,” she said. “I felt like they were trying to make it very competitive between the two of us.”
“That really hurt me because I felt I was there fighting the fight with him, not to battle him,” she added. “I wanted it to feel like old times between he and I, and it didn’t. Old times had long passed.”
Jackson looks back on the “Thriller” premiere in 1982 as the moment when their relationship took a turn.
“That’s when it all started to change,” she said. “I remember really loving the ‘Thriller’ album, but for the first time in my life I felt it was different between us, a shift was happening.”
“That’s the time Mike and I started going our separate ways,” she concluded. “He just wasn’t as fun as he used to be.”
His rockstar lifestyle would later land him in the hands of addiction experts, who, with the Jackson family, attempted to intervene.
“My family chartered a private jet and they came for an intervention. It was a way of us getting close again and he wasn’t having it,” she said.
Janet tried to goad Michael with the prospect of a Jackson family tour. “I said, ‘We wanted to talk about you guys going on tour again and if you guys would do that as brothers. I would be honored to open for you.”
“He didn’t have much to say, he was standoffish,” she said. I was really upset.”
The “That’s The Way Love Goes” singer, who has been married three times, to singer James DeBarge, dancer Rene Elizondo Jr. and Qatari businessman Wissam Al Mana, and also linked to producer-rapper Jermaine Dupri, also spoke about her love life.
“I haven’t given up on love,” said Jackson. “I feel it’s more difficult being in the public eye and looking for love.”
After marrying Al Mana in 2012, the couple gave birth to Jackson’s only son, Eissa Al Mana, in 2017 before divorcing later that year.
“A healthy relationship would be nice for me in the future,” she added.
After more than four decades in the entertainment business, Janet now boasts estimated global record sales of 100 million, 10 No. 1s on the US charts and numerous acting credits.
“I am thankful [for the Jackson name] because it has opened a great deal of doors for me, having that name,” she said.
“I wanted my own identity, I didn’t want people to pick up this body of music because of my last name.”
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