Michael Jackson’s superstar sister was never going to let others take control of her destiny, writes Nui Te Koha
TWENTY-five years have passed since Janet Jackson first asserted she was in command.
‘‘ It’s all about control,’’ she says on her breakthrough album Control. ‘‘ And I’ve got lots of it.’’ It certainly seemed that way. By then, Jackson had eloped with, married and split from singer James De Barge. She had also severed management ties with her father Joseph.
But Control, with hits including Nasty, What Have You Done For Me Lately, The Pleasure Principle and When I Think of You, confirmed Jackson, the youngest child in the famous musical dynasty, had taken charge of her life.
Jackson ( pictured) a superstar for four decades, now 45, reflects on those times.
‘‘ I was a young adult coming into my own and wanted to carve my own niche in the world,’’ she says.
‘‘ I wanted to be in control of my life, my loves, my song, my dance. But I have so much that I still want to accomplish. ‘‘ I am continuing to evolve.’’ We are at London’s Royal Albert Hall, where Jackson’s latest tour, Number Ones: Up Close and Personal, perfectly showcases her superstar evolution.
The show is exactly what it says – a greatest hits set at close range, in intimate venues Jackson has never played before.
‘‘ It’s been so much fun to perform for the fans in this way,’’ she says.
‘‘ I can see everyone’s faces during the show and I get so much energy from them.’’
The set list runs the full gamut of No. 1 hits including Miss You Much, Alright, That’s the Way Love Goes, Rhythm Nation
and All for You.
Jackson, a troupe of dancers and unrelenting visuals keep the show at full pace. Indeed, at times, Jackson’s new show is so inclusive, and the stage ramps dip so low, the crowd almost becomes part of the act.
Yet Jackson has always confided in her audience and this is no different.
Her albums, particularly after The Velvet
Rope, have often addressed her issues with low self-esteem. She has also written a selfhelp book, True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself.
‘‘ There are a few issues I thought I grew past, but when writing the book I learned that there was still some work that I needed to do,’’ she says.
‘‘ Most of us struggle with something. The most important thing is to recognise when I’m dealing with it so I can accept where I am and move on.’’
Jackson says her low self-esteem and body issues date back to the popular sitcom
Good Times, which ran from 1974 to 1979. Producers asked the then child actor Jackson to lose weight for her role on the show. She was just 10 years old.
‘‘ On my first day of work, I went to wardrobe and they bound my chest,’’ the singer says.
‘‘ I was developing early and all I remember is that I was not acceptable the way I was.’’
Jackson is troubled by recent trends in which Hollywood stars are eating paper tissues to stay thin. ‘‘ I know of people who do this,’’ she says. ‘‘ It’s very disturbing and sad that society puts unrealistic demands on how we should look. It has taken me a good while, but I am happy with who I am now.’’ Jackson is also comfortable to be single. She was married to De Barge, Rene Elizondo and dated Jermaine Dupri for seven years.
‘‘ The best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,’’ Jackson says, laughing.
‘‘ No, really, I’ve learned that I love to be in a relationship but I have to be happy with myself.’’
Jackson is now reportedly in love with Qatari billionaire Wissim Al Mana.
And she does not discount having children in the future.
‘‘ I’m very romantic,’’ she says. ‘‘ As far as being a mum, if it is in God’s plan, I would love to be a mum one day.’’
There is another message of destiny in Jackson’s show, too – that, one day, she will be reunited with her late brother, Michael, who died two years ago. It comes in an uplifting yet emotional
version of Together Again. ‘‘ What I’d give just to hold you close, as on Earth, in heaven we’ll be together,’’ she sings as family album photographs of Michael and Janet shine above her.
‘‘ Everywhere I go, every smile I see, I know you are there, smiling back at me.’’
Janet politely deflects detailed questions about Michael in this interview, but explains the reasons behind including a virtual duet with her brother of their hit Scream in the show.
‘‘ I wanted to give something to the fans, who, like our family, are still grieving,’’ she says.
‘‘ Performing with Mike is therapeutic and makes me smile inside. The energy is fierce but it makes me smile when I hear him.’’
Backstage, in the cold labyrinth of the Royal Albert Hall, Jackson holds court with confidence and ease.
But is it still about control – and lots of it?
‘‘ Now that I’m older, I’ve come to see that God is the one who is really in control of things,’’ she says. ‘‘ And that’s fine by me.’’
JANET JACKSON Arts Centre State Theatre, Melbourne, October 26, 27. To book phone 1300 182 183 ( from August 3).