Janet Jackson: Up Close and Personal
By Tim Parks
For someone who has been in the public spotlight all of her life as part of the famous Jackson family, and herself, an entertainment industry vet since the ripe old age of ten; Janet Jackson is the one to shine said illumination away from her myriad of accomplishments.
There’s no diva attitude, there’s no false pretenses, just a not-so-surprisingly sweet woman behind the all of the number one singles, albums, tours and the different people she has embodied onscreen, be it small or large.
She first rose to TV fame on Good Times as Penny Woods, followed by stints on Diff’rent Strokes and Fame. Her silver screen resume began with a dramatic turn in 1993’s Poetic Justice, and recently Jackson has been writer/director Tyler Perry’s go to actress in projects such as, Why Did I Get Married?, it’s sequel, and delivered a powerful performance in For Colored Girls.
Since 1986, the singer has racked up an impressive roster of hits songs including: “Control,” “Miss You Much,” “That’s The Way Love Goes,” “All For You,” “So Excited” and “Feedback” – to literally name just a few.
She has also tackled subject matter on her albums from dance-oriented jams, socially conscious endeavors, and the many different facets of the term “sexuality.” Her “Rhythm Nation World Tour,” circa 1990, still holds the distinction of being the most successful debut concert tour by any recording artist.
Speaking of tours, the six-time Grammy-winner is currently in the middle of her “Number Ones, Up Close and Personal Tour,” on which she will perform her catalog of chart toppers and will give her fans (who selected certain cities for Jackson to perform in) a chance to see this iconic performer in more intimate settings. It will also be a celebration of recognizing a younger generation making their own impact, by being one of her “20 under 20.”
Jackson will meet and honor those who were nominated for their individual accomplishments within their respective communities in 20 cities during her tour, which isn’t surprising as she has always been an advocate for change, which has endeared her to the GLBT community. This was clearly evident recently with her PSA for The Trevor Project’s “It Gets Better” anti-bullying campaign.
Yet, during the midst of her busy performing schedule, she took time out to chat with me, via e-mail, about her career, the new book True You that she co-authored about struggling with self-esteem, body image and relationships. Personally, the chance to have her answer my series of “hard hitting questions” was akin to a dream come true, and my skin is still bruised from pinching myself. Ok, back to Janet… The most surprising answer was about how she feels about the word “icon” being applied to herself.
Here’s a hint: No, her first name ain’t baby, its Janet… Ms. Jackson if you’re …humble.
How does it feel to have your music inspire so many people throughout the years?
I am so happy to hear that my music has inspired people; I really am.
When I go into the studio to record music, I am inspired by whatever is going on in my life at the time, and I hope that people can relate to it.
If you had to pick just one song out of your extensive catalog as a personal favorite – which would it be and why?
I couldn’t do that. They are all special to me for different reasons. They each have memories that come to me when I am singing them.
I like the concept of more intimate-type settings for some of the stops on the “Number Ones, Up Close and Personal Tour” – how did the idea for that and having fans select certain cities for the tour come about?
When I was in Europe, there were some fans that were camping out in front of the hotel that I was at. Everytime that I came out, they would ask me when I would be performing in their city.
That gave me the idea to ask the fans to help me select the cities that I would bring ‘Number Ones, Up Close and Personal’ to. The response has been incredible!
Then I came back to the States to perform a private date inNew York at Radio City Music Hall.
It was so much fun. I could see everyone’s faces, and all I could think about was that this was how I wanted to do my next tour. All the venues that I will perform at during this tour will be up close and personal. I am looking forward to seeing everyone.
How do you feel that the fields of music and acting lend themselves to one another?
Acting or recording is a quiet thing; it is just me and the team creating that special moment.
When I am on stage, there is so much energy exchanged between me and the fans. I love them all, but they are all very different.
Speaking of acting – has there been one role in particular that you have felt has been similar to yourself?
In each character I’ve found a little something in common, here or there.
What I love most about acting though, is that you get to suspend reality and bring a new character to life.
It is an amazing experience. Acting has always been my first love. I always thought that acting would be my career, that or being a horse jockey (LOL).
I am very grateful for the success that I have had with my music, but it has been fun getting back to acting, as well.
Having been in the entertainment business since such a young age – how have you seen the worlds of acting and music change over the years?
Well, they are basically the same in terms of the work and creative process, but technology has evolved a lot. And that has changed what can be done onscreen or in the studio.
It is great to have fun experiencing these changes and working with them.
With your book True You – what do you hope that readers come away with from reading it?
The most important thing to me that I want anyone reading the book, especially the kids, to walk away with is that they are perfect just as they are, and that they are not alone.
If the kids out there can read True You and see that I went through some of the same experiences that they are going through, perhaps, they will know that it will get better.
It is not about being gay, straight, black, white or Latino. It’s not about being too skinny or having curves, it is about being your true you.
I really hope that the kids in the GLBT community hear it when I say that they are perfect, just the way they are.
That is why it was so important for me to participate in the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign. I was teased and picked on when I was a kid. It has been a long road, but I am happy with my life now. It does get better!
What do you think of the term “icon” and its association to yourself and your career?
Thank you. Icon is such a big statement – Elizabeth Taylor, Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge – women like that are icons.
I feel like I still have so much more to accomplish in my life. I am happy that people have identified with my work, and am grateful for all the support over the years.
For all things Janet Jackson-related, log onto http://www.janetjackson.com