From Child Stardom to Becoming a Mom: Janet Jackson's Life in the Spotlight

From her early days performing with big brother Michael through her evolution into a sexy, daring solo artist and mom, take a look at some of her most revealing moments

01 of 24

Little Ham

Kwame Brathwaite/Ipol/Globe

In 1975, when she was only 9, Jackson showed off her stage presence during a song-and-dance number with brother Michael. Though her father, Joe, managed her career early on, after 1986's Control, she opted to go on without his help.

02 of 24

Miss Dramatic


Jackson found an affinity for acting on such shows as Good Times (left), on which she costarred as adopted Penny Woods from 1977 to 1979 (at ages 11 to 13). A teenage Jackson later appeared on the hit 1980s series Diff'rent Strokes as Todd Bridges's girlfriend Charlene DuPrey.

03 of 24

Marriage Minded

Marriage Minded
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After popping the question herself, an 18-year-old Jackson (left, in 1985) eloped with singer James DeBarge in September 1984, only to see the union fizzle four months later. She went on to wed former dancer Rene Elizondo in 1991, but claimed the two (right, in 1998) were simply lovers, until Elizondo initiated divorce proceedings in 2000.

04 of 24

Body Beautiful

Body Beautiful
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After years of performing in baggy blazers, the ninth and youngest Jackson (left, at 24 in 1990) revamped her image, and began performing dance routines in eye-popping outfits (right, at 35 in 2001) that became her signature.

05 of 24

Media Makeover

A&M Records

In 1990, Jackson, marked her transformation from buttoned-up performer to sexy siren in the Herb Ritts-directed video for "Love Will Never Do Without You," the last single off 1989's Rhythm Nation. In it, Jackson, then 24, frolicked beachside with a shirtless Antonio Sabato Jr.

06 of 24

Sibling Revelry

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Janet, then 26, was on hand to congratulate brother Michael, then 34, for his Legend Award at the 1993 Grammy Awards. Though their relationship had its share of strains, "Michael's always been helpful and supportive with Janet," a former confidant told PEOPLE.

07 of 24

Serious Sex Appeal

Sex Appeal

To promote her fourth album, 1993's Janet, Jackson, then 27, appeared topless on the Sept. 16, 1993, cover of Rolling Stone. The pose hinted at the album's racy lyrics.

08 of 24

Wild Child

Wild Child

At the MTV Video Music Awards in 1995, Jackson, then 29, showed off her wild side, wearing a "Pervert" tee. Her stylist Darryle Johnson later told PEOPLE that "she's having a moment where she's pierced everything — nose, navel, tongue and nipple. She might do something weird, but you love her anyway."

09 of 24

Opposites Attract

Chris Weeks/AP

Jackson first became acquainted with record producer Jermaine Dupri when he remixed her 2001 hit "Someone." Then in 2002, after a spokesperson for Jackson insisted to PEOPLE that the two were "just friends," Dupri admitted that they had been dating since July of that year, and the couple played coy on marriage (and even baby) rumors until eventually splitting in 2009.

10 of 24

Award Winning Queen

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A radiant Jackson received a lifetime achievement award at the Soul Train Music Awards in March 2004. "You've been there for me during the good times as well as bad, and you've uplifted me with your love," she told the audience.

11 of 24

The Infamous Halftime Show

Pierre Ducharme/Reuters

After her infamous peekaboo "wardrobe malfunction" moment with Justin Timberlake at the 2004 Super Bowl, Jackson insisted in a statement that "it was not my intention that it go as far as it did." (A red-lace bra was reportedly the only thing she planned to reveal.) But the Federal Communications Commission called it a "classless, crass and deplorable stunt." The fallout seemed to last forever, with CBS forking over $550,000 to the FCC and Jackson losing a movie role because of the slip.

12 of 24

Figure Flattery

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One who's always faced scrutiny for the ups and downs of her weight, Jackson addressed a 60-lb. weight gain in a 2006 interview with Extra. "I could not believe how big I was, how heavy I really was," the singer, then 40, said. "I would see myself in the mirror, but I wouldn't look too often. I didn't want to get used to that image." She said rumors she'd had plastic surgery to drop the pounds "drive me crazy," and credited her healthy figure to tough workouts and well-rounded meals.

13 of 24

Back in Action

Jeff Vinnick/Getty

The singer made a triumphant return to the stage with her 2008 Rock Witchu Tour, kicking off a 30-song set to raves in Vancouver, Canada. The show was a "reminder that she is a trend-setter in her own right, a true diva, and a marvelous performer," said the Vancouver Sun, and was punctuated by a teary-eyed Jackson thanking the crowd. But a month after it started, Jackson had to postpone several dates due to an undisclosed illness that left her hospitalized. It was later revealed the 42-year-old was suffering from vestibular migraines, an unusual condition that creates the sensation of vertigo.

14 of 24

An Unimaginable Loss

Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times/WireImage

On June 25, 2009, Jackson's brother Michael died, shocking the world — and the singers' tight-knit family. Though she made appearances at the funeral and some public events surrounding his death, Jackson didn't open much up about losing her brother until a 2010 interview with Harper's Bazaar.

"It's really hard to believe he's passed," she said, recalling their last visit about six weeks before his death, at which they ate Thai food with family and laughed so hard they cried. "I always wanted to have my mother's strength, but I didn't know if it was really there," she shared. "Now at least I know that I can step up to the plate and not crumble when I'm needed. When it comes to something like this that is so, so serious, so painful, so traumatic, I can handle it."

15 of 24

State of the Union

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Surprise! In 2013, Jackson confirmed she'd quietly tied the knot with Qatari businessman Wissam Al Mana the year before. "The rumours regarding an extravagant wedding are simply not true," they told ETOnline, which broke the official wedding news. "Last year we were married in a quiet, private, and beautiful ceremony. Our wedding gifts to one another were contributions to our respective favourite children's charities. We would appreciate that our privacy is respected and that we are allowed this time for celebration and joy. With love, Wissam and Janet."

16 of 24

Where's Janet?

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Following Michael's death and her marriage, Jackson took a bit of a break from the spotlight, and in 2015, a fan jokingly circulated a "Missing" poster of the singer on Twitter, which prompted her to send her first tweet in quite some time. "LOL," she wrote. "Too funny, too sweet." That June she stepped out looking better than ever, accepting the Ultimate Icon Award at the BET Awards. "I'm so grateful for the support you've always given me," she said in her acceptance speech. Around that time, she also began to tease new music, and announced a new Unbreakable world tour.

17 of 24

Tour Troubles

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With buzz around the Unbreakable tour building, Jackson broke the news to fans in December 2015 that she was putting the production on hold due to a medical situation. "I need you to know, I learned today, from my doctors that I must have surgery soon," she wrote on Facebook, adding that it "breaks my heart" to let down fans. "Please pray for me, my family and our entire company during this difficult time. There will be no further comment. I love you all so much and am ever grateful for your understanding and your love. Gon' b alright."

After rumors of cancer gained traction, Jackson took to Twitter to shut them down: "Remember believe it when you hear it from my lips. The rumors are untrue," she shared. "I do not have cancer. I am recovering. My doctor's have approved my concerts as scheduled in Europe, and as I promised the postponed shows will be rescheduled. Thank you for your prayers and love."

18 of 24

Baby Makes Three

Michel Dufour/WireImage

But those dates were never rescheduled, and for good reason: after postponing things further because she was "planning our family" and dropping a video called "Dammn Baby," Jackson announced her first pregnancy, at age 50, in October 2016. "We thank God for our blessing," she told PEOPLE, and updated fans on Twitter months later with the news she was "doing well."

19 of 24

Ups and Downs

GVK/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

On Jan. 3, 2017, Jackson and Al Mana welcomed a son, Eissa Al Mana, and a source told PEOPLE the little family was "really good." That made it all the more shocking in April, when PEOPLE confirmed the couple had quietly separated after Eissa's birth. "They come from very different worlds," a source said. "The cultural differences between her and Wissam became even more obvious [after Eissa arrived]. For years, Janet tried to adapt to his culture. Since it's not a culture she grew up with, it's been challenging for her. She often felt she disappointed Wissam." But the source contented Janet "is all about the baby and is okay. They will raise their boy together."

20 of 24

Back on Tour

Janet Jackson

In late 2017, Jackson returned to the stage again, this time for her State of the World tour. Months later, she performed at the Billboard Music Awards, marking her first television performance in nine years. She also received the night's Icon Award, addressing the #MeToo movement in her acceptance speech.

"I believe that for all the challenges, all of our challenges, we live a great moment in history. It's a moment that at long last women have made it clear that we will not be controlled, manipulated or abused," she said. "I stand with those women and those men."

21 of 24

Losing Her Father

"Nutty Professor II - The Klumps" - Los Angeles Premiere
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In June 2018, Jackson mourned the loss of her father, Joe, who died at the age of 89 from pancreatic cancer.

The Jackson family patriarch was responsible for fostering the careers of Janet and her siblings. But the late manager and father of 11 did so through tough love, which often left his children struggling to connect with him.

"He's very tough…" Jackson told Piers Morgan during an intimate chat for his now-canceled CNN talk show in 2011.

"When my brother Randy and I came along, I think my parents got pretty tired," she explained. "Having nine kids and raising these children, my other brothers and sisters would say, 'You guys have it so easy.' My parents were a lot more lenient with us. I thought I had it very strict."

22 of 24

A Big Honor

Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson. Dave J Hogan/Getty

In 2019, Jackson hit a serious career milestone: she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In her speech, she thanked her son for showing her "the meaning of real, unconditional love," as well as her father, for encouraging her career.

"When I was a kid, my dream wasn't to be a singer. I wanted to go to college and I wanted to be a lawyer. It was my father's dream," she said of Joe, who died in June 2018. "He wanted me to become this wonderful performer, he encouraged me. He was the first to encourage me and music became my passion."

"I witnessed… my family's extraordinary impact on popular culture," she said. "As the youngest in my family, I was determined to make it on my own… But never in a million years did I expect to follow in their footsteps. Tonight, your baby sister has made it."

23 of 24

Vegas, Baby!

Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson. David Becker/Getty

Also in 2019, Jackson thrilled fans with a Las Vegas residency, Metamorphosis. Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland were among the celebs that showed up to cheer her on over the course of 18 nights.

"It was about 46 years ago that I made my debut, I was 7 years old, right here in Las Vegas," she told the crowd on opening night. "And the beautiful thing about it, I was at the MGM hotel with my brothers and sisters. It's so amazing how things come full circle."

In 2020, she announced a new album, Black Diamond, and accompanying tour, but plans were bumped due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

24 of 24

Speaking Her Truth

Janet Jackson Doc

The superstar told all in the documentary JANET, which aired over two nights beginning Jan. 28 on Lifetime and A&E, commemorating the 40th anniversary celebration of her debut album.

"You've been very private about your personal life up until now. Why did you want to do this documentary?" Jackson is asked in a teaser clip before responding, "It's just something that needs to be done."

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