From Child Stardom to Her Recent Split: 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
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.
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.
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.
After years of performing in baggy blazers, the ninth and youngest Jackson (left, at 24 in 1990) shed her baby fat and began performing seductive dance routines in eye-popping outfits (right, at 35 in 2001).
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 — 24 and 15 lbs. lighter thanks to a diet of fish and vegetables and long workouts — frolicked beachside with a shirtless Antonio Sabato Jr.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
THE BIG REVEAL
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.
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.
BACK IN ACTION
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.
AN UNIMAGINABLE LOSS
On June 25, 2009, Jackson's brother Michael passed away, 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 him 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."
STATE OF THE UNION
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."
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.
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."
BABY MAKES THREE
ut 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."
UPS AND DOWNS
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."