Main > Series > Articles/Interviews > Janet Jackson: She's In Control Now
"All my life I've had to please others. Now I'm going to make myself happy." So says 20-year-old Janet Jackson. For years she's been under the protective wing of the famous Jackson clan. As the baby sister of the popular Jackson brothers, Michael, Marlon, Tito, Jackie, Randy and Jermaine, she's been in the public eye, yet at the same time she's been protected from it. In fact, Janet's visit to Princetown, i.e. Minneapolis, where she recorded her latest album, Control, with former Time members Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, also marked the first time the young singer ever went to a nightclub to hand out, without a bodyguard or her parents in tow!
Janet was literally a show biz baby. Though she always dreaded of being a race horse jockey, she was lured into the family musical revue by her father, joining them for their big show at the MGM Grand, the tour and then the television show. Who could forget cute little Janet impersonating Mae West and Cher while brother Randy played Sonny? Then Janet became more involved in acting by landing a role as Penny in the sitcom Good Times when she was only nine years old. Janet continued acting, as Willis (Tod Bridges)'s girlfriend on Diff'rent Strokes, as Cleo on Fame and she also appeared in a two-hour Love Boat Special. During this time, she also tried her hand at recording. Janet recorded two albums: Janet Jackson, which she decided to do without her brother's help (and spawned two hits, "Young Love" and "Say You Do") and then follow-up, Dream Street, for which she did enlist the aid of Tito, Michael, Randy and Marlon. She also performed the title track on Fame. Still, her recording career wasn't taking off. Janet admits her mind was on something else; love.
On September 7, 1984 Janet eloped with James DeBarge (younger brother of El) whom she met when she was ten and started dating in 1981.
The wedding took place in James' hometown, Grand Rapids, Michigan. The marriage, unfortunately, was met with resistance by family, friends and business associates. For various reasons, ranging from her age (she was 18 at the time) to the fact that the marriage would adversely affect her career, no one wanted the couple to remain married. "People were telling use this and lecturing to use about that," Janet told Essence magazine, "so we decided to go ahead and get a divorce so that everybody would just shut up and let us go on with our careers." Less than a year later, the marriage was annulled. "I don't regret it," Janet now says, "I don't think it was a mistake. I'm happy I experienced it, and I think everything happens for a reason. It matured me."
After the marriage ended, Janet was asked to move back to the Jackson's Encino, California estate by her mother, where brother Michael and sister LaToya still live. Janet was then put on a diet, started taking voice and dance lessons and came up with an album that she co-produced, co-wrote and played several instruments on.
Control soared to Number One and, so far, has spawned four hits, "What Have You Done For Me Lately?", "Nasty", "When I Think Of You" and "Control."
And who knows, she and James might just get back together. "We will always be close," says Janet. "We know each other backwards and forwards, and James knows that I will always be there for him; he'll be there for me. It's important to me to know that I have someone to confide in."