Since 1986, Janet Jackson has shown the world she’s in control, even if the events and people around her weren’t. Ultimately, from the documentary, it’s clear that Janet has successfully sustained being herself while growing and nurturing the iconic career and accolades she has amassed over the years. While several factors in her personal life lead to specific outcomes in professional life, Janet has gracefully maintained her brand and icon status by celebrating and embracing individuality and her divine feminity and sexuality.
This, of course, was no small feat as she was breaking down barriers and opening doors for hundreds of young black entertainers to follow before it was a popular standard for black women in the industry. Being the graceful and humble artist and being that she is, she set the blueprint whether, initially or not, on how to not become a product of your environment or potential vices.
It’s almost been a whole week since the premiere nights, and I’ve allowed myself time to fully marinate in the documentary’s greatness. As the days went by, I carefully assessed and replayed several moments in my mind that I witnessed during the two-night premiere. Now that I’ve considered my opinions and takeaways and visited others’ reactions towards the premiere, I feel that I can successfully articulate my point of view. With that stated, below are the Top 5 takeaways that resonated with me the most from the I Am Janet Jackson Documentary. (Sidenote: These are not in any order, but rather a listing.)
Janet’s Star Power Is Other Worldy
It should come as no surprise that Jackson’s documentary would be a successfully viewed primetime event. After the final tallies were gathered, it was announced that 15 million viewers tuned in to watch her tell her story. With all of the social distractions and viewing programs and avenues that people have access to for entertainment, it is truly a statement of honor and her immense impact that 15 million viewers physically watched this special in real-time.
Aside from viewership, her overall success throughout her career is still record-setting. Not to mention, she’s craftily created music that could fit in almost any genre. Perhaps the most impressive feat that has yet to be unbroken is her impressive 7-single commercially successful album, Control. The album only featured 9 tracks total, and 7 of them were Top 10 hits. #Queen
Janet Will Gracefully Bow Out of the Limelight The Way She Wants
During the documentary, I was so excited and pleased to view the older footage of the young Janet watching her older brothers, the internationally known Jackson 5 singing group. During those clips, you could really see her being molded into the entertainer she was destined to become. It also came to me how long her career has actually spanned. Janet revealed that she truly began performing at the young age of around 5 or 6.
In terms of her televised debut, she began acting and working in variety shows with her brothers by age 11 and, of course, appeared on Good Times in the highly rememberable role of Penny, a young girl who was unabashedly being abused by her mother. Once you crunch the numbers, you see that her career has ultimately been a lifetime career. Well, the math says it all. Her career has literally spanned over 5 decades! With the pandemic still in heavy reign, her 12th studio album, Black Diamond, has experienced its share of setbacks and stalls.
But it’s nothing to worry about because we already know that Ms. Jackson will deliver impressive and boldly influential music once again. Towards the end of her documentary, it appeared that she was foreshadowing her retirement from the music industry. If Black Diamond serves as the final commercial project, we are more than blessed! Janet has had the career equivalent of 10 different artists. However, I’m not by any means projecting this to be her final act. As I said, she will bow out when she is ready.
Her Influence is Impressively Transcending
Throughout the documentary, it was evident that Janet’s influence, from her fashion tastes to her musical choices, has been highly influential across the span of many spectrums. Janet has probably one of the most diverse sets of fans that still support all of her work wholeheartedly. Whether young or old, gay or straight, black or white, Janet’s influence transcends every man-made social construct. I can only imagine how she feels when reflecting on her influence. Being the blueprint for many modern pop/hip-hop/r&b stars today, her impact is consistently witnessed with each introduction of new talent.
She Was Michael’s Biggest Fan
The scenes with Michael and how she supported her brother until the end was almost too much to watch. During the 90s, my viewership of Michael Jackson’s trials was from the lens of a child to a pre-teen. But as an adult, it’s disconcerting to see the public lynching of this man’s career and being. Many accounts stated about Michael were from the perspective of speculation and rumors. I don’t personally remember evidence being produced from any of the cases. Janet stood by his innocence then, and she declared it now. People will forever continue to have mixed feelings and thoughts about her brother. Unfortunately, even her personal statements were removed and altered from some airings in certain areas because of the need and pressure to continue the original narrative.
I was proud she didn’t shy away from all that was consuming her brother personally during the height of her career. After all, in most of her interviews, she was always asked about him. The world had this insatiable infatuation of putting them in competition, which led to their strained and fragile relationship in later years. But she made sure to highlight the genuine love he for her. Whether she realized it or not, it was endearing to see clips when she was younger and older after Michael kissed her cheek. Her expression and reaction undeniably remained the same. That’s genuine love.
Family and Love Were and Are Still The Most Important Factors to Her
Coming from a family of 10, Janet always had love around her. She wasn’t always treated with the same level of love in return, though. During her documentary, she recounted her tumultuous teenage marriage to James DeBarge, her overbearing and highly voyeuristic relationship with René Elizondo, and her failed relationship with ex-boyfriend and music producer Jermaine Dupri.
No mention was made of her third husband, but she made sure that she documented her true love via that union, her baby boy Eissa. Many people questioned why she didn’t make mention of Eissa’s father, but I’m actually happy she didn’t. Some things don’t deserve to be highlighted based on personal and perhaps legal reasons. Sadly, we live in a world that believes everything needs to be revealed, and it doesn’t. Janet’s heart was/is immensely compassionate.
Most of the time, when people encounter people with that level of compassion, they honestly can’t handle it. Most of the time, this appeared to be the case as she talked about each one. However, she balanced each relationship with the positives she gained and experienced. Collectively, each of the men commonly shared the same battle of addiction just in a different form; drugs or sex. Though disheartening to see her love life crumble at many turns in her career, she survived and continued to grow stronger with each lesson.
Lastly, having her other brothers and her older sister and mother featured in the five-year project was amazing to see. Janet will always have the memories of watching old footage and the story she chose to share with the world for the rest of her life and for her son’s children and so forth.
In the end, the documentary was phenomenal. After people noticed the success of her documentary, this may inspire other prominent entertainers to share their stories their way. I always love reading or listening to someone’s personal account of their lives. We all stand to learn so much from each other, and it’s beautiful to have the lessons shared from the person that experienced them. Many felt and voiced that she didn’t share new knowledge. If this was the main takeaway you have after watching her story, she missed the entire premise of her releasing it. Yes, she didn’t share many new details about her life. However, she did share personal stories, videos, photographs, etc., that had never been witnessed outside the confines of her family.
Furthermore, Janet’s entire life has been documented on numerous occasions, from her personal life to her career. But, they have almost always been from the perspective of another creator. This was a rare glimpse into her world, and we should be thankful that she chose to let us in, in this way.
Even with her sharing the words from her own mouth, people still wanted to write think-pieces about how she portrayed her story, from her father’s presence in her life to her career decisions. I guess we’ve gotten to the point that if the truth doesn’t sound like what we want to hear, then it’s not the truth.
Everyone will have a different takeaway or perception of her life and the influential people, depending on their own personal experiences. However, I highly recommend pushing aside the natural urge to project and judge and just enjoy the journey. Also, it’s impossible to cover nearly 60 years of a person’s life in 4 hours without omitting specific details. With that in mind, be sensible.
If you were unfortunate and didn’t get the opportunity to catch Janet’s recording-breaking documentary, you are in luck! Lifetime/A&E will be reairing it starting tomorrow, so check your local listings for times. I Am Janet Jackson will definitely live on as one of the top-rated and produced documentaries for years to come. I can’t wait to witness this level of influence that Janet is bound to have had on those brave enough to share their journies in the years to come.