Since her documentary premiered earlier this year, I have enjoyed immensely rediscovering Janet Jackson’s musical and cultural contributions. Along with the rediscovery, I also decided to read the book that she released in 2011 called True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself.
11 years since appearing on the New York’s Best Sellers List, and I must say that the material presented in the book ring more relevant than ever, at least for me personally. Based on the social space and mindset I can recall myself being in over a decade ago, I feel that reading her book at this point in my life was much more fruitful.
As I read each chapter, I was surprised at how relatable the messages and accounts were to my experiences. Though, I’m not exactly sure why it was a surprise because Janet has proven just how relatable she is throughout her illustrious career.
And it’s this relatability that I believe makes her seem like the best friend next door. Also, it serves as a springboard to be empowered to create or change your narrative and outlook. Besides having never read the book before, what sparked my interest was the documentary footage and conversations that touched on her weight struggles.
The documentary mainly focused on her career and the triumphs and trials she’s faced before and after she took control of her destiny, leaving the topic of weight struggles as footnotes in the documentary. I desired to dig a little deeper into this portion of her story. And what I discovered what that her influence surpasses genres.
Janet has weathered the storm and pressures of weight issues with grace and beauty despite the world’s gaze on her figure and career. Some of her most pivotal moments were shrouded by the attention she received or about her body image. This particular pattern followed her from music and television to print and film. In the highly reflective book, Janet reveals that weight issues and body acceptance began from a young age.
From the chest binding practice on GoodTimes, where she portrayed the physically and emotionally abused Penny Gordan Woods to her breakout movie role as Justice in Poetic Justice, weight dialogues hovered around like a dark cloud. I even found it eery that even as she delivered some of pop culture’s most memorable moments, her portrayals still managed to skirt around issues with physical acceptance.
At a particular point in the film, Justice tells her friend Iesha, portrayed by actress Regina King, that she needs to go on a “diet.” Aside from this direct reference, there were a few other instances where she and the cast of characters hinted or joked at her weight. And now that I think about it, even in Nutty Professor II as Denise Gaines, food and eating references were also very present.
However, Janet’s candidness in True You makes it seem like these examples were purposeful for her career and ultimately her testimony. The book was an excellent read that went by quickly. The narrative felt like a warm conversation between the personal stories that she shared about herself and others and the pictures with her family and friends. Even though the words in True You represented her voice, they also reflected personal thoughts and expressions I have had regarding my weight struggles.
Growing up, I didn’t have a weight issue. But of course, by the time I reached high school, my perceptions about my body were naturally shifting. It wasn’t until I got to college that I began the battle of emotional eating due to the newfound pressures and stresses of college, relationships, and feeling unsure about my future.
From the time I left college as an undergraduate to the present, my weight has yo-yo’d drastically. At one point, I was more than 100 pounds over what would have been considered a healthy range for my body composition and age. But during the pandemic and after my divorce, I decided to take control over my emotional and physical health for myself and my beautiful baby girl. I still have a ways to go, but I have certainly come a long way. For the most partTrue You serves as confirmation for myself and others to keep going.
If you haven’t read the book, do yourself a favor and purchase a copy right now. The only aspect I haven’t completed is cooking some of the recipes at the end of the book. (Sidenote: I have this on my to-do list for the end of my semester celebration!) After reading the book, I must say that I am excited about all that is to come from Janet’s present career takeover. I even think she should do another book/ audiobook on her dancing career or any other topic she desires to share. (Sidenote: Could you imagine how soothing this would sound? Her speaking voice is very soothing.) Either way, I plan to wholly continue supporting every endeavor from Ms. J this year and beyond!