Born on May 16, 1966, in Gary, IN; daughter of Joseph (a music manager) and Katherine Jackson (a homemaker and sales clerk); married James DeBarge (a musician), September 1984; marriage annulled, 1985; married Rene Elizondo, 1991; divorced, 2000. Addresses: Record company--Virgin Records, 9247 Alden Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Agent--Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Website--Janet Jackson Official Website:

Pop music diva Janet Jackson has released seven solo albums--five of which have earned multiplatinum sales-- and sold more than 40 million albums since 1982, cementing her place in music history and rivaling the success of older brother, Michael Jackson. Her contract with Virgin Records was renewed in 1996 in a four-album deal worth a then-unprecedented $80 million. Jackson continues to record, tour actively, and win awards for her work; she added a fifth Grammy Award to her collection in 2002 for Best Dance Recording for "All for You" from the album of the same name. Also an actress, Jackson appeared in the films Poetic Justice in 1993 and Nutty Professor IIin 2000.

Having grown up in America's most celebrated musical family--and notably in the shadow of her megastar brother, Michael--Jackson has nonetheless demonstrated a willingness to veer at least briefly from the assured path of mainstream pop. "My concepts are never bright ideas; they're never notions I think will sell or be trendy or attract new fans," she said to Rolling Stone's David Ritz. "I don't think that way. All I can do is sing from my life." In addition to establishing herself as a fixture in the firmament of pop music, Jackson has also pursued an acting career--though with decidedly mixed results.

Jackson was born in 1966 to Joseph and Katherine Jackson in Gary, Indiana, the youngest of nine children. When five of her brothers--known as the Jackson 5 and led by the charismatic Michael--achieved pop stardom in the early 1970s, the family moved to Encino, California, an affluent section of the San Fernando Valley. In the interview with Ritz, Jackson recalled her upbringing in the Jackson home there, "with peacocks and llamas and giraffes in the back yard." When asked if she was lonely, she replied, "At times, yes," but added, "On certain days, I felt like the luckiest kid in the world." She called "Hot Fun in the Summertime" by soul-rock sensations Sly and the Family Stone "one of the biggest musical influences of my life," adding, "I was only 3 years old when that song had me jumping up and down. It made me so happy." Similarly, 1960s anthems by the Turtles, Simon and Garfunkel, and the Association "are all precious moments to me. They're about just plain feeling good."

Jackson's debut stage appearance was in a Jackson 5 revue at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas; she was seven. Unlike her brothers, however, she made her way into the public eye through acting. At eleven--after capturing the attention of influential television producer Norman Lear--she landed the role of the abused child Penny on the situation comedy Good Times. Parts on the series Diff'rent Strokes and Fame followed, as Jackson grew up before the nation's eyes. It was at the urging of her father that she ventured into music.

Debut Album

Her solo recording debut came with Janet Jackson, which A&M Records released in 1982. Although the album's highest-charting single failed to reach the top 40, the young singer established her own tradition by touring high schools to promote it. She shocked the Jackson clan in the summer of 1984, however, when she eloped with singer James DeBarge. The couple contacted the family from Michigan to announce they'd married, though the wedding was annulled the following spring and Jackson ended up returning to her family's home in Encino. After the annulment, she was comforted by longtime friend Rene Elizondo, with whom she would later develop a romantic relationship.

November of 1984 saw the release of Jackson's sophomore effort, Dream Street. Despite the participation of producers Giorgio Moroder and Jesse Johnson and a duet with pop legend Cliff Richard, the record didn't exactly set the charts ablaze. "I didn't quite know how to sing from my life," she told Ritz. Though it was painful, she told her father she didn't want him to manage her any longer: "I couldn't say the words--I was bawling like a baby--and finally he just said: `You don't want me involved in your career. Isn't that it?' "`Yes,' I finally had the nerve to say, `that's it.'"

With her 1986 release, Control, Jackson at last gave an indication of her potential. The project teamed her with hot R&B producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who co-wrote much of the material. Sales of the album surged after the release of the single "What Have You Done for Me Lately," which moved to the top of the R&B chart. It eventually reached the peak spot on the album chart and achieved platinum status five times over. The 20-year-old Jackson became the youngest artist to reach the number one position on the American charts since Stevie Wonder reached it at age 13. Jackson performed at the 1987 Grammy Awards but didn't take home any trophies. She did, however, win an armload of American Music Awards and came up the favorite in several categories of Billboard magazine's 1986 year-end survey. A&M soon released Control--The Remixes, a collection of eight alternate versions of Jackson's hits.

Greater Success with Rhythm Nation

Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814, released in 1989, demonstrated even greater pop ambition. "Control was an album about what I went through in my life when I was 19 and the self-discovery that resulted," reads a quote in a Virgin Records biography. "Rhythm Nation contained my views about what was going on in the world and the problems we have in trying to educate the kids--the idea was to give them hope." Working again with Jam and Lewis, Jackson proved that Control's success was no accident. Rhythm Nation topped the American charts four weeks after its release and produced a string of hits. The album's long-form video won a Grammy, and Jackson received her fair share of tributes. These included a Los Angeles "Janet Jackson Week," a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame a meeting with then-President George Bush, and an array of Billboard Music Awards, American Music Awards, and Soul Train Awards. BMI honored her as Songwriter of the Year in 1990.

Rhythm Nation 1814--the number refers to the year "The Star-Spangled Banner" was written--became the first album ever to have seven of its singles on the Billboard top five; four of those singles reached number one. Jackson's 1990 World Tour was an enormous success, and some of its profits helped the Cities in Schools program, which encourages students to stay in school. After the tour ended, she gave the United Negro College Fund a "Rhythm Nation Scholarship" to the tune of a half-million dollars.

New Contract, Family Woes

In 1991 Janet Jackson signed a huge recording contract with Virgin Records. "A Rembrandt rarely becomes available," went a quote from Virgin head Richard Branson cited in Rock Movers & Shakers. "When it does, there are many people determined to get it. I was determined." The deal, at $50 million, stood as the most lucrative in history--for about a week, after which time it was surpassed by her brother Michael's new deal with Sony. Janet Jackson has admitted to a friendly rivalry with her brother, but her adoration of him is obvious in every interview she gives. It was he, she noted, who gave her the most important early encouragement when she began singing: "Michael told me to `just practice, always have confidence in yourself, and never give up,'" she recalled in Jet.

In 1992 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) gave Jackson its Chairman's Award for her public service work, especially on behalf of young people. As she addressed these large issues, however, she found increasing public attention focused on conflicts within her family. Public acrimony between her sister LaToya--also a performer--and the rest of the Jackson clan gained considerable publicity, and Janet was forced to comment, admitting the rift; she later remarked that she found it impossible to communicate with her sister.

Meanwhile, she and Michael appeared together on the 1993 Grammy Awards, where he jokingly stated that their dual appearance put to rest rumors that they were the same person. Michael's own public troubles--especially public accusations that he had molested a young fan--placed even greater stress on the Jackson clan. During Janet's 1994 concert tour, reported Robert Christgau in the Village Voice, she asked the crowd to "bow our heads and say a silent prayer for my brother Michael."

Director John Singleton wrote the central role of his 1993 film Poetic Justice specifically for Jackson, but her much-hyped return to acting was something of a disappointment. The film fared poorly at the box office, and reviewers were less than kind to its star. "Jackson isn't an inept actress," said Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly, "yet there are no more edges to her personality than there are to her plastic Kewpie-doll visage." Yet this relatively unsuccessful detour hardly dented Jackson's meteoric career. She appeared in Nutty Professor II with Eddie Murphy in 2000.

"Deeply Sexual" Persona

Jackson's 1993 album janet. announced her arrival as an adult pop figure, openly celebrating her sexuality. "I love feeling deeply sexual--and don't mind letting the world know," she told Ritz in the Rolling Stone profile. "For me, sex has become a celebration, a joyful part of the creative process." She added that what "excites me isn't becoming a bigger star but a better artist, deeper, truer to the things I find exciting." The album's guest appearances by opera singer Kathleen Battle and rapper Chuck D. of the celebrated rap group Public Enemy attested to her expanded musical palette. The album earned five-times platinum sales in December of 1993.

Some critics considered Jackson at the top of her form with janet. Rolling Stone's year-end roundup of major releases found her in "more versatile voice than ever," adding that she "perches atop the rhythmic percolations--cool, not exactly calm, but collected." Yet while many applauded Jackson's newly bold persona, reviewers like Entertainment Weekly's David Browne felt she sounded "tentative" and found the album "a mess--period." Even so, it was enormously successful, as was her 1994 tour. "I've never seen an arena spectacle to match it," enthused Village Voice writer Christgau. Rolling Stone criticized its almost mechanical perfection, noting that sometimes "it seemed like the audience was eavesdropping on a shoot for a long-form video rather than being engaged by a performer." Jackson also appeared on her brother Michael's 1995 single "Scream" and in its innovative video, which was nominated for several awards. Entertainment Weekly complained that her voice was "buried deep in the [song's] mix--too bad, since her sweet croon adds what little swing the record has." A&M Records released a greatest hits collection, Design of a Decade: 1986-1996, in 1995, which earned multiplatinum sales in December of that year.

Impressive Contract Renewal Deal

Jackson renewed her contract with Virgin Records in 1996 in a four-album, $80 million deal. The first album to follow was the multiplatinum-selling The Velvet Rope, released in 1997. According to Pamela Johnson of Essence magazine, on the album "[Jackson] speaks with her trademark candor to a range of topics: the unhealed wound that can be manifest in depression, and abused woman confronting her cruel lover, assorted childhood emotional traumas.... Grouped together, the subject matter sounds raw, grim. But as ususal, Jackson turns it into a funky good time."

Instead of her music, Jackson's personal life was the focus of attention in May of 2000. Rene Elizondo filed for divorce from Jackson, revealing that the couple had been secretly married since May of 1991. Though initially reported to be an amicable split, Elizondo sued Jackson for $10 million in January of 2001 over the validity of a prenuptial agreement.

Amid the personal turmoil surrounding the divorce, Jackson released All for You in 2001. Jackson told Jeff Gordinier of Entertainment Weekly that the album was "very up." Gordinier agreed: "There are twinkly disco romps and thumping grooves and cooing effusions of erotic ecstasy." The album reached multiplatinum sales in May of 2001, and the title track earned the Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording in 2002.

In 2004, Jackson released Damita Jo, but she was also embroiled in more controversy that year. During the halftime performance at Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, singer Justin Timberlake yanked off part of Jackson

by Simon Glickman

Janet Jackson's Career

Actress on television series Good Times, Diff'rent Strokes, and Fame, beginning c. 1977; recording and performing music artist, 1982-; released four albums on the A&M label, including Control and Rhythm Nation 1814, 1980s; signed with Virgin Records, 1991; released janet., 1993; resigned with Virgin in a four-album, $80 million deal, 1996; released The Velvet Rope, 1997; released All for You, 2001; has appeared in films including Poetic Justice and Nutty Professor II.

Janet Jackson's Awards

Voted Top R&B Artist, Top Pop Singles Artist Female, Top Dance Sales Artist, Top Dance Club Play Artist, and Top R&B Singles Artist by Billboardmagazine, all 1986; seven American Music Awards, 1987, 1990, and 1991; three Soul Train Awards, 1990; awarded star on Hollywood Walk of Fame as part of "Janet Jackson Week," Los Angeles, 1990; Billboard Sterling Award, 1990; BMI Pop Award, Songwriter of the Year, 1990; MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video, 1991, 1994; NAACP Chairman's Award, 1992; Sammy Davis Jr. Award, Entertainer of the Year, 1992; Grammy Award, Best Rhythm & Blues Song for "That's the Way Love Goes," 1993; won Grammys for music videos, 1989, 1995, 1997; Billboard Artist Achievement Award, 2001; American Music Award, Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist, 2002; Grammy Award, Best Dance Recording for "All for You," 2002; Legend Award, Radio Music Awards, 2004.

Famous Works

Recent Updates

June 17, 2005: Jackson received the Humanitarian Award from the Human Rights Campaign. Source: E! Online,, June 20, 2005.

Further Reading



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