Last Friday morning as I got dressed for work, Pandora played an ad on my ’80s station for Lifetime’s Janet Jackson documentary.
Admittedly, this Gen X mom was looking forward to a quiet Friday night, but I got hooked by this “event.” I thought about it all day in anticipation, flooded with memories of listening to “Rhythm Nation 1814”, one of the first CDs I ever bought with my babysitting money.
So was “Janet Jackson” an event? Well, let’s start with how addicted I am to watching content on demand. I missed the first hour of the two-part series, and it took some research to figure out how to stream it in total.
I wanted to see the woman I had danced and sung along to in my teen years. Her music, her moves, were profoundly inspiring to me.
That said, the Jacksons and Janet herself are no stranger to controversy, and I was curious … the last photo I saw of her was in Muslim attire, and I’d heard she recently had a baby at 50 years of age.
What happened to the reclusive pop star?
Starting an hour in, it was a lot of interviews with producers Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam and I was disappointed. The glimpse of nostalgia I wanted wasn’t there.
I decided to give part two a try. I mean, who has ever known a Jackson to deliver something mediocre?
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Janet Jackson produced this herself. and by the time I finished night two and went back and watched all of night one, I was moved by her conviction.
This is a story is worth telling.
What you won’t get is the superstar throwing any family members under the bus. Some could say this documentary is in defense of her brother’s legacy as well as her father’s. Joseph Jackson, thought to be abusive parent who drove his children too hard, is painted as a visionary in the docuseries.
The patriarch pictured here made a way for his family to have an extraordinary life outside of the harsh realities of blue-collar, gang-ridden Gary, Indiana. She bronzes that legacy with a moving trip with her brother, Randy Jackson, back to their tiny home where she sees firsthand what their family left behind.
The singer doesn’t address her third husband nor her apparent Muslim conversion while with him, but you sort of love that this quiet, gentle spirit doesn’t reveal everything.
Janet Jackson is the American Dream, and her work ethic is unmatched and wildly admirable. This is a woman who has never given up on herself. She had to work even harder to set herself apart from her legendary brother who she defends and is still obviously deeply grieved by his death.
While doors were opened for her, she took nothing for granted on the journey.
That hard work came at price. And I think this is where women in my generation can relate. While we were told we could have it all, Janet Jackson struggled through through three failed marriages, and one can imagine it’s lonely at the top.
Her triumph is the music she continues to make and the son she birthed at 50.
Interviews with friends, entertainment personalities, Jackson siblings and an ex-beau I think she should get back together with, give you all the juice that makes a documentary riveting.
I left inspired because Janet, Miss Jackson if you’re nasty, comes across as grateful for her life. She is an extraordinary American worth knowing better. I downloaded some classic Jackson tracks like “Control” and “Escapade” on Spotify, and it’s amazing to still know those words by heart.
Ellen Graham is a mom of two teens son, Media Strategist and wellness coach in Denver. Her favorite sport is politics and she is a ravenous film, television and talk radio consumer.