Janet Jackson's new album, All For You, deals largely with the demise of her marriage to Rene Elizondo and her subsequent embrace of the single life. This was Janet's second marriage, having wed James de Barge while still in her teens -- a union that didn't last very long. And when she subsequently married Elizondo in 1991 (their relationship started in 1987), it was kept secret for years. In fact the first thing many people knew about it was when their impending divorce was announced last year.
Since then Jackson's relationship with Elizondo, who was one of her oldest friends before he became her husband, has become increasingly bitter. Now he is threatening to sue her for royalties from the Rhythm Nation 1814 album, claiming that he wrote or co-wrote some of the songs. If Janet doesn't pay up he's further threatening to write a "tell all" book that will claim, among other things, that his ex-wife is gay.
We mention this not to revel in tabloid gossip (though we're not immune from that!) but to put this interview in context, because -- unlike many superstars who make their private life strictly off limits in interviews -- in this chat Janet Jackson is relatively straightforward when it comes to discussing her family and relationships.
The cover photo for the "All For You" single is amazing. It made me think of Latoya. I think she did the pillow thing too, on the Playboy cover.
You're kidding, it was with the pillow? I remember the Playboy thing, but I don't remember the picture. The only thing that reminds me of her when I look at the picture is my face. You're the third journalist to ask me today if this is based on Latoya's Playboy cover. God knows, I wasn't thinking about it at all. I'd only seen it once, and that was back in '88 or something.
Nice butt, by the way.
Thank you! [Laughs]
How do you get so muscular? What's your exercise secret?
I've been so bad about working out, I haven't worked out in about two and a half, three months. Your body just kind of stays together, I suppose.
I guess the other three journalists also asked you about the personal inspiration behind the "All For You" single? I listened to the lyrics -- guys hitting on you and you picking and choosing.
Is that like real life?
It's not like that at all! I've always asked out. And I've always been told by other guys and my friends that guys are intimidated by me. That's what it talks about. I mean, I've had some guys come up to me, but it's always the wrong guy -- the guy who tries to be really suave, or...
You don't like that?
They're supposed to just be themselves. It's normally their friend you want to ask you out -- and those are the ones that seem to be very intimidated.
One of the remixes of the "All For You" single is by Thunderpuss.
Isn't that cool?
Is it true that one of them is a gynaecologist and that's why they call themselves Thunderpuss?
I didn't know that. I gotta find that out, see if that's true... [Laughs]
Going back to the dating thing, you've never really dated?
This is the first time. I mean, I never did those things, and it had to do with a few things. We grew up Jehovah's Witnesses, and you're not supposed to think of dating unless you're thinking of marriage...
Is that why you got married young?
Well I had one boyfriend before that and he was actually a Witness.
How old were you then?
I was 15, very young. And he was a little bit older, 19. But when they found out, we had to break up. Even though it's your first love, it's still painful. It's still counts.
Who told you to break up, your parents?
No, my mother knew that we were seeing each other. I think someone else told his parents and they spoke to him about it. So he called me one day and it was just such a shock. Then the next person I wind up seeing, I marry. And then the person after that I wind up seeing, I marry. And here I am today.
So now I date -- you know, just having fun, nothing major...
I still haven't really understood the American concept of dating.
Well, I never did any of that either, but those things never interested me. Like going to your prom. I didn't even want to go to my graduation.
So are you looking to get married again?
I'm not. I'm not looking for a relationship, because I just got out of one, I'm just having fun. I'm just doing something that all of my friends did and they're getting ready to have children now, and they're schooling me for the most part.
How can you be schooled in such a thing? Isn't that something that you really have to experience yourself?
No. Schooling as far as someone trying to tell you in so many words what they are feeling, and not seeing the signs right there before your eyes. So I'll get off the phone with someone, and call up one of my friends and say, "So-and-so just said this to me. What does that mean?" They'll go, "God Janet, you are so stupid! He's trying to tell you he likes you." [Laughs] It's that kind of a thing.
You made all the money and the fame and got married when you were very young and now you're doing all the things that you would have been doing at that age if you weren't working all the time.
You're right. It's the one stage in my life that I didn't experience, and I'm it experiencing now.
And there's still single men over 30 around?
Well, I don't know if they're over 30, but they're around! [Laughs]
Americans do tend to marry very young, as you did. Do you regret that?
No, because everything happens for a reason. That may have been incredibly young to get married, but I believe God wanted to me to experience that, and I've learned from that.
So what did you learn from that?
Not to get married at a young age! [Laughs]
Would I do it differently today?
Quite possibly. I truly don't think marriage is for me, the way I'm looking at it right now. But then, who knows? I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. Right now, I'm not looking for a serious relationship. I date here and there, I'm enjoying life, I'm having fun, I feel very free, I don't regret anything. And I don't know if I'll get married again, I really don't.
Are you disappointed about the rumours that your ex-husband is spreading as he prepares for a big legal battle?
I don't know the rumours, honestly. I don't read any of that stuff and my friends don't bring it to me, because it's all negativity and I'm trying to keep positivity around me. Granted, certain things get by you, but for the most part I don't know what is being said, and I...
And you and Rene, you're not talking.
No, we don't. And that hurts, because you lose a friend. Someone that I thought, even if we don't stay together, I know we're gonna grow old together as friends. Since I was about 16 years old, he was one of my best friends. And suddenly, we're not talking -- that @#%$ hurts. But, you know, it's just a part of life, and I'm sure I will be hurt in the future in some way.
You once said that you have to go through pain to really grow. Don't you think you had your share?
My share of pain? There are people who have gone through a lot more than I have, way more, and you can't even compare. I have friends that have had such incredibly hard lives. And now they're trying to deal with that, the way I dealt with my life around the Velvet Rope time. But those were my issues. There's always someone worse off than you, and there's always someone worse off than them. By learning a lot of the things that I did, I was able to make this kind of an album.
A much happier album.
Yes. A very "up" album, and that's where I am in my life. It's like, okay, I still have things that I have to deal with, but it's not painful the way I'm sure it would have been if I hadn't experienced what I did during the Velvet Rope years.
Is that how you think about your life, in records? The Velvet Rope years, the Janet years?
Yeah, because I always write about what's going on in my life. And this album is about what's going on in my life today.
It sounds enviable -- dancing, having fun. Is it hard for you to go out to public places such as nightclubs?
Well there's security there, and I don't mind people saying hello, or if they wanna come and shake your hand. But sometimes you just want to go to a club and enjoy it and not have to carry on a conversation as if you're talking with one of your friends, yet you don't know this person. You just go there to enjoy a good time and people want to talk about business -- "I have this song..."
OK, we've talked about meeting guys, but how do you just meet people that become your friends?
Well the friends that I have, speaking of the girls, they've been friends of mine for years. In the end, you have to take chances. What are you gonna do, be alone for the rest of your life? Not have any friends? Some friends have failed me, in the sense of showing their true colours and stabbing me in the back, but I'd rather have that than not experiencing a friendship at all. I can't allow myself to not trust ever again. I think that's the first thing you wanna do, put up those walls and say "that's it, I don't want to be hurt again". I can't do that because friendship is so important to me.
What about your relationships with the rest of your immediate family? Do they tend to be on-and-off?
No, we don't have on and off relationships, I'm just not as close to my brothers and sisters as I wish we were. Everybody's doing different things, everybody's working, doing their own thing, so we don't talk to each other as much as I wish we would and as we should. But everyone checks in with my mother. If not every week, every other week. That's how you find out how everyone else is doing.
There's no family gathering, like once a year?
We used to do that once a month, and it's really hard. There's always someone missing. As a matter of fact, there's supposed to be a family dinner. The past couple of weeks they've been trying to put it together, and if you look at everyone's schedule, well, it's hard. I just got back into town yesterday and I went straight to rehearsal until late last night, and now I'm here today -- and that's just one child. There are nine of us. Just because you may not see some of them in the public eye, that doesn't mean that
they don't have a life or a career, but I think that's what people assume.
But we don't know about them.
But that's OK, you don't have to. It's not written in stone that the public should know about their lives just because they were once in the public eye.
But it's interesting because you have so many family traits. For instance, you and Michael have the famous shyness. Were you always that way?
Yes. There are some that are and some that aren't, but I think shyness truly runs in my family. But if you ask me, Michael's a ham. He's a ham at home amongst his brothers and sisters. He is silly, he's always joking, as opposed to being very quiet and shy, which he's like that in public. Not to say that it's a put on. And people say that I'm still shy, and I'm not. But when I'm around people I don't know I'm very quiet, and I think they perceive that as shyness. I don't say anything, I just sit back and listen and watch. But,
if I'm around my friends, I'm all over the place, talking, acting stupid, throwing things, making faces, different voices, just being silly.