Janet Jackson is an icon in her own right, as she’s been commemorated for her decades of excellence as a musician and actress. In a recent interview with Allure, however, she also reflects on the efforts that she’s made to become a leader in body acceptance, creating a foundation for women learning to fully embrace and love themselves.
With the 1993 release of her self-titled album Janet specifically, Jackson says that she was set on “embracing me and trying to learn to love me for me, my body, all of that. Trying to feel comfortable in embracing that. Throwing myself in the lion’s den. Just going for it, wanting to do something different.”
The cover for the album was a photograph of Jackson seemingly topless with her arms above her head, resting on her curls. A Rolling Stone cover that came the same year showed the complete photo, revealing a scantily clad Jackson with just a pair of hands covering her breasts. Now, she confirmed that the imagery was an intentional introduction to an era of self-love.
“It took a lot of work, a lot of work,” she said. “It was something very tough, very difficult. But I’m glad I walked through it. I’m really glad I got in. It was a way of accepting and loving, accepting yourself and your body.”
While the imagery and the meaning behind it is more commonly seen in pop culture today, Jackson recognized that it was a major departure from how she had previously presented herself.
“I was never a girly girl. I was always a tomboy. So it was always about pants, suits, even as an early teenager. I remember when my brothers got their star on the Walk of Fame and other awards they got, and I look back on pictures and I always had on a suit with a tie, a bow tie, or suspenders,” she explained. “Always loving black and never wanting to expose any part of my body, I felt most comfortable to cover it up to here.”
Big names in entertainment today can be seen playing around with similar aesthetics, including Billie Eilish who had become known for covering up under baggie clothes before revealing more of her body in a cover story for British Vogue. Eilish has even spoken out about the process of coming to terms with her body while growing up in the spotlight.
Jackson said that these women seem “comfortable in their skin, in their size, in being full-figured and I love that, as opposed to back in the day. You had to always be thin and always look a certain way. And now it’s all accepted and it is all beautiful and I absolutely love that.”
Most importantly, Jackson is excited to see that women are seemingly in control of how they’re shown — although how the public receives them is another story. That sense of control carries a lot of weight for Jackson, who was stripped of it when her breast was revealed by Justin Timberlake during the 2004 Super Bowl half-time show.
“Whether I want to be part of that conversation or not, I am part of that conversation,” Jackson said about the incident, which she hasn’t addressed since a 2006 interview with Oprah Winfrey. “I think it’s important. Not just for me, but for women. So I think it’s important that conversation has been had. You know what I mean? And things have changed obviously since then for the better.”
For the time being, Jackson is more focused on choosing to accept the way that she is perceived going forward, rather than trying to control it.
“I’m very fortunate to have a very loyal and loving fan base. And I think they will always accept me for who I am,” she said. “Everyone would always want to stay young and this and that, but it’s inevitable. I mean, we’re all going to get there.”
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