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To Whom It Does Not Concern: An Open Letter Regarding Janet Jackson Appreciation Day (#JJAD)

As we prepare to celebrate a legend, we need to talk about who this day isn't about.

By Jonathan ApolloPublished 2 months ago 5 min read
Janet Jackson, looking flawess. Credit to Janet Jackson (Instagram).

For the sixth year in a row, we, the fanbase of Janet Jackson – from hereon referred to as #JanFam – will be honoring our Empress, Blueprint, Queen Muva, and all-around fave of your faves, Janet Damita Jo Jackson, with Janet Jackson Appreciation Day, a day-long tribute to her five-decade long (and counting!) career as a singer, dancer, actress, activist, and trailblazer.

As per usual, the lead-up to this celebration has not come without controversy or contention from misunderstood parties (a.k.a. non-JanFam).

Just as it has since its inception, JJAD is a day to uplift a legend - a beautiful and proud Black woman who, despite unfathomable odds, has continued to shine, thrive, and succeed in an industry that has tried time and time again to erase her from its history.

On a weekend like this 20 years ago, a quick-change accident (which the media sensationalized as a “wardrobe malfunction”) during an otherwise stellar performance at the 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show nearly derailed her entire career. And for a time, it seemed as it did. We’ve spoken repeatedly about what happened to her following that performance and shared receipt after receipt of her music, videos, and most of all, her name, being blacklisted from radio and television.

But what everyone seems to focus on is the other person involved in that incident – a person who walked away mostly unscathed.

Let us state this outright for the sixth, and hopefully, final time: Janet Jackson Appreciation Day has nothing to do with Justin Timberlake.

Let us repeat that for those in the back:

Janet Jackson Appreciation Day has nothing to do with Justin Timberlake.

Granted, we can talk all day about how he waited more than 20 years to finally issue a public apology - one he seemingly reneged on just recently - to Janet regarding his nonchalant, cocky attitude in the days following the performance (and how that only came after an eye-opening documentary regarding his former girlfriend and one of Janet’s music-related “daughters,” Britney Spears).

We can speak about how quickly Justin “kissed the ring” of then-CBS president Les Moonves in hopes of appearing at the 2004 GRAMMYs, which aired just days after the Super Bowl and was also set to include a tribute performance by Janet for her close friend, Luther Vandross. Vandross would die less than a year later, while Janet, who rightfully refused to offer a second and third apology – one directly to Moonves, the other during the live GRAMMYs telecast - would deal with Moonves’ ire, which led the brigade to “cancel” Janet Jackson.

(We would call out Moonves, too, but #MeToo already took care of that.)

Hell, we can even bring up how Timberlake, more or less, owes every ounce of success he has to Janet, after she allowed him and his former group, *NSYNC, to be one her opening acts during her 1998-99 Velvet Rope Tour.

We could go on. But, once again, this has nothing to do with Justin Timberlake.

What those outside of #JanFam fail to realize is that while Justin went on to do what comes naturally to him as an entertainer and performer, Janet wasn’t given the same privilege.

Imagine starting a career at age seven that would go on to make your world famous. For decades following, you build, hone, and cement your talents, far exceeding the limits that others unfairly set against you and, to a degree, that you set against yourself.

A young Janet leans on her older brother, Michael. Credit to Janet Jackson (Instagram).

Janet once said during an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show that there was a time where she didn’t think she was good enough to stand on her own as an entertainer. She also once said she couldn’t see herself performing after the age of 40.

To date, Janet has sold more than 180 million records worldwide. She is the eleventh-best-selling female artist of all time, with seven of her albums reaching the no. 1 spot on the Billboard Top 200 (with two of those albums hitting the top spot after she was blacklisted).

As for her performance ability, Janet will be 58 years old this May. If you saw what she can still do on stage, you’d get that age is absolutely nothing but a number.

(And you can, by the way: tickets are available for the next leg of her Together Again tour!)

Now, imagine working as hard as you did, going beyond boundaries that you didn’t even think you’d pass, and ultimately creating a blueprint for younger artists to build and shine upon for years to come... and having it all taken away from you over a mistake.

One mistake that left you exposed physically and emotionally on a stage not unlike the ones you conquered throughout your life. A mistake that you’ve overexplained and over-apologized for again and again. A mistake that, to some degree, still hinders your awe-inspiring career and legacy; a legacy you accomplished despite everything that set you up to fail – your race, your gender, your mental health, and even your last name.

57 and still that girl - Janet busts a move during her Together Again Tour. Credit to Janet Jackson (Instagram)

We nearly lost Janet Jackson – an icon, a hero, a legend, a performer, a mother, and an inspiration. And we’re damn lucky we didn’t.

Through sheer testament to her talent and perseverance, and a healthy combination of the love and reverence the JanFam has never let go of, Janet Damita Jo Jackson is doing what she was born to do. To this day, she is still kicking ass on stages across the globe and doing things that no one – not even herself – thought she could ever accomplish.

This is why we celebrate Janet Jackson Appreciation Day.

It’s about her. It’s about us. It's about love - unbreakable love.

Get the point? Good, now, let’s celebrate. Happy Janet Jackson Appreciation Day!

- #JanFam

P.S. We're also celebrating the 20th anniversary of Damita Jo, Janet's eighth studio album that dropped less than two months after the Super Bowl. Do yourself a favor and stream it via your preferred music app. Trust us: It sounds just as fresh as it did back then.

P.P.S. Janet, if this letter somehow crosses your path - You’re doing amazing, sweetie! Give our love to Eissa!


About the Creator

Jonathan Apollo

I bang my keyboard and words come out. Sometimes, they're worth reading. Sometimes, they're even good.

40-something, M, NYC. He/Him/His. #TPWK

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  • Test2 months ago

    Impressive work! Well written!

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