Thursday, September 10, 2009


As we count down the days to this Sunday when Janet Jackson is scheduled to perform a tribute to her brother Michael Jackson at this Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards, Harper's Bazaar has published her first interview since the death of Michael. Click below to check out the interview.

By Laura Brown, Harper's Bazaar

The last time Janet saw Michael was on May 14, two days before her 43rd birthday. "We had so much fun that day," she says, her soft voice almost inaudible. "We kept calling each other after and saying how great it was." One of the most moving images from the memorial service was of Michael's daughter, Paris, who stepped up to the microphone and said, "Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine" before grabbing her aunt Janet for support. "I was really proud," Janet recalls. "People said to me that Michael's daughter speaking really gave them a sense of how he was as a father, in her words. Paris is incredibly smart; they are all so smart. She's a sweet girl. The kids are doing well. They're with all their cousins; that family love will keep them going."

Janet has been handling it in public for more than two decades. "Rhythm Nation 1814," her groundbreaking album, was released 20 years ago this month. She has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide and had 41 Billboard No. 1 singles. Her out-of-this-world tours, indelible dance style, and bold, provocative, but always human presence is equaled by only that of her late brother. In 1995's futuristic "Scream" video, on which she collaborated with Michael, there is a telling scene where the space-age siblings are elbowing each other for the remote control. "Yeah," she says, smiling. "We had so much fun back then. We would organize our days together and go out for vegetarian lunch at the Golden Temple in L.A. We were so busy, but we'd make time."

While the $7 million video was the apex of art direction, Janet arrived at her look another way. "I've always been a tomboy," she says. "I've always liked to wear red, black, and white, and mostly pants." Her brother, of course, shared a love for the same palette. She lights up when she talks about Michael's style. "My brother is, I mean was..." She shifts on the couch and stares at the floor. "You have to forgive me, because it's really hard to believe he's passed. He'd have the same red shirt, the same black pants, the same white T-shirt. Mike was very simple. When I was 14 years old, I would shop for him. [Michael was then 21 and a megastar.] I washed his clothes, cleaned his room. When Mother would go out of town, she'd say, 'I'm leaving you in charge. Take care of Mike.' I would head home from school, see what he needed, then go straight to the stores." She giggles a little and says, "You know something else? He loved to wear his shoes all the way down. His penny loafers would have huge holes in the bottom."

One thing Michael prized was his single white glove. "That was actually my brother Jackie's idea at home one day," Janet explains. "He just said, 'You should wear one glove. A white glove.' And then Mike studded it all. That was it." Onstage, she adds, "if it was shiny, if it had any kind of bling, he loved it. It was that drummer-boy look. Do you remember that black jacket he wore for Motown's 25th anniversary? That's our mother's! He grabbed that from her closet! He loved anything that sparkled." Michael's love of all that glittered continued until his death. That last day Janet saw Michael, "he had a Balmain jacket on. He had a few of them -- all black, jeweled, studded, with rhinestones." While the public obsesses over what will happen to Michael's estate, including his famous jackets, Janet is not interested in wearing them herself. "No," she says emphatically. "They should go to the children, if anything."

There are things Janet would like the world to know about Michael: "He loved to laugh. The last time we were together, he'd laugh so hard, he would just start crying. Sometimes his humor would be corny, sometimes dry. He loved the Three Stooges, he loved slapstick, he loved Eddie Murphy in his silly comedies. He loved to have fun. He loved to play." If Janet had one more day with her brother (whose nickname for her, incidentally, was Dunk), she would "relive that moment we had when we were kids, do our little run: We'd wake up, feed the animals, spend the entire day together."

If Michael is the King of Pop, Janet is its princess. "I would hope my legacy would be bringing smiles to faces," she says. "Happiness with my music. Also, to make babies. I've had so many people come up to me and say, 'My child was conceived by listening to your music.'" She has more difficulty articulating Michael's. "It's so beyond. I can't even begin. It's on so many different levels. Bringing light and love and happiness. He's just got so much love, and so much heart, and so much power through his music. Children and his love for children. People have told me, 'I am an American citizen because of your brother.' He wrote them a letter or something. He was just that giving, loving person. And the greatest entertainer there ever was. And is. I hope people get a glimpse of him now, some sort of picture."