Janet Jackson opens up about complex relationship with father Joe: ‘He was very tough’

The legendary singer recalled her strict upbringing during the premiere of 'JANET JACKSON,' a four-part docuseries on Lifetime

Iconic singer Janet Jackson opened up about her relationship with her father and longtime manager Joe Jackson like never before in the premiere of a four-part documentary event airing on Lifetime.

During Friday night’s opening installment of the highly anticipated docuseries, Janet, 55, spoke about how her life and career were impacted by the complex dynamic she had with her father, notorious for his strict approach to raising the family of superstars.

“He was a hard worker and he did whatever it took to feed his children,” Janet said, explaining that her father worked in a steel mill for years to keep the family afloat. “He didn’t want his kids on the streets. He didn’t want us doing drugs. He wanted better for us.”

Janet Jackson thegrio.com
(Credit: Getty Images)

The “Rhythm Nation” singer said that she attributes a lot of her family’s success to the rigid rehearsal schedules Joe was known for enforcing. She recognized that her father also experienced several downsides associated with the family being so prominently in the spotlight.

“My father was a good-hearted guy, he really protected us. He went through a lot. The racism, the fighting, people seeing your children as money-making machines. If that didn’t happen, we wouldn’t have had the success as a family that we’ve had,” Janet said.

Janet added that it came with a price, however, and she often wished to have the same relationship with her father that she witnessed among others around her.

“Growing up I feel like I didn’t really experience my father the way I wanted to. The way I saw other kids experience their fathers,” she said.

Although several of Joe’s children, including his son, Michael Jackson, have said that their father was abusive and strict, Joe often denied the allegations. In a 2003 interview on the BBC, Joe said,  “I whipped [Michael] with a switch and a belt…[but] I never beat him.”

Janet Jackson  thegrio.com
(Courtesy of Lifetime/ Janet Jackson)

Janet recalled during Friday’s episode that she initially had childhood goals of studying entertainment law in college, but her path changed forever once her father recognized her singing abilities. 

For years afterward, Janet said she struggled to develop her own sense of identity as an artist under her father’s watch.

​​”I wanted my own identity, but at that time, my father was in charge of my life, my career, and he was my manager,” Janet said. “It’s hard to say no to my father, so in order to do things the way I wanted to do, I guess he would have to be out of the picture… I wanted to go on my own.”

Despite their often complicated relationship, Janet said she and her siblings owe their father, who died from pancreatic cancer in 2018 at age 89, for molding them into the all-time-great singers and performers they became.

“It is because of my father that I’ve had the career I’ve had. It was tough at times. There was nothing easy about it. Period,” she adds. “But when you see where we came from and look at where we are now, we owe so much to my father.”

The four-part docuseries JANET JACKSON premiered on Lifetime on Friday and concludes Saturday night at 8 p.m. For more on the television event, head to the official Lifetime website, here

Have you subscribed to the Grio podcasts, ‘Dear Culture’ or Acting Up? Download our newest episodes now!
TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!