Janet Jackson Chose Music Over Law

Getty / Jamie McCarthy

It’s impossible to imagine the music industry without Janet Jackson! I mean, think about it. Could you even imagine putting together a party-themed playlist without classic hits like, “Rhythm Nation,” “That’s the Way Love Goes,” “All For You,” and “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” Thought so. In a new interview with Allure, the February cover star reveals that her trailblazing music career almost didn’t happen. Growing up in a legendary musical household, Jackson says she initially set her sights on becoming an entertainment lawyer.

“We would always write music growing up. We had a studio at my parents’ house; it’s still there actually. So any time of day or night, if you couldn’t sleep or had an idea before school, after school, you could go in the studio and put it down, your idea, musically,” she told Washington Post senior critic-at-large Robin Givhan. “So I did that and I put this idea that I had down and played all the parts on it and, like a genius, I left the tape on the machine and when I came home from school I was so embarrassed. They were listening to the song. My father, some of my brothers. I was so embarrassed.” She continued, “And that’s when my father said, ‘I think you should become a performer.’ I said, ‘No, no, no, no, no! You don’t understand. I want to go to school. I want to go to college and study business law and support myself by acting.’ That’s how it all started.”

Five Grammy awards, 160 million albums sold worldwide, and 10 number-one singles later, it’s safe to say that her late father Joe Jackson’s advice was worth taking after all. However, despite blockbuster success, the 55-year-old icon was and continues to be intentional about using her platform to draw attention to pivotal issues, including racial injustice and depression. “I feel like I’ve laid a little foundation for myself, so that if I ever choose to, I would be able to continue on that path,” she told Allure. “Musically, what I’ve done, like doing ‘Rhythm Nation’ or doing ‘New Agenda’ or doing ‘Skin Game,’ creating those bodies of work with Jimmy [Jam] and Terry [Lewis], I feel like I’ve laid a certain foundation. I would hope that I’d be able to continue if I choose to. You know what I mean? But only time will tell.”

Jackson’s highly anticipated, two-part Janet documentary, which gives fans a glimpse into the notoriously private star’s extraordinary journey like never before, airs simultaneously on Lifetime and A&E on Jan. 28 and 29. The premiere coincides with the 40th anniversary of Jackson’s self-titled debut studio album. A Hulu documentary about Jackson’s 2004 Super Bowl controversy is also in the works as part of The New York Times Presents docuseries.

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