Countless performers – from Beyoncé to Lady Gaga to Mary J. Blige - have made their mark during the Super Bowl Halftime Show. But none resulted in as much controversy and speculation as Janet Jackson’s performance at the 38th Super Bowl game in 2004. Justin Timberlake famously pulled a certain piece of Jackson’s clothing off, resulting in a serious wardrobe malfunction thereafter. The backlash for the situation, frequently referred to as “Nipplegate,” was mostly aimed at Jackson herself. However, the singer now has a pointed message for the Internet regarding who is or isn't at fault.
For context, in the weeks following the infamous mishap, there was a ton of uproar from politicians and viewers alike that Janet Jackson had “sexualized” a family-friendly event. They speculated that it was done on purpose as a PR stunt and, as a result, Jackson was summarily disinvited from the Grammys that year. Her Damita Jo album was also banned from being played on MTV and VH1 as well.
Justin Timberlake wouldn’t catch as much flak for the Super Bowl ordeal at the time. But in the recent wake of fans questioning his treatment of Britney Spears in the early aughts, the former *NSYNC member eventually saw some backlash for how he was treated in 2004 versus how the "Rhythm Nation" singer was – and it’s gotten the official Hulu treatment. He has publicly apologized, yet in her new Lifetime documentary, the youngest of the Jackson family revealed that she advised Timberlake to let her take most of the heat for the situation. (Her stylist, however, has some choice words for how Timberlake ultimately handled things.) Jackson also said:
The pop star continued in the documentary that being blacklisted after the wardrobe malfunction took a “toll” on her, adding that she was only able to “pull-through” because of friends and family. In the four-part Lifetime series, several of those closest to her in fact backed up her side of the story, sayin that it was all an accident. Her brother, Tito Jackson, suggested that all the hoopla in 2004 was really due to Michael Jackson’s trial that was simultaneously gearing up. Her sister, Rebbie Jackson, claimed that her own kids witnessed Janet profusely crying immediately after the incident.
Likewise, Janet Jackson's then-boyfriend, Jermaine Dupri, who was in the audience at the Super Bowl, firmly stated that the malfunction wasn't purposely done to gain publicity. The notorious producer added that he felt compelled to leave his position on the board of the Grammys that year because of how they were treating Jackson.
In this day and age of the Internet, so many wardrobe malfunctions are laughed off that the 2004 Super Bowl issue is kind of an afterthought at this point. But hopefully, with Janet Jackson speaking the final word on it, there can be some closure and respect for what happened to her then. The full self-titled JANET JACKSON. documentary is available to stream on Lifetime and A&E.
Freelance writer. Favs: film history, reality TV, astronomy, French fries.
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