"We talked once, and he said, ‘I don’t know if I should come out and make a statement,'" Jackson recalls in her new docuseries.
It's been nearly 18 years since Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake blew up the early days of the internet with the nipple piercing seen 'round the world. Since that time, the story has proved as indelible as the image.
Now, however, Janet Jackson herself certainly looks like she's trying to put a punctuation mark on the conversation after nearly two decades, and maybe put it to bed.
Taking up a good chunk of the fourth hour of her "Janet Jackson" Lifetime docuseries, she found her way back into the "wardrobe malfunction" story that won't die by sharing her reasoning behind a decision she made in 2018 to again try and put it away.
With Justin Timberlake scheduled to return to the Super Bowl halftime show, Jackson confirmed reports that she had been asked to join him. "When I think about it, would it be nice to be able to perform? Yes," she conceded. "But on the flip side of it, it’s stretching out the past, reliving something that happened over ten years ago."
And yet, here she is again reliving it because people just can't seem to let it go. One of the reasons for that is all of the conflicting stories about what exactly happened, what was supposed to happen, who was at fault and how the world reacted to it.
In the wake of a national reckoning about how female celebrities have been treated and mistreated over the years, new eyes were cast back to that fateful night in 2004. In particular, because of Justin Timberlake's involvement and his public apology to Britney Spears over their breakup (and his behavior) including Jackson's name.
Timberlake wrote that he was "deeply sorry for the times in my life where my actions contributed to the problem, where I spoke out of turn, or did not speak up for what was right. I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism."
"I specifically want to apologize to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson both individually, because I care for and respect these women and I know I failed," he continued.
Many fans wondered if that was the first time he'd ever properly apologized for the incident, but she was quick to dispel that rumor. She also squashed speculation that he and his team somewhat maliciously stayed silent, letting her take almost the full brunt of media backlash.
As it turns out, Jackson said that he reached out to her in the immediate aftermath. "We talked once, and he said, ‘I don’t know if I should come out and make a statement," she shared. "I said, ‘Listen, I don’t want any drama for you. They’re aiming all of this at me.’ So I just said if I were you, I wouldn’t say anything."
As noted by People, though, Jackson told Oprah Winfrey in 2006 that she did feel "to a certain degree, yeah" as if Timberlake had left her hanging as "all the emphasis was put on me."
It could be that she had no idea at the time just how much that would be, with her effectively blacklisted in the industry for quite some time while his album sales skyrocketed and his career continued unimpeded.
Nevertheless, his apparent silence at the time vilified Jackson then, and hasn't done him any favors in the intervening years as his lack of statement and response was seen as callous and selfish. As it turns out, though, Jackson said that she and Timberlake still enjoy a good relationship and the situation may have been more complex than anyone realized.
In a video clip recorded earlier this month, Jackson said, "Justin and I are very good friends, and we will always be very good friends. We spoke just a few days ago. He and I have moved on, and it's time for everyone else to do the same."
Not only is she ready for everyone to move on to an incident that no one would want to define their life or career, she says we need to get over the incident itself. "Honestly, this whole thing was blown way out of proportion," she said.
She also further reiterated the same assertions that everyone involved has been making since that day that this was in no way some pre-planned publicity stunt. "Of course, it was an accident that should not have happened," she reiterated. "But everyone is looking for someone to blame and that's got to stop."
Jackson's partner at the time, Jermaine Dupri, echoed her frustration. "It pissed me off a lot when people were saying she did this to create this hype," he said. "The way people tried to play it was disgusting for me."
He further said that he resigned from the Grammy board shortly after Jackson said she was "disinvited" to that year's ceremony. In a NYT documentary on Jackson, per The Hollywood Reporter, a former VP for the Grammys said she instead backed out and the Academy had never "disinvited" her.
In other words, we may still not have the full story of exactly what happened, and we may never get it. But maybe we can agree that it's time to get over it and move on just like everyone involved has been trying to do for 18 long years!