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The Untold Story of Michael and Janet Jackson's Complex Relationship

Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson attend studio 54 | LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 24: Singer Janet Jackson and her brother singer Michael Jackson attend the 35th Annual Grammy Awards | Photo by Ron Davis/Getty Images

The Untold Story of Michael and Janet Jackson's Complex Relationship

'“Not a day goes by where I don’t think about him. Not one single day.”

Michael and Janet Jackson, two of the most iconic figures in the music industry, captivated audiences worldwide with their talent and stage presence. However, behind the scenes, their relationship was a confusing cocktail of deep affection, intense rivalry, and profound challenges.

From Sibling Bond To Stardom Rivalry

The Jackson family film a tv show at Burbank Studios, California, 13th November 1976. From left to right, Randy, La Toya, Marlon, Janet, Michael (1958 - 2009), Jackie, Rebbie and Tito.

Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Growing up in Gary, Indiana, Michael and Janet were part of the legendary Jackson 5 family, guided by their father, Joe Jackson. Joe’s tough love approach shaped their early years, pushing them towards musical greatness but also leaving deep emotional scars. Michael, the eighth child, and Janet, the youngest, initially shared a close bond, often spending time together in the family’s home studio. However, Joe's strict and often harsh disciplinary methods created a complex family dynamic that affected all the Jackson children deeply.

Joe Jackson's harsh disciplinary methods left a mark on all his children. Michael often spoke of his fear and resentment towards Joe, while Janet had a slightly different experience, facing his wrath "only once." Despite their childhood trauma, both siblings acknowledged that Joe’s methods, however controversial, played a role in their success. Janet expressed a desire for a closer relationship with her father, despite his strict and often abusive parenting style. “I know that he loves me, and he’s told me before ... He has his issues, his things, the way he was brought up. He’s set in his ways, and I think he did the best that he could.” Janet said in a 2011 interview.

Despite having a controversial father figure, Janet had a protector and ally in brother Michael...or did she?

Living In Michael's Shadow

Michael’s meteoric rise to stardom began with the release of his 1982 album, Thriller, which marked a turning point in their relationship—according to Janet. As Michael’s fame soared, a noticeable shift occurred. Janet, then just 16, felt the distance growing between them. Despite this, she pursued her own path, achieving solo success with her albums Control and Rhythm Nation 1814, although often under the shadow of her brother’s colossal fame.

Meanwhile, Michael Jackson dominated the 80s and transformed the music industry for the better. In 1983, Michael Jackson became the first Black artist to gain significant airplay on MTV with his "Billie Jean" music video. Premiering on March 10, 1983, the video was included in MTV's heavy rotation by the end of the month, despite the single already topping the Billboard Hot 100. Initially, MTV executives declined to air the video, believing that Black music was not suited to their rock-focused programming. Nonetheless, the video ultimately succeeded in overcoming the network's racial barriers.

Between top charting singles and high profile relationships it seemed like Michael Jackson had it all...that was, until shocking allegations came to light that threatened to take everything from him.

Controversial Allegations Against Michael Threatened Janet's Career

LaToya Jackson, Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson on a break for lunch at the Santa Maria courthouse for a pretrial hearing in the Michael Jackson child molestation case August 16, 2004 in Santa Maria, California. Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville has set the jury trial date for January 31, 2005.

Pool photo by Edward Souza (Photo by Pool Photographer/WireImage)

The 1990s brought significant challenges for both siblings. Michael faced accusations of child sexual abuse in 1993 and 2003, which subsequently took a toll on Janet’s career and personal life. She suffered an irreparable amount of collateral damage, even when Michael was eventually found not guilty of any accusations.

During this tumultuous time, the intense media scrutiny and public judgment affected their already strained relationship.In a heartbreaking interview from her 2022 documentary mini series Janet Jackson, Janet revealed that Michael’s teasing about her weight during their childhood left lasting wounds, contributing to her struggles with body image.

'There were times when Mike used to tease me and call me names. ‘Pig, horse, slaughter hog, cow,” Janet shared in the documentary series. “He would laugh about it and I’d laugh too, but then there was somewhere down inside that it would hurt.” - Janet Jackson

Michael Jackson's criticism's was misguided love—the only kind he himself had ever known. While he had a deep respect for his sister's talent, Michael held her to the same impossibly high standard he was held to growing up. Without realizing it, Michael had become the very person he despised the most—his father.

Their Failed Reunion and Michael's Addiction Only Made Things Worse—But Janet Still Had Hope

Their 1995 collaboration on the single “Scream” was meant to be a reunion but ended up highlighting the distance between them. Janet recalled feeling hurt when Michael’s record company blocked her from his set, making her realize how much their relationship had changed.

“Michael shot nights, I shot days. His record company would block off his set so I couldn’t see what was going on. They didn’t want me on set,” Janet recalls. “That really hurt me because I felt I was there fighting the fight with him, not to battle him. I wanted it to feel like old times between he and I, and it didn’t. Old times had long passed.” - Janet Jackson

The experience was far from the family reunion Janet had hoped for. Yet, despite the surmounting tensions, Janet never stopped supporting Michael in the ways she could. During his legal battles and personal struggles with addiction, she stood by him, even when it affected the career she fought so hard for.

The Jackson family’s attempts to intervene in Michael’s addiction issues were met with resistance, but Janet’s loyalty never wavered. Janet was desperate to return to the good "old times," before the fame and fortune changed everything. She even proposed a Jackson 5 family reunion tour to help Michael refocus, though it didn’t come to fruition. Sadly, Michael Jackson's stardom was so like Pandora's box. Once it had been opened, there was no turning back.

Janet also fought to help Michael get sober. "My family chartered a private jet and they came for an intervention. It was a way of us getting close again and he wasn’t having it.” By the time of his death in 2009, Jackson was receiving daily doses of OxyContin, a strong prescription opioid used to manage severe pain, and was regularly taking Demerol and anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications. He also had numerous track marks that indicated intravenous drug use.

Burying Her Brother After A Long Battle

From left, Michael Jackson's sister Janet Jackson, daughter Paris, sister LaToya Jackson, brother Jermaine Jackson and oldest son Prince Michael I attend a memorial service for the "King of Pop" at the Staples Center in Los Angeleson July 7, 2009.

ABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images

On June 25, 2009, the world was shocked by the sudden death of Michael Jackson. The legendary singer died of acute propofol intoxication at the age of 50 in his Los Angeles home. His personal physician, Conrad Murray, found Michael in his bedroom not breathing and with a weak pulse. Despite administering CPR and calling for emergency help, Jackson was pronounced dead in Los Angeles at 2:26 p.m.

At the time of his death, Michael was preparing for his much-anticipated comeback concerts, "This Is It," scheduled to begin in July 2009 in London. His passing not only triggered global mourning but also caused a surge in internet traffic and a spike in sales of his music. A televised memorial service held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles was viewed by an estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide, reflecting the immense impact Michael had on his fans and the music industry. Standing front and center at his funeral was Janet Jackson, and all eyes were on her.

Janet Jackson was devastated by the loss of her brother. The pain of losing Michael was compounded by the media frenzy and the revelations about his struggles with insomnia and dependency on medication. In her heartfelt tribute, Janet shared, "Not a day goes by where I don’t think about him. Not one single day."

When It Comes To Family It's Never "Black or White" 

The relationship between Michael and Janet Jackson was a whole spectrum of emotions. It was full of love, pain, and ultimately support. Despite their struggles, they both achieved incredible success and left a lasting impact on the music industry. Their journey shows the importance of believing in yourself, being brave, and the strong bonds of family.

Michael and Janet's legacy isn't just about their music. It's also about how they faced and overcame their personal and professional challenges. Their story encourages us to tackle our own problems with courage and to appreciate the family connections that keep us going, even when things get tough. As Janet continues to honor Michael's memory, she reminds us of the power of forgiveness, resilience, and the unbreakable ties that bind families together.

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