It’s been almost 20 years since Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake performed at the 2004 Super Bowl in a musical set that caused controversy, coined the phrase “wardrobe malfunction,” and began a conversation about backlash—and who receives it—that is still ongoing today. Immeiately after the scandal, Jackson commented on the situation in a few statements and interviews, but in the years since, it’s not a subject that she’s addressed often. But, in a new interview with Allure, Jackson shared her thoughts on the Super Bowl scandal with 18 years of distance. Read on to see what the actor and pop singer had to say.
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Here’s what went down and why viewers were so upset.
At the end of their Super Bowl halftime show, Jackson and Timberlake performed his song “Rock Your Body,” and when he got to the line, “Bet I’ll have you naked by the end of this song,” he ripped off a piece of Jackson’s top, exposing her breast, which was covered only by body jewelry. Jackson and Timberlake both apologized after the incident, said it was an accident, and that Timberlake was only meant to rip one layer of her top, leaving a red bra beneath.
In response to the performance, Jackson’s music was pulled from Viacom channels and radio stations and she was disinvited from performing at and attending that year’s Grammy Awards, as reported by Billboard. Meanwhile, Timberlake still performed at the ceremony. In 2018, he headlined the Super Bowl halftime show alone, while Jackson has never returned.
Jackson’s family and faith got her through the experience.
In the new Allure interview, Jackson shared how she coped with the backlash she received after the Super Bowl. “What’s really important is going back to having that foundation. Not just family, but God,” she said. “That’s what really pulled me through … It’s tough for me to talk about that time.”
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The incident is part of a bigger conversation now.
The Super Bowl scandal has been reexamined in recent years when it comes to the double standard apparent in how Jackson was treated in the aftermath compared to Timberlake. To some, it appeared that the white male artist knowingly benefitted from the situation while Jackson was put down. In February 2021, Timberlake apologized to both Jackson and his ex-girlfriend Britney Spears, who also suffered in the media while Timberlake was celebrated.
“I am 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,” he wrote in a statement on Instagram. “I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and have benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism.”
Jackson believes that matters have improved because of these conversations.
In the Allure interview, Jackson explained, “Whether I want to be part of that conversation or not, I am part of that conversation.” She continued, “I think it’s important. Not just for me, but for women. So I think it’s important that conversation has been had. You know what I mean? And things have changed obviously since then for the better.”
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