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Janet Jackson Learns to Love Herself, Talks ‘True You’ Book

Charles Sykes, AP

Janet Jackson is one of the bestselling recording artists in contemporary music history. The legendary R&B and pop icon’s music, videos and choreography have influenced the careers of countless artists including Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Toni Braxton, Ciara, Rihanna and Usher. Janet, an accomplished actress on both television and the big screen, and a Grammy Award winning singer/songwriter, is now a New York Times bestselling author.

Janet’s name became synonymous with her enviable six-pack and her non-apologetic approach to sexuality in her music and performance. It may therefore come as a surprise that the ‘Nasty’ singer has privately battled body image issues since she was a pre-teen. As Ms. Jackson approaches her 45th birthday (May 16), she opens up in a tell-all book that reveals her lifelong struggle with poor self-esteem, her battles with weight and her personal relationships. ‘True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself‘ is one part autobiography, one part self-help manual. The candid story is Janet’s first book, and her attempt to help others embrace and love themselves for who they are.

As Janet preps for her upcoming tour and her return to the studio later this year, she talks with The BoomBox about the emotional making of ‘True You,’ her favorite new artists and her new special someone.

What about your life, at this point in time, has encouraged you to finally reveal your secret personal struggles and put this book out?

It has been a long road, but I am finally happy with my life. ‘True You’ is not an autobiography, but it does have anecdotes from my life. When I was a kid, I didn’t like anything about myself, I didn’t feel that I could talk to anyone. I felt so alone. It was important for me to share these stories so people can see that they are not alone. I didn’t know of a book like this when I was growing up or I would have read it. It would have helped me so much and that is why I decided to write ‘True You’.

How do you define the ‘True You?’

Achieving your true you is going to be different for everyone. For me, it is about having confidence in myself, loving myself for how I am and living a happy life.

What was the hardest chapter to write in ‘True You?’ and why?

The whole book was difficult to write. I am a very private person. I guess I always have been, even as a child. I am not accustomed to revealing that much about myself.

Where were you and what was your reaction when ‘True You’ topped the ‘New York Times’ bestseller list?

I was on tour when I learned that ‘True You’ became a No. 1 ‘New York Times’ bestseller. My reaction is that I am so grateful to everyone who supported it and made it possible.

You write, “I want this book to make a difference.” Who has made the biggest difference in your life?

There is a person, who I can’t name, but I call him “the Cowboy.” He was the first person that I could open up to — truly open up to. Once I did that, my life started to get better. I hope that everyone will find that one person that they can trust with anything, and share the secrets that they feel are the biggest in their lives. It is so freeing.

The full title of your book is ‘True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself.’ What is something that you love about yourself now, but didn’t in the past?

[Laughs] I have come to love my big ol’ smile.

What’s one piece of advice Janet today would give Janet at 16?

Fasten your seat belt, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

What is your favorite recipe in the book and where does it hail from?

I love food. It would be easier for me to pick a style of food that I don’t love over one that is my favorite [laughs]. I worked with Chef Andre on all the recipes. My team and I would sit down and try all of them. We would make suggestions and Chef Andre would make changes. It was so much fun. How could I pick just one?

Did writing ‘True You’ inspire any new music; did it lead to any new songwriting?

I will be going into the studio later this year. I am not sure that ‘True You’ directly inspired that decision or not. I have grown during the process of writing ‘True You’ though, and that will show up in there somewhere. My music is inspired by what is going on in my life, so how could it not?

What is your advice to young girls and women today faced with impossible standards of beauty and perfection from mass media and struggling with low self-esteem?

Just remember that you are perfect just the way you are. Not everyone can look like the women on the covers of magazines. I know I can’t. Find your own true you, not what someone else thinks you should be, and be the best at that.

Bullying is a prevalent issue today in schools. Were you ever bullied as kid? Can you recall a certain experience, and what effect it had on you? What do you have to say to kids who are bullied at school today?

I can’t say that I’ve been bullied, but I have been teased. It was hard and has a lasting effect. If you are being bullied, please know that it gets better. You move away, you graduate, go to college, whatever. You move on and are not confronted by the kids that are bullying you. Your life will get better and you will find the happiness that you feel is not attainable.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

I have so many. I remember as kids we always had chores. We would be cleaning the kitchen, doing the dishes, washing the counters, stuff like that. While we were in the middle of our chores, we would be writing songs, singing. It was a lot of fun.

You have conquered acting and music, and now have penned your first book — what else is on your “To Do” list of things to accomplish?

There are so many things that I still want to accomplish in my life and career. How could I tell you just one?

Who are your favorite new artists out right now? Who are you listening to?

My music taste is so eclectic. I can be listening to samba, bossa nova or jazz one day — Lady Gaga or Bruno Mars the next. It just depends on the day.

What are you most nervous about when hitting the stage on your current tour?

I was most nervous about creating a show that would allow people who are coming to forget their troubles. Even if it is only for a few hours, it seems like people are enjoying the show. I know that I am.

What is (still) your favorite song to play on tour? How does it make you feel onstage and what reaction does it get from your crowds?

I love performing all my songs. The audience seems to be having a great time and that gives me so much energy. Each song is personal to me and I recall what I was going through at the time that I wrote it.

What do you think makes a great love song?

Honesty!

Is there a special someone in your life right now?

[Laughs] Yes, there is. He is very private so that is all I am going to say!

What are the three most important things in your life?

God, family and self.

 

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