What happened with Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson? Behind the Hollywood scenes, friendships are made, maintained, and sometimes broken.
The Super Bowl halftime show tends to bridge together artists who are friends, or at the very least, have a mutual respect for each other. When Janet Jackson was joined by Justin Timberlake during her performance years ago, things went left and it ruined their friendship. Where do they stand now?
The year was 2004 when Houston, Texas hosted Super Bowl XXXVIII and organizers handed the halftime show to MTV. Janet Jackson performed a string of her hits, and Justin Timberlake showed up as a surprise guest.
She joined him to sing his tune “Rock Your Body”, that’s when there was a wardrobe malfunction. On stage, the two danced together and toward the end of the song, Timberlake flipped open a piece on Jackson’s corset, exposing her breast.
That day would forever be marked in infamy and dubbed “Nipplegate”. Roughly 100 million viewers were watching the game, and CBS was hit with a record-breaking amount of complaints.
In the aftermath, the FCC issued fines against CBS. The NFL cut halftime show ties with MTV, and Janet Jackson was blacklisted.
She apologized and maintained the incident was not intentional and her breast wasn’t exposed on purpose, but her music was banned from certain radio and TV stations for years, including MTV.
Jackson was also barred from further performances such as the Super Bowl and the Grammys. Timberlake was not. The fines were eventually tossed but Jackson’s career was affected for years.
At first, Timberlake didn’t issue a formal apology after the ordeal. He told an interviewer, “We love giving you all something to talk about”.
Jackson apologized during multiple TV interviews but added she thought the world was facing greater issues and didn’t understand the anger being directed toward solely at her.
Many fans felt that Timberlake didn’t do enough to come to her defense, and simply left her dangling to take the punishment on her own when they both were on stage.
Prior to this, Jackson welcomed NYSYNC on tour with her, giving them an opening slot on the roster and built a friendship with Timberlake. She even sang on his solo debut. The Super Bowl show caused a rift in their friendship.
In 2006, he admitted to MTV he only received part of the blame and that women and ethnic people are treated harshly in America.
During that same period, Jackson told Oprah Winfrey she wasn’t ready to speak to him yet after he didn’t really support her. Referring to the handling of the incident, she said:
“Just to let people know that Justin has reached out, we haven’t spoken. And like I said friendship is very important to me and certain things you just don’t do to friends. In my own time, I’ll give him a call”.
10 years later, former FCC chairman Michael Powell told ESPN Magazine that Jackson was treated unfairly, but at the time, he had to do his job. By 2018, Timberlake was invited back to perform during the halftime show and many fans—and some of Jackson’s family—were not happy about it.
Preparing for his appearance at Super Bowl LII, Timberlake had some wondering if Jackson would appear. At the time, Twitter users launched a “JusticeforJanet” campaign and Billboard magazine urged the singer to invite Jackson. The reunion didn’t happen..
Shortly before the 2018 Super Bowl gig, Timberlake did an interview with Zane Lowe for Apple’s Beats1 and acknowledged he could have done more. He also said he made amends with Jackson in private.
“I don’t think that a lot of people know that. I don’t think it’s my job to do that because you value the relationships that you do have with people”.
According to the New York Post, Jackson and Timberlake met in person a few years ago to mend fences, but it took her some time to get to that point.