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A Look Back At The Controversial Super Bowl Performance Of Janet Jackson And Justin Timberlake

As of November 19, 2021, the “Janet Jackson” documentary was out on Hulu and FX. The documentary tells the infamous Super Bowl issue between Jackson and Justin Timberlake. 

The 2004 Super Bowl remains indelible, not for its main event, but for the half-time performance of Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson. The pair had a mind-blowing performance, but it all came crashing down towards the end.

The unfortunate incident that stemmed from a wardrobe malfunction became known as “Nipplegate,” and it marred Jackson’s career. Unfortunately, it also led to a rift between her, and Timberlake. Here’s a look through the scandalous moment and its effect.

Janet Jackson documentary
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The Super Bowl Performance

Janet was initially slated to perform at the Super Bowl two years earlier, but that did not come to fruition. However, her time came in 2004, and she planned to perform with a creative twist.

A few days before the Super Bowl, Jackson’s choreographer, Gil Duldulao, spoke with MTV to share tidbits about what fans are to expect. At the time, MTV was in charge of producing the half-time performance.

Duldulao briefed the entertainment franchise on some stars who would be performing with Janet but left out Timberlake because he was a major part of her performance.

On the day of the event, Jackson stepped out at half-time, performing her songs, “All For You” and “Rhythm Nation.” Other guest stars, like Diddy, Nelly, and Kid Rock, also performed their songs. 

All the while, Jackson had her backup dancers on stage, but as Timberlake stepped into the arena, the stage cleared out, leaving only Jackson and Timberlake; at the time, he was riding high on the success of his first solo album. 

The “Nipplegate” Wardrobe Malfunction and Jackson’s Woes

Timberlake hit the stage with his hit song, “Rock Your Body,” while he and Jackson choreographed to the song. Jackson rocked an all-black look with a samurai-style cloak and a lace corset top. 

Just as the “Mirrors” crooner let out the last part of the song’s lyrics, their bodies aligned. And almost immediately after he said the final syllable, Timberlake reached over Jackson’s shoulder.

The music star stood transfixed while Timberlake grabbed the hem of her corset top and ripped it open. The outfit came undone alongside Jackson’s red underwear, exposing her right breast, in front of over 100 million viewers. 

The stage lights went off, indicating the end of the performance while Jackson stood scrambling to cover up. Timberlake, on the other hand, stood holding the ripped part of her outfit. 

Events After The Malfunction

There were not many accounts of the “Pleasure Principle” singer’s reaction after Timberlake ripped her outfit. However, in the “Janet Jackson” documentary, the Super Bowl director Beth McCarthy-Miller shared an account of what happened afterward.

McCarthy-Miller recalled that she brought a blanket for Jackson to cover herself while the Grammy-winning singer cried. There were also no addresses from her and her team that night.

On the other hand, Timberlake seemed relaxed when he gave interviews and noted that he had a fun night. He was also the first to release a statement apologizing for the wardrobe malfunction. His statement read:

“I am sorry if anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the half-time performance at the Super Bowl. It was not intentional and is regrettable.”

MTV also shared a statement that the ripping of Jackson’s costume was “unrehearsed, unplanned, completely unintentional and was inconsistent.” The production company also tendered an apology to all involved. 

Janet Jackson Took The Fall For “Nipplegate”

It wasn’t until the next day, after the sensitive Super Bowl incident, that Jackson released her statement. And her claims were a bit contrary to what MTV insinuated. 

The “Rhythm Nation” crooner explained that the dress-ripping scene was like an after-thought, and the decision was made after rehearsals were done. She also shared that MTV was “completely” unaware. 

However, this did not prevent the heavy clamp down on her career. The FCC condemned the half-time performance, calling it “classless, crass, and deplorable.” Ultimately, MTV chief executive, Tom Freston, blamed Jackson for it. 

The next few actions were quite detrimental to Jackson’s career, as she was stopped from performing during the Grammys that year. Timberlake, on the other hand, was not pressured, and he won two Grammy awards also. Jackson was banned from performing at any other Super Bowl event and blacklisted by Viacom. 

The “Janet Jackson” Documentary

The details of the unforgettable half-time performance were obscured at the time. However, there has been a recent documentary release centered on Jackson’s life and career.

The compilation is available for viewers to stream on Hulu+ With Live TV, Philo, and Sling. On the flip side, Timberlake tendered a belated apology to his ex Britney Spears and Jackson last year.

His apology to Jackson came seventeen years after the Nipplegate incident. He explained that he should have been more supportive of both women. The “Trolls” star mentioned that he failed Spears and Jackson. 

Ashabi
Ashabi
Ashabi is a writer who enjoys reading and putting her dynamic thoughts on people, places, and concepts into writing. Her range of writing interests includes literary works, creative writing reviews, lifestyle, celebrity catchups, health, travel, world news, and Poetry. Ashabi is a graduate of Linguistics, and she has an avid interest in entertainment, languages, and global history.
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