‘I’m not going to stop being who I am and creating the music that I create.’
Photo Credit: Chuando & Frey
Janet will receive the Vanguard Award from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) at the 19th Annual GLAAD Media Awards on April 26 at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles.
Becoming a pop icon takes undeniable talent, ferocious discipline and, of course, a solid gay fanbase. The legendary Janet Jackson has all three, and she’s proving it yet again with her 10th studio album, appropriately titled “Discipline.”
Miss Janet returns to her pop roots on the new release with infectious songs like “Luv” and “Can’t B Good” and heats up the clubs with cuts like the thumping lead single, “Feedback,” “Rock With U” and “The 1” (featuring Missy Elliott).
For those late-night rendezvous, there are freak-session songs like the title track, in which Janet coos, “Daddy take your time… I want you to punish me… I need some discipline tonight.” Wow, what’s next — a Janet Jackson booth at the Folsom Street Fair?
In a relaxed one-on-one chat, a jovial Jackson dished on her gay friend “Keisha,” her celebrity girl-crush and hip-hop homophobia, before dispensing the greatest advice of all: how to battle a “Madonna” drag queen.
Janet, what can your gay fans expect from the new album, “Discipline?”
What’s in it for the children? The kids! [Laughs] I know they love to dance — that’s what it is. There’s “Rock With U,” a house song, which everyone’s seemed to have fallen in love with — even the kids in Europe.
At what point in your career did you know you had a gay following?
I think it showed its face more to me, or maybe I realized it more, when I did “Together Again.” What album was that?
That was 1997’s “The Velvet Rope.”
Thank you very much for knowing my own work! [Laughs] I don’t ever really remember saying, “I’ve got a pretty nice gay following,” or “The children are really into me.” I never thought about it.
Do you have many gay people in your inner circle?
Yeah, I do.
Who is the closest gay person to you?
His name is Gil, and we’ve been best friends for about 11 years. He’s a creative director and one of the choreographers that I work with as well.
How does your man, Jermaine Dupri, react to the gay boys around you?
He doesn’t. We’re all friends. As a matter of fact, it’s so cute because we all call Gil “Keisha.” It’s a pet name. Jermaine calls him “Keisha,” too, and it startled Gil because he had never done it before. It’s just cute to see. Are you asking because Jermaine’s in the hip-hop world?
‘I’m not going to stop,’ says Janet Jackson about her support of the gay community.
It’s just another friend with Jermaine. He loves Gil just as much as I do. I’ve heard people talk a little bit about that, but that doesn’t apply when it comes to Jermaine. He’s very comfortable with all my friends, and they’ve become his friends as well.
You have a strong fan base in hip-hop, which does have a reputation of homophobia. How do you balance that with your own personal acceptance of the gay community?
I’ve never really thought about it. I just do what I do. There have been moments where I know people have spoken out about certain things that I’ve done, which skewed more toward topics that dealt with the gay community, and they disliked it — but I’m not going to stop.
For instance, I think it was “The Velvet Rope” album, and a couple of people had a little bit to say about it. Whether it was “Free Xone” or “Tonight’s the Night” because I didn’t change the lyrics, so I was singing to another girl… the song is just beautiful, I don’t want to change the lyrics, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t have an issue with that, so if they want to get all wound up in a knot, that’s really their issue. I’m not going to stop being who I am and creating the music that I create.
If you could be a man for a day, what’s the first thing you would do?
[Laughs] The very first thing I’d do? I can’t say that — it sounds silly!
You can say it, Janet. Let it out.
It’s simple: I’m real curious to see what it feels like to pee.
It’s very convenient.
I’m sure it is! You don’t even have to take your pants completely down! Put it through the zipper, right? You guys got it easy!
What are your thoughts on gay marriage?
I’m all for it. Why not? It’s two people that are in love with one another. What’s the issue?
Who would be your celebrity girl-crush?
You know who I think is flawless? Alicia Keys. I think she’s absolutely beautiful, such a sweetheart, down to earth. So maybe Alicia Keys.
I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but there’s an internet war between Janet and Madonna fans. I know you and Madonna had some beef in the ’90s, but do you think the heat between Madonna and Janet fans has any validity?
No. I didn’t know this was going on. [Laughs]
They argue, make videos and, of course, it’s mostly the gay fans. People are curious: What are your thoughts on Madonna now?
I think she’s done wonderful things. She’s done great things in her career, in her life, and more power to her. I think fans will always be that way — always. They’re just incredibly loyal and they love you so much that if anyone says anything remotely negative, they’re there to just immediately jump on them. It’ll always be that way — very loyal.
If a “Janet” drag queen had to battle a “Madonna” drag queen, what advice would you give the Janet drag queen?
Kick the bitch’s ass!
— “Discipline” (Island) is in stores now, including White Rabbit in Charlotte and Raleigh. For more information, visit www.janetjackson.com.