KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty ImagesCall her Penny, Damita Jo or Miss Jackson if you’re nasty, but don’t forget to say “Happy Birthday!” Janet Jackson turns 50 years old today, May 16.
Of course, Janet has much to celebrate this year, especially the fact thatt she’s expecting her with husband, billionaire business magnate Wissam Al Mana. And while she had to put her Unbreakable World Tour on hold during the pregnancy, her 11th album hit number one on the Billboard 200.
It seems like for almost all of her half century, Janet has been a star. The youngest child of the Jackson family warmed hearts as the nosy but loveable Penny Gordon Woods on the 1970s sitcom Good Times, and continued to show her talents on her family’s variety show, The Jacksons.
Janet became a staple on television, making appearances on A New Kind of Family, a recurring role on Diff’rent Strokes, even playing the role of Cleo Hewitt during the fourth season of Fame.
Her first two albums, Janet Jackson in 1982 and Dream Street in 1984, hit the Billboard 200. But it was after her second album that Janet came into her own.
She declared independence from her father’s tutelage with Control, her breakthrough, third album. It spawned five top-five singles and kicked off Janet’s long history with Grammy-winning producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Control was the first in a string of five consecutive number-one albums, including the multi-platinum follow up Rhythm Nation 1814.
In July 1993, she made her film debut in Poetic Justice featuring Tupac Shakur. The film, which received positive reviews, also produced Jackson’s ballad “Again,” which received Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for Best Original Song.
Janet hasn’t led a picture perfect life. She has dealt with the infamous Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction” in 2004 and two publicized divorces, one from James DeBarge in 1985 and the other from Rene Elizondo Jr. in 2000.
“When we talk about the loneliness. I’ve been married twice, divorced twice. Even when you have someone with you 24/7 and still feeling alone. When I look back at it — it’s really, really sad. And I did a lot of that in my younger years,” she said in an interview with ABC Radio.
Thankfully, Janet has always rebounded, returning to music after seven years for Unbreakable last year.
Although her tour is on hold for now, Janet promises her fans it will resume. “I have to rest up, doctor’s orders. But um, I have not forgotten about you, I will continue the tour as soon as I possibly can,” she says.
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