If you’re not the Gen Z generation, you might have probably heard about the 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show Controversy surrounding Janet Jackson. If not, here’s the unfortunate incident that happened. Janet Jackson was the main performer at the show and Justin Timberlake was the surprise guest at the end of her performance. He was going to sing ‘Rock Your Body’ after Janet Jackson’s ‘Rhythm Nation’. At rehearsals, there was agreement that he was going to rip off Janet’s shirt a bit to reveal a red bra beneath. But he ended up ripping a lot more of her blouse and revealing her right breast.
Consequently, almost 165 million viewers saw her bare breast for 9/16th of a second. Right after the event, Justin Timberlake smirkingly shared that they did it so that the public would have something to talk about. Janet Jackson, meanwhile, was completely taken aback and denied ever planning it.
The whole controversy was retold in the New York Times Documentary ‘Malfunction: The Dressing Down of Janet Jackson’.
This was a huge moment for the music and entertainment industry as due to this, the broadcast policies were changed. And careers of the biggest pop stars, Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson, were forever altered.
As Justin Timberlake very unapologetically capitalized off from the incident and indirectly put the blame on Janet Jackson. His career only got more popular and successful from it. Meanwhile, Janet Jackson’s career was drastically affected, her latest album ‘Damita Jo’ at the time tanked. MTV would not play her songs, and she would get significantly less radio time as well. From the producers, to the event organizers, to the general public, everyone put the blame on her. Especially, because of the fact that her songs were about empowerment and sexuality. They always assumed her to be risqué because of that and her race. All through her life and career, Janet Jackson had to suffer racism and sexism while Justin Timberlake very thoroughly enjoyed the many benefits of white male privilege.
Justin Timberlake later on apologized to the general public for causing any distress and offense. So did Janet Jackson but she later said that she regrets making that public apology over an accident. Timberlake also later on came out and said that the general American public was much harsher to Janet because of her race and gender and he only got 10% of the blame. But he still did not call out the unfair treatment Janet Jackson was receiving as a result of it, he didn’t elaborate on it. And he didn’t take any responsibility for what had transpired.
In the interview above, you can see Janet Jackson discuss everything on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
She tells Oprah and the audience that Justin was not supposed to rip the whole thing off, it was an accident. And she did admit that Justin Timberlake left her “hanging”.
When the incident had happened, Janet scrambled to hide herself while Justin Timberlake just stood there and didn’t help her at all. Also his remarks right after the event didn’t help at all:
“We love giving y’all something to talk about,” he shared with Access Hollywood post-show.
And when someone asked if he ‘got nasty with Ms. Jackson’, he answered:
“Hey, man. It’s every man’s dream.”
But in this 2006 Oprah interview, Janet Jackson did not badmouth Justin Timberlake and still called him a friend. She did share that Justin had reached out to her but she was not ready to talk to him yet.
Moreover, there is also talk of it being planned. Since moments before the incident occurred, it was only Janet herself, Justin Timberlake and Janet’s stylist. They were planning the performance one last time before it happened.
And now the stylist is speaking about what the public didn’t know back then.
Wayne Scot shares that nothing differently was planned in those last moments. And that he didn’t do anything that was not decided upon already.
I was a work for hire. And I was hired to do a job. I did exactly what I was supposed to do. If I were with someone who is a dancer, you have to dance in a wardrobe, it has to never fall apart. My job is to have snaps, pins, velcro, so even in a quick change if she forgets to snap something back on, it stays on. That’s my job. I stand 100% by my story that I did exactly what I was supposed to do, what I was hired for.
Moreover, Scot called Jackson a friend and said that if he had ever hurt her, she would not have continued to hire him for years to come.
Wayne Scot also said that his friendship with Justin Timberlake ended that day because Timberlake had blamed him for the malfunction:
Haven’t spoken since he blamed me. Came off the stage and said it is just a little wardrobe malfunction. We all want to give you something to think about. He coined that phrase. When he said that, I thought friendship over. Friendship over. Wardrobe malfunction, I don’t malfunction. I was a professional stylist, $10,000 a day back then. I can’t fail. Why did you say that?
But Wayne Scot explains that the main fault lies with the show’s producers, they could have cut the show and not broadcast it to millions of people
Wayne Scot shares something that we always wondered about for years:
You were never supposed to see a movement where a breast was out, a body part was out. It was never supposed to be lingering on something they say was this terrible thing for such a long time. They were supposed to cut to black. You were supposed to get the idea of I am going to have your naked body by this song, nobody was supposed to be naked. And I never said that. Somebody didn’t push the button, somebody didn’t protect my friend.
The popular stylist reveled that for the Super Bowl Halftime performances, there are actually two taped shows. One is taped just in case you need to use it if there’s a satellite issue. Another one is the live version that we see.
Now when the accident happened and Janet Jackson’s breast was exposed on live television, the producers should have cut to the taped version of the Super Bowl Halftime performance. But they did not.
They didn’t cut anything and waited for too long.
When you do the super bowl, this is the secret, you shoot it twice. You shoot the performance twice because the first time you shoot it, you shoot it in case the satellite goes down and they have to cut to the original rehearsal. So they had a second performance that the minute that happened they could have pushed the button and cut to the tape and they didn’t.
Scot Wayne also revealed that he had talked to Janet Jackson about the latest documentary that has come out about the 2004 incident. She requested him to not talk about anything and to let it go. Janet shared that she will talk about everything in her own two-part, four-hour documentary premiering next year.