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02/09/11 By NBC Today and Dateline

Jackson Tells Vieira: “I Never Ever Felt Attractive”

Interview to air Friday, February 11 and Monday, February 14 on “Today” and Sunday, February 13 on “Dateline NBC” 7 p.m. ET

NEW YORK – In a network television exclusive, Meredith Vieira sits down with Janet Jackson to discuss her revealing new book, True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself, which will be released February 15 by Karen Hunter Publishing/Gallery Books. The interview will air Friday, February 11 and Monday, February 14 on “Today” and Sunday, February 13 on “Dateline NBC” 7 p.m. ET.

In the revealing interview, Jackson opens up about her complex childhood and longstanding issues with self esteem, her career highs and lows, her struggles with weight, and her relationship with her family. She tells Vieira, “I never ever felt attractive.”

Excerpts from the interview follow. If used, mandatory credit, NBC “Today” and “Dateline” with airdates. Photos are available on and, and a web clip can be viewed at

Jim Bell is the executive producer of “Today” (Mon.- Fri., 7 a.m.-11 a.m.). David Corvo is the executive producer of “Dateline NBC.”

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MEREDITH VIEIRA: Back in your 20s, your album "Rhythm Nation" topping the charts, you were in a good place presumably. But you wrote in the book that you were so unrelentingly self-critical, that quote, "I hated what I saw in the mirror. I would literally bang my head against the wall because I felt so ugly." You really did that?

JANET JACKSON: I would literally bang my head up against the wall because I didn't feel attractive… There was a lot of pain in my life. But I did. I felt very unattractive.

MEREDITH VIEIRA: Where did that come from?

JANET JACKSON: It stems from my childhood. I remember being a kid, and I talk about it in the book even…

MEREDITH VIEIRA: You're talking about your sister, Rebbie…

JANET JACKSON: Yes, that is exactly where I'm going. There was this picture of my sister, Rebbie. And I would always look at her picture and I thought, "Oh Gosh, she's so beautiful. If I could only look like that when I get older. God, how gorgeous is she?" And I never ever felt attractive. And I still have issues with it. I don't bang my head up against the wall, but I still have those moments. And I think it'll probably continue but at least I know how to deal with it now. And I'm in a much better space.

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MEREDITH VIEIRA: Some of the teasing came from your family? From your brothers?


MEREDITH VIEIRA: Michael in particular would tease you about your butt?

JANET JACKSON: Yes, yes, yeah.

MEREDITH VIEIRA: And you write in the book that you thought it was probably affectionate, not meant to be cruel. But you internalized it.

JANET JACKSON: Yes, yes, yeah. He never meant for it to be cruel. He didn't realize what the effect that it was having on me…And it really effected me

MEREDITH VIEIRA: Why do you think you never said anything to Michael, because you're so close?

JANET JACKSON: Just the kind of kid that I was. I don't know, I never did. Never, ever did. Never said, "You know, that really hurts me when you say that." I got called a lot of names, a lot of names. I would laugh about it--

MEREDITH VIEIRA: What kinds of names?

JANET JACKSON: Horse, pig, cow, slaughter-hog--

MEREDITH VIEIRA: This is by your brothers?

JANET JACKSON: Yeah. (LAUGH) It makes you laugh, it really does. It makes you laugh. I guess some people could say, "Oh that's, you know, brothers and sisters joking, it's all affection, it's all, you know, it's in a loving way." But not everybody can brush it off, and I was one of those.


MEREDITH VIEIRA: I think you open up about your dad a lot in this book.

JANET JACKSON: My father and I, we've gone through our moments, we've had a different kind of relationship… My father was never there the way I really wanted a father to be…I would see my friends interact with their dad and I would say to myself, "That's what I want to do. I want to be able to sit on his lap. I want to be able to call him, 'Dad'."

MEREDITH VIEIRA: You called him Joseph, right?

JANET JACKSON: Yeah, he said, "That my name to you. You call me Joseph. You don't call me Da--" I tried it once.

MEREDITH VIEIRA: To call him dad?


MEREDITH VIEIRA: And what happened?

JANET JACKSON: He said, "I'm Joseph to you. You do not call me dad." See, you're gonna start me to going here. That affects you as a kid… I know my father loves me. He just has a very, very different way of showing it.

MEREDITH VIEIRA: You give your dad credit for activating your career. You're also blunt, Janet, you-- and Michael said this too, that you were scared--


MEREDITH VIEIRA: --of your dad and there was a time when you were, I guess, in the bath and he struck you with a belt when you came out?

JANET JACKSON: That was the only time my father ever whupped me.

MEREDITH VIEIRA: How old were you then?

JANET JACKSON: I was very young, very young. And I can't even remember what I did, but I remember it happening. And I don't think I deserved it. I don't think it should have ever happened. A lot of times I felt that my father would take things out on us because of-- I don't know, issues outside of the home. But we were, we were afraid of my father, growing up.


MEREDITH VIEIRA: Your brother, Michael. You've dedicated your book to Mike. And, there's a great picture in here that I just fell in love with. You say, "Mike named me Dunk, and we shared every dream, every confidence. I was his little sister. He always knew that I had his back." What do you mean, "You always had his back?"

JANET JACKSON: We had each other's back. But, later on in life, certain things that he was going through-- I tried to be there for him as much as I could. And, even well, Scream, the song, the video…all the allegations at the time…I'm his little sister there, supporting him, and-- and that’s what the song is about.

MEREDITH VIEIRA: And, the last time you saw Michael was around your birthday.


Two days before my birthday.

MEREDITH VIEIRA: Did you tell him you loved him?

JANET JACKSON: Yeah. The last thing we said to one another.


JANET JACKSON: Yeah. I said, "I love you." He says, "I love you too, Dunk."

MEREDITH VIEIRA: You wrote, "I can't describe our pain in losing a brother, or the pain of his children in losing their father, or the pain of my parents in losing their son. I still have not seen the film, This Is It. I still can't watch any of his videos, listen to his music. I'm certain that one day I'll again be able to enjoy the miraculous sound of his voice, and the marvelous sight of his dancing. But, that day has not yet arrived. The mourning continues." Where are you in that process, Janet, at this point?

JANET JACKSON: I finally was able to-- I was in Paris. And, it was one of those-- one of those moments. At some point you have to-- you have to move on. And, trying to do that, and it being really difficult. And, there's still not a day that goes by where I don't think about him. Not one day. Not one day. And-- kind of pushing myself, forcing myself, to a certain degree, to get over this because it's-- it's not the healthiest.

MEREDITH VIEIRA: It can be debilitating--

JANET JACKSON: Yes, very much so. And, I just spent the night just watching all his videos, listening to his music. And, there was moments when I-- I felt the cry, and moments that made me laugh. And, it was good for me. I needed it. Out of everyone in my family, I never had that moment to cry about his death.

MEREDITH VIEIRA: Why didn't you have that moment?

JANET JACKSON: I don't know if it was trying to shield the pain, or just trying to hold it all together because I saw that everyone else around me was falling apart. And, never-- never taking that moment to really grieve. Really grieve, even at the service.

MEREDITH VIEIRA: That night in Paris, did you really grieve?

JANET JACKSON: There's more to come. I know there's more to come.

MEREDITH VIEIRA: It's almost, in its own way, a bit on a different level, reminiscent of you as a kid, holding everything in, and, eventually--

JANET JACKSON: Eventually releasing it.

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