Janet Jackson is 47 years old today–that being May 17th–which might come as a shock to some of us. Especially if we can look back to when Janet was a child actress on ’70s television shows. Today, of course, she’s a megastar for her music and acting careers, and cited as an astounding role model from a talented family whose influence continues to inspire the artists of today. She’s one of the world’s most awarded artists, and we can see why!
The youngest child of the famous Jackson family, Janet grew up listening to her siblings. She didn’t always want to go into show business, however—her love of horses as a child was reflected in her desire to become a racehorse jockey! However, at the age of seven she appeared in her first performance onstage in Las Vegas Strip with her siblings at a casino show. She went on to perform with her brothers on their variety show The Jacksons three years later, and then on the sitcom Good Times. When she joined the cast of Diff’rent Strokes, Jackson became a role model for black youth in an industry over-inundated with white performers. Young girls of color often imitated her style, wearing her hairstyle and signature hoop earrings.
Jackson’s music career started nearly as early as her acting career, but did not reach wide acclaim until her third album Control in 1986. That album also launched the idea of Janet Jackson as a grown-up artist, even as plenty of other young pop stars adopted her earlier look. Control was a massive hit, too. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and sold 200,000 copies in one week. Five of the album’s singles peaked within the top five of Billboard Hot 100 and it reached five times platinum status by the RIAA. To this day Control still holds the record for American Music Award nominations at twelve nods–four of which Jackson ultimately won.
Jackson went on to continual success in her music, and she’s continued her acting career with roles ranging from serious movies to Nutty Professor II: The Klumps. We might still wish that she’d stayed an innocent pop star, but her influence is seen in plenty of today’s Radio Disney acts. All of those acts will grow up soon enough, too. That’s just the way it is with pop stars–but we keep hoping for a new generation influenced by young Janet!