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Janet Jackson's wardrobe mishap while performing with Justin Timberlake at the 2004 Super Bowl has earned its own documentary. The New York Times and FX special Malfunction: The Dressing Down of Janet Jackson examines the world of sports and television production to try and uncover what really happened that night.
Now, the singer is releasing her own documentary: Janet Jackson. And even though she addresses the performance, there are still a lot of questions that need answers.
Like, what went down onstage? And who's responsible? Here's what there is to know so far, from the facts to the rumors, and everything in between:
What happened with Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl?
Justin Timberlake was a surprise guest. But he ended up making headlines when he tore part of Janet's top off, exposing her breast on national television for nine-sixteenths of a second. Viewers were shocked, Janet's career spiraled, and an immediate scandal ensued.
“I think it just became an explosive powder keg,” Malfunction director Jodi Gomes explained on the Today show. “And in the middle of that was this woman who had pioneered her image, and she was punished for it.”
What new info came out in 'Malfunction'?
The documentary (created by the same team who released Framing Britney Spears) used old footage mixed with new interviews to try and uncover what really happened. It premiered on Hulu on Nov. 19. Although Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake weren't involved, plenty of NFL and CBS insiders shared their thoughts and opinions on the scandal.
Apparently, Salli Frattini, the MTV executive in charge of the halftime show, recalled a big push for the show to be filled with sex appeal. Justin was supposed to tear Jackson's skirt off to reveal a jumpsuit she was wearing underneath (not her top), but the plan was canceled at the last minute, per The Guardian.
Instead, Janet joined Justin in a duet of his song "Rock Your Body." And when he got to the lyric, "Gonna have you naked by the end of this song," Justin ripped Jackson's bodice to reveal her breast, covered only by a piece of nipple jewelry. Janet looked shocked, and the performance abruptly cut to commercial.
Afterward, Janet was (understandably) upset. “Janet fled–we couldn’t get her on the phone, we couldn’t get her manager on the phone,” Frattini said. “She should’ve said, ‘no one knew, and it was a mistake.' She never said anything to us. Here we are trying to ask the person that this happened to–because it happened to her–and she was gone.”
And, CBS chief Les Moonves demanded that both Janet and Justin apologize on the air. Justin did, but Janet refused. “It felt like another request for something that was an accident,” said Matt Serletic, the then-CEO of Jackson’s record label, Virgin Records. “Something that didn’t need to be laid completely on her. And so she didn’t do it, and good for her.”
Was the incident really an accident?
Some suspect that there were others conspiring behind the scenes to pull Janet's top off on purpose. The stylist behind Janet's Super Bowl look, Wayne Scot Lukas, told Page Six that Justin was behind it all.
Lukas said that Justin wanted to upstage Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Madonna, who had caused a stir by kissing at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards a few months earlier. The former NSYNC member “insisted on doing something bigger than their performance. He wanted a reveal.”
Lukas also shared that Janet's outfit was supposed to be completely different. “Janet was going to be in a Rocha dress, and [Justin] was going to step on the back of her dress to reveal her butt in this pearl G-string,” he told the outlet. But “the outfit changed a couple of days before, and you saw the magic.”
“I wouldn’t call it a wardrobe ‘malfunction’ in a million years," Lukas added. "As a stylist, it did what it was intended to do." (Hmmm.)
Now, Lukas is speaking out about Janet's Super Bowl costume.
In Jan. 2022, Lukas called Janet's Super Bowl outfit “the most functioning wardrobe I’ve ever designed,” per Page Six. He added that the camera should have immediately cut away from Jackson — as NBC did when Miley Cyrus' top fell off during her 2022 New Year's Eve performance.
“They took the camera off Miley," Lukas said during NewsNation's Banfield. "Janet had a wardrobe malfunction, and they kept the camera on Janet the whole time. They didn’t cut away.”
“They could’ve cut away,” he explained. “And there was a five-second delay on the Super Bowl and the NFL, that’s a lie. And, you always shoot the Super Bowl halftime show twice, so they had two films, so just in case the satellite goes down.”
So who is responsible?
There's a lot of speculation to sift through. Ultimately, who's to blame? While Malfunction takes a hard look at the scandal, the film never comes out and says who's responsible. And, it looks like there isn't a clear answer yet. Whether Janet's onstage wardrobe issues were accidental or someone's publicity strategy, there's no way to tell for sure.
Has Janet ever commented on the incident?
Not publicly, but she could be making a statement soon. The singer is releasing her own documentary about her career called Janet. She co-produced the film with producer and singer Randy Jackson, according to Pitchfork.
The first trailer for Janet dropped in September:
The film might include Janet's own thoughts on what happened at the Super Bowl. Justin Timberlake, on the other hand, recently apologized to Janet Jackson (and Britney Spears) in an Instagram post:
"I specifically want to apologize to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson both individually, because I care for and respect these women and I know I failed," he wrote.
The two-part special Janet will air on Lifetime and A&E in January 2022, per Rolling Stone.
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