Janet Jackson Says Michael Used to Call Her a ‘Pig’—Here’s What Their Relationship Was Really Like

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Ever since her brother’s death, fans have wondered what Janet Jackson and Michael Jackson‘s relationship was really like. On the surface, the pair appeared to be on good terms with one another—but a new two-part documentary series, Janet Jackson, seems to reveal otherwise.

Janet, who is the tenth and youngest child of the Jackson family, was raised in Gary, Indiana alongside her siblings. Her brothers Michael Jackson, Jackie Jackson, Tito Jackson, Jermaine Jackson
and Marlon Jackson famously made up the Jackson 5, a musical group founded by their father, Joe Jackson. From a young age, Janet was also pursuing a musical path as a member of the entertaining family. But as she reveals in 2022’s Lifetime documentary Janet Jackson, she often struggled with her body image and confidence while growing up in the spotlight—and her older brother Michael used to tease her over this.

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“There were times when Mike used to tease me and call me names. ‘Pig, horse, slaughter hog, cow,” Janet shared in the documentary series. “He would laugh about it and I’d laugh too, but then there was somewhere down inside that it would hurt.” The “Rhythm Nation” singer went on to admit, “When you have somebody say you’re too heavy, it affects you.”

Janet’s weight has fluctuated throughout her life—an experience she blames on being an “emotional eater.” She explains, “When I get stressed or something is really bothering me, [eating] comforts me.” Add to this the pressures of going through puberty in the public eye, Janet’s upbringing was a perfect storm for insecurities around her body. “I was developing at a very young age and I started getting a chest and they would bind it so I would look more flat-chested,” she recalls at one point in the documentary.

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But Janet and Michael’s relationship troubles went further than his name-calling over her appearance. Keep on reading ahead for everything Janet revealed about her relationship with her brother before his death in 2009 at the age of 50.

Were Janet and Michael Jackson close?

Image: AP Photo/Doug Pizac.
Image: AP Photo/Doug Pizac.

In 2022’s Lifetime and A&E two-part documentary Janet Jackson, Janet reveals that her relationship with her older brother Michael changed as they grew older. Once extremely close to one another, things began to “shift” following the release of his immensely popular 1982 album, Thriller.

“I remember really loving the Thriller album but for the first time in my life I felt it was different between us, a shift was happening,” Janet said. At the time, Janet was 16 years old, whereas her brother Michael was 24. “That’s the time Mike and I started going our separate ways. He just wasn’t as fun as he used to be.”

Later, when Janet was in her late 20s and Michael was in his 30s, the pair worked on the 1995 single “Scream” together—but the experience was far from the family reunion Janet was hoping for. “Michael shot nights, I shot days. His record company would block off his set so I couldn’t see what was going on. They didn’t want me on set,” Janet recalls. “That really hurt me because I felt I was there fighting the fight with him, not to battle him. I wanted it to feel like old times between he and I, and it didn’t. Old times had long passed.”

By this point, the pair’s relationship already faced some unresolved tensions. Michael had been accused of child sexual abuse just two years prior, and Janet found herself battling against “a great deal of scrutiny” as a result of her brother’s controversies. “It was frustrating for me,” she said in the doc. “We have our own separate lives and even though he’s my brother, that has nothing to do with me. But I wanted to be there for him, to support him as much as I possibly could.”

Michael’s legal problems began in 1993, when 13-year-old Jordan Chandler accused Michael of inappropriately touching him at his Neverland Ranch residence. He reached an out-of-court settlement in January 1994 for $23 million—but his sister Janet continued to face blowback as a result of her family name. “Michael wound up giving money to the family,” Janet explained. “He just wanted it to go away, but that looks like you’re guilty.”

Image: Courtesy of Everett Collection. Front – Janet Jackson; Center -Randy Jackson, LaToya Jackson, Rebbie Jackson; Rear – Jackie Jackson, Michael Jackson, Tito Jackson, Marlon Jackson.
Image: Courtesy of Everett Collection. Front – Janet Jackson; Center -Randy Jackson, LaToya Jackson, Rebbie Jackson; Rear – Jackie Jackson, Michael Jackson, Tito Jackson, Marlon Jackson.

Janet’s career suffered as a result: “When that came out, Coca-Cola said, ‘No, thank you’. Guilty by association. That’s what they call it, right?”

Years later, when Michael’s lifestyle landed in him the clutches of addiction, Janet says she and her family attempted to stage an intervention with the help of addiction specialists. But their attempts were futile. “My family chartered a private jet and they came for an intervention. It was a way of us getting close again and he wasn’t having it,” Janet revealed.

The “Together Again” singer even claims she was willing to join Michael for a Jackson family tour to give him something else to focus on again: “I said, ‘We wanted to talk about you guys going on tour again and if you guys would do that as brothers. I would be honored to open for you,” she said. However, Michael didn’t accept. “He didn’t have much to say, he was standoffish,” Janet recalls. “I was really upset.”

Since his death in 2009, Janet has continued to honor and pay her respects to her brother. In 2021, the pop star shared a black-and-white photo from their childhood on Instagram, on what would have been her brother’s 60th birthday. “Missing you,” she captioned the post at the time.

True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself

Image: Courtesy of Gallery Books.
Image: Courtesy of Gallery Books.

Buy: ‘True You’ by Janet Jackson $14.54

For more about Janet Jackson’s life, check out her 2011 book, True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself, co-written with David Ritz and Karen Hunter. The New York Times bestseller is filled with personal tales and rare photos of Janet at various stages of her life, taking readers on a journey from her struggles with body image to how she eventually learned to be happy in her own skin. Along with her own insights on fostering confidence and self-love, True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself even includes lessons and tips from her own nutritionist, David Allen, who helped Janet get her mind, body and soul in shape for good.

Janet Jackson premieres January 28, 2022, on Lifetime and A&E.

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