Janet Jackson's concert on Good Morning America had been scheduled long before her Super Bowl fiasco. Looking back, the embattled singer never imagined the significance a live TV performance could take on.
Before singing a tune from her new album, Damita Jo, on Good Morning America, Jackson recalled returning to her Houston hotel room just after that infamous halftime performance with Justin Timberlake, watching the controversy unfold on TV.
"There was a headline talking about Justin and I being arrested in Houston possibly, I was just so taken aback," Jackson said. "I didn't know that it had escalated."
Now, after three months of brutal criticism and scrutiny, Jackson is returning to the public eye. "It made me stronger," Jackson now says. "That's what it did. It made me much stronger."
"There are people who wanted me to take certain things off the album, but that would be changing who I am and I'll never do that for anyone," she says.
One More Time: ‘It Truly Was an Accident’
Jackson has long been an artist who delicately walked the fine line between risqué and raunchy, but since her infamous "wardrobe malfunction" she's had to deal with an unprecedented controversy.
Jackson maintains that she never intended to expose her breast. "I've never done anything like that," she says.
"It truly was an accident. And, like I said, there was nothing you could do about it. You just have to roll with the punches and move on."
Despite early news reports, Jackson and Timberlake never faced criminal charges. The incident, however, sent the Federal Communications Commission and the country into an uproar.
Friends and family helped Jackson cope with the intense pressue. She says that her mother was especially supportive, telling her, "I know you're a strong woman and just keep the faith and it will pass."
Outside the United States, however, the Super Bowl incident is viewed much differently, Jackson says. "I just got back from Europe and they don't understand what all the hoopla is about and why America is reacting in such a way."
A Blueprint for Female Superstars
A household name all over the world, with more than 50 million albums sold, 10 No. 1 hits and five Grammys, Janet Jackson is not just a pop star, but an icon.
"Janet Jackson's career is very much the blueprint for what all these other multimedia actress women have been doing," said Touré, contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine. "J. Lo, Beyoncé, even Jessica Simpson, they're following the model that Janet set up."
The media firestorm that followed Jackson after the Super Bowl incident is something that would usually be associated with her brother, Michael. In fact, Janet Jackson, along with the rest of their family, stood by her troubled brother when he was charged with child molestation.
It's been a year of unusual controversy for a woman who first came to America's attention as the youngest of nine showbiz brothers and sisters. She nervously joined her family in the spotlight in 1976 on their TV show The Jacksons as "little sister Janet," and literally grew up on television. She also had roles in the sitcoms Good Times and Diff'rent Strokes.
Janet Takes Control
Janet's big break in music came when she released the album Control in 1986. Produced by legendary producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the album launched the pop hits "What Have You Done For Me Lately?," "Pleasure Principal" and "Let's Wait Awhile."
"One of the key songs in her early career is 'Let's Wait Awhile' where she's saying let's not have sex, let's be intimate, but let's not have sex," Touré said. "Which is a very divergent message in pop music at that time, at any time — for a young sexy woman to be saying let's not have sex."
From 1989 through 1993 Jackson maintained her squeaky-clean image as she solidified her stardom with hits like "Escapade," the politically conscious "Rhythm Nation" and songs like "That's The Way Love Goes," earning her place alongside the legendary Aretha Franklin for the most gold singles produced by a female solo singer.
In 1995, she and brother Michael reached the familiar No. 1 spot together with their hit "Scream."
But many say Jackson's seventh album, the triple-platinum Velvet Rope, was the moment her persona took a sexually dark turn. She was recovering from a difficult divorce, depression and battling her innermost demons.
"How close am I to loving myself?" she said in a 1998 interview. "I'm still a ways away. But I'm gettin' there. But I'm a ways away."
But lately the singer has picked herself up and found love with artist/producer Jermaine Dupri, and there is optimism that the release of her new album, Damita Jo, will lead Jackson back to her comfort zone, at the top of the pop music world.