Starting Your Dreams Later In Life and Embracing the Detour

Jenee Darden speaking at Creative Mornings I know it's been a while since I've posted anything but that's because of my job. I'm working as a reporter covering Oakland and I host an arts segment on the radio where I get to interview amazing artists from around the Bay Area. Plus I'm publicizing my book  and building my speaking career!  You know what's funny? I thought this would all happen by the time I was 27-30.  Nope. That wasn't God's plan for me. I'm finally beginning to do the things I've wanted to do and I'm almost 40 years old. Some people reading this who are 40 will say 40 is still young. But some younger people reading may think 40 is nearly ancient. But I'm writing this post for those who like me, thought their career and personal dreams would come true much early in life. I'm here to tell you not to give up.  You know, death inspires life. A number of my relatives and friends have passed away, ranging in

Black Women & Sexual Empowerment Series:
Why Janet Jackson is Forever My Sexy Pop Goddess

 I've been down with Janet Jackson since my days of pink sneakers and She-Ra dolls. Her Control album was one of the first tapes I ever had. Yes, you read right...tapes. I felt her call for racial justice on her Rhythm Nation album. And I was always excited to see her teenage self as Penny on Good Times reruns. Then Miss Janet grew up. The Jackson Family’s baby sister shared her sexual awakening in the 1993 sensual janet. album. The title said it all:  I love sex. I'm a grown ass woman. This is me. Period.  Janet evolved from black boots and ball caps on  Rhythm Nation, to showing off killer abs in half-tops while singing her sexual desires. If you see the full photo for this album cover she is topless, with her then-husband from behind covering her breasts with his hands. Ahhhh, that was hot!  The pop star passionate about racial equality was also passionate about her own sexual liberation.
“For the first time I’m feeling free,” she told Rolling Stone magazine in 1993 when discussing her album. “I love feeling deeply sexual –and don’t mind letting the world know. For me, sex has become a celebration, a joyful part of the creative process.”
I was about 14 years old when this album dropped. Those songs gave me life and some, ahem, feelings. Oooh, remember "Anytime, Anyplace"? Once I got older, I truly understood where she was coming from. I wanted to be free and celebrate the sexiness in me without shame. There's nothing wrong with flirting, loving your curves, putting on red lipstick, telling your man or woman what you want and carrying a sensual energy in the world. I imagine there was a time she didn't feel free because of her celebrity and the expectations of being a Jackson. She, like many women was probably expected to be a "good girl." And "good girls" don't have sex or think about sex until maybe their wedding day. These expectations may come from family or our religious faiths that frown upon women experiencing pleasure. That's still a big issue in black faith communities. As black women, some of us repress ourselves because we don't want come off as that hot, jungle bunny, stereotype. Janet Jackson chose to BE in her sexuality with the janet. album. From that record on, listen to her albums and hear a song or interlude about sweet love making, BDSM, masturbation, same sex, and fun naughty things. We Janet fans are willingly tied up in her velvet rope of music and magic. 
"Sex isn't just fire and heat, it's natural beauty," Janet also said in the Rolling Stone interview.  "Doing what comes naturally. It's letting go, giving and getting what you need." I love how she sees that there is so much more to the beauty of sex than intercourse. 
As quick as people put Janet on a sexy pop pedestal, they tore her down after her breast was exposed during the 2004 Super Bowl performance with Justin Timberlake. Timberlake ripped her shirt revealing her breast. They said it was a mistake, a "wardrobe malfunction." Janet was slut shamed, body shamed and age shamed for being nearly 40 and exposed. It hurt her career.  There was very little anger toward Timberlake, a white male. Although he ripped her shirt, Janet Jackson was to blame entirely. He punked out, she took the fall, and he kept rising to fame. Nipplegate shined light on the power of white, male privilege, as well as how dominant culture continues to cast black bodies as immoral. And instead of thinking maybe there was an error, the mainstream immediately Janet Jackson as sexually deviant--which is a long standing racist belief about black women. The problem wasn't just Janet's breast, but that a black woman's breast was exposed. 
Like the title of her latest album, Janet is Unbreakable.  She is ever so fine at 49 and still
topping the charts. Miss Jackson has not lost her sexy and I know she's still a fantasy for many men and women. Janet Jackson has asserted herself as an artist, woman and sexual being in most of her music. I love how she unleashes her inner grrrr and purrr on stage. But in an interview she comes off coy and shy, with her soft voice. Even within us, our sexual presence can take on different forms.  The way she expresses her sexuality may look different from Beyonce or Grace Jones or Donna Summers or other black female singers of the past and present. Janet Jackson had the courage to make her sexuality her own and share it with the world. I still love her for it. 


  1. "We Janet fans are willingly tied up in her velvet rope of music and magic." Perfect. I remember the "scandalous" nature of her 1993 album, and discussion on TV and radio about its appropriate / inappropriate content in the context of how her older siblings were dealing with her shocking sexuality. And then all that crap about how the nip-slip was her fault and what that said about her. It made me angry that people accused her of a media stunt instead of feeling some kind of compassion for her. I'd like to think we've come a little way from there, but jeez, there's a long way to go.

    1. And people were really hating on her about the nip slip because of her age. I heard people saying it was an old "ti-tay." But 1993 was the good old days. :)

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