This coming February will mark 18 years since Janet Jackson’s headline-making wardrobe malfunction during the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, Texas.
Fresh off the New York Times Presents documentary, Framing Britney Spears (2021), the publication is back with new revelations into ‘Nipplegate’ in the new documentary – Malfunction: The Dressing Down of Janet Jackson.
The film follows the infamous incident where Timberlake ripped off a piece of Jackson’s top and exposed her bare breast to millions of viewers, as well as the drama of the aftermath, which saw the careers of the two pop stars go in far different directions.
Nipplegate: The circumstances surrounding the Janet Jackson ‘wardrobe malfunction’ during the Super Bowl Halftime Show in 2004 is the focus of the new documentary Malfunction: The Dressing Down of Janet Jackson
Off the top of the doc, the makers chronicled the pop princess’ life as a member of the iconic Jackson family and her meteoric rise to fame as a solo artist, amid the new MTV generation that started in the early 1980s.
She would end up being selected to headline ViacomCBS’ second Super Bowl in the wake of the success of its Aerosmith and NSYNC’s Super Bowl Halftime Show featuring Mary J. Blige, Nelly and Britney Spears.
With the addition of Diddy, Kid Rock and Nelly to Jackson’s halftime show, Jim Steeg, the former director of NFL Special Events, expressed that Jackson was the least of any potential worries that could arise during the performance.
Steeg would go on to reveal that Justin Timberlake was added to the roster as way to help ‘temper the tone’ of the show in an effort to make it more ‘family friendly.’
Late comer: Timberlake, who was the last artist to be added to the roster, arrived to the stadium after the start of the Super Bowl
Meeting in 11th hour: It is alleged that Timberlake requested to speak with Jackson and her stylist in her dressing room before going on stage, resulting in ‘a small conversation that lasted minutes’ just before show time
According to halftime show director Beth McCarthy-Miller, the production team did a full dress rehearsal a few times the Thursday before the big game, so they could take note of any changes that needed to be made, whether it be the lyrics or artist wardrobes.
Since Timberlake reportedly arrived to Houston late, he had very little rehearsal time.
Former Senior VP of MTV Salli Frattini explained how Jackson was initially supposed to wear a tear-away skirt, with a full jumpsuit underneath, that Timberlake would pull off when he sang the Rock Your Body lyrics: ‘I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song.’
But in the end, those with the decision-making power with CBS and the NFL decided to pull the routine, and Jackson ‘was agreeable to it,’ according to Frattini, who also went over all the wardrobe looks with someone from standards and practices.
It is then alleged that Jackson’s stylist Wayne Scot Lukas went on to buy new fabric and the starburst nipple shield.
‘We had no knowledge at all of what might have been happening with Janet and her team,’ Frattini confessed of the moves that were being made behind-the-scenes.
Tale of two worlds: In the aftermath of the Nipplegate drama, the careers of the two pop stars went in two different direction: Timberlake soared with success, while Jackson’s faltered
It’s being alleged that Timberlake did not arrive in Houston for the performance until after the start of the game, via a police escort to the stadium.
Frattini claims a request was made for him to speak with Jackson and her stylist in her dressing room before going on stage, resulting in ‘a small conversation that lasted minutes’ just before show time.
‘And then of course, we come to the close and it’s the final few seconds of the song and that’s just when everything went wrong,’ Frattini recalled.
‘The song ended, we went wide, the pyro hit and we start applauding, “Oh my gosh, we did it!” And then the phone rings. And I’m thinking I’m answering that phone because I’m gonna get, “That was amazing and congratulations.”‘
But instead, Steeg confronted her and told her that Jackson’s breast had been exposed for millions to see.
Director McCarthy-Miller recalled how Jackson was crying when her stage manager talked to her on the field in the aftermath.
Frattini and the production team would have to rewind the footage to see the half-second breast exposure at the end of the song.
‘We all stood there in shock. Of course one of the first things we tried to do was talk to Janet. Janet fled. We couldn’t get her on the phone, we couldn’t get the manager on the phone,’ she claimed.
Jackson was reportedly crying in the moments after the wardrobe malfunction
Grammy winner: Timberlake offered an apology in order to appear the at Grammy Awards just after the Super Bowl controversy, but Jackson decided not to attend
Timberlake was apologetic after the show, and when asked what happened he reportedly said: ‘That was never meant to happen. I was told you guys knew,’ according to Frattini.
‘We didn’t. He was very apologetic. He manned up. I was a wreck personally, I was in tears, people were crying, it was really upsetting. I felt betrayed,’ she explained.
‘My instincts told me that there was a private conversation between wardrobe stylists and artists where someone thought this would be a good idea and it backfired.’
In the days after the Super Bowl, Timberlake issued a statement, which resulted in the now infamous ‘wardrobe malfunction’ description.
Jackson released her own statements where she tried to steer the blame away from MTV and all the corporations involved in the Super Bowl and that ‘it was not my intention that it went as far as it did,’ along with a followup video.
Timberlake would later claim he was under the impression Jackson would be wearing a red bra underneath, and then seemingly distanced himself from her entirely.
‘There was two people on stage. He did the pulling. Janet’s breast didn’t just jump out,’ Janet’s older brother, Tito Jackson, said in the documentary.
Her take: Jackson tried to steer the blame away from MTV and all the corporations involved in the Super Bowl and that ‘it was not my intention that it go as far as it did’
Downturn: The Rhythm Nation star’s career seemed to suffer immensely, in the aftermath; so much so that some people speculated her music was being ‘blacklisted’ from radio and MTV
Even though the two pop stars both gave written apologies, CBS’ Les Moonves decided they needed to issue another public apology if they were going to be on the upcoming Grammy Awards, as reported by the New York Times.
In the end, Timberlake did in fact issue an apology to be on the show, while Jackson decided not to go.
The Sexy Back star’s career would only skyrocket from there, while the Rhythm Nation singer’s career seemed to suffer immensely; so much so that some people speculated her music was being ‘blacklisted’ from radio and MTV.
‘I don’t know if “blacklist” is the word that they tried to do to my sister, but it sure seemed liked they were trying to diminish her career and her ability,’ brother Tito Jackson said of the controversy in the doc.
The FCC would go on to fine CBS $550,000 for the scandal, but the network never had to pay after winning an appeal.
Another apology: Earlier this year, Jackson got a public apology from Timberlake, which was sparked by the public backlash he received after the Framing Britney Spears documentary highlighted his treatment of both Spears and Jackson
Jackson would eventually get a public apology from Timberlake, which was sparked by the backlash he received on social media after the Framing Britney Spears documentary highlighted his alleged treatment of both Spears and Jackson earlier this year.
‘I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism,’ Justin wrote in February 2021, adding, ‘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.’
Both Timberlake and Jackson declined to comment on the forthcoming special, but she is expected to address the Super Bowl controversy when she drops her own 2-part A&E documentary, Janet, in January 2022.
Malfunction: The Dressing Down of Janet Jackson premiered on November 19 through both Hulu and FX.
Now showing: Malfunction: The Dressing Down of Janet Jackson premiered on November 19 through both Hulu and FX