Janet Jackson Gave Rare Insight into Her Sheltered Life in a 1986 PEOPLE Interview: Read It Here (Exclusive)

When the baby of a famous family spoke up for herself, Ms. Jackson had a lot to say

<p> Soul Train via Getty</p> Janet Jackson in 1986

Soul Train via Getty

Janet Jackson in 1986

The year was 1986 and Janet Jackson, then 20 years old, was stepping into the spotlight all on her own. Long a part of her famous family's machine, she'd just released her sexy third album Control and was rubbing elbows with the likes of choreographer Paula Abdul and producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. She spoke to PEOPLE about the changes in her life and career — and her continued bond with her family, especially older brother Michael Jackson.

Here, read the original PEOPLE story, and see more from your favorite celebrities in PEOPLE's special edition, 50 Years of Stars, on Amazon and newsstands now.

While the rest of the Jackson clan was on the Victory tour, sister Janet Jackson, then 18, eloped Sept. 7, 1984, with singer James DeBarge. The brothers were shocked; so were their parents, Katherine and Joe. But no one was more alarmed than A&M record executive John McClain, who feared the marriage would torpedo Janet’s career.

“I tried to convince her that she’s a teen idol and people just wouldn’t accept it,” says McClain, who, after eight months of hounding, persuaded her to annul the pact. Asked how he justifies his actions, McClain responds, “Hey — I’m trying to make her a star!”

<p>Craig Sjodin/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty</p> Janet Jackson in 1986

Craig Sjodin/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty

Janet Jackson in 1986

Related: 15 Sweetly Sentimental Throwback Photos of a Young Janet Jackson and Her Famous Family

Although some may question McClain’s methods, there is no question that he has succeeded. Janet Jackson’s third album, Control, jumped to No. 1 on Billboard’s charts and spawned two Top 10 singles, “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” and “Nasty.” The LP, laced with funk and a few low moans, represents a stylistic departure for Janet, whose first two albums, both coolly received, were co-produced by the Jackson family machine and aimed at the bubble gum set.

<p>Bei/Shutterstock</p> Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul in 1986


Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul in 1986

For Control, McClain sent her to voice and dance coaches for three months and shipped her to Minneapolis to record under the tutelage of Prince protégés Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. “Joe Jackson said fine, but if it didn’t work he would backhand me,” says McClain. Says Janet: “I’m not saying I don’t want to be a part of theJackson family, because that’s my name. But I wanted this record to be my own.”

Related: 'How Do You Do It?' Read the First-Ever Exchange Between Bruce Springsteen and Michael Jackson (Exclusive)

Her life has been, almost paradoxically, fast-paced and sheltered. She began acting at age 9 and appeared on Good Times, Diff’rent Strokes and Fame. Yet she had seldom explored nightlife without a bodyguard and a limo in tow, until her recent trip to Minneapolis. Recalls producer Jimmy Jam: “Janet had never been to a bar to hang out, and a couple of guys started talking to her. Afterward she came up to me and said, ‘That guy was bothering me — why didn’t you help me?’ And I said, ‘I thought you took care of it yourself.’ See, she had never had a chance to handle herself.”

PEOPLE's '50 Years of Stars'
PEOPLE's '50 Years of Stars'

That comes from growing up under her folks’ protective wing in the family’s Encino, California, compound. As a child, “Michael and I were like this,” she says, holding up crossed fingers. The two shared an avid interest in pets; it was Janet who brought home the boa constrictor, Muscles, who sleeps near the head of her bed.

Professionally, she says, being a Jackson, “people expect me to be just as good, to perform just as well, for my material to be just as good ... But really we don’t compete. As long as one of us is at the top, that makes the rest of us happy. And now,” she adds with a smile, “it’s my turn.”

PEOPLE's special edition, 50 Years of Stars, is available on Amazon and newsstands now.

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