That’s The Way Love Goes: Janet Jackson’s Relationship History Could Be A Soap Opera
The Grammy winner addresses her private love life and the “secret child” in her new documentary.
Janet Jackson is ready to speak. The legendary singer-songwriter is gearing up for the premiere of her two-part Janet Jackson. documentary, where she will open up for the first time about many of the rumors, relationships, and achievements in her illustrious career. In the new doc, which airs on A&E and Lifetime on Jan. 28 and 29, Jackson will discuss her late brother Michael, the infamous Super Bowl Halftime Show scandal with Justin Timberlake, and her relationship history, which is the stuff of soap opera writers’ dreams.
Jackson has notoriously kept her love life as private as possible, with one of her marriages even being kept a secret until the eventual divorce. However, she does have a history of collaborating professionally with her romantic partners, making them a part of iconic career moments like her 1993 Rolling Stone cover and making their relationships a topic of rampant speculation. The Janet Jackson. doc will see her telling her truth on many aspects of her three decades in the music industry, but her relationship history alone is enough material to have its own show.
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Here is Janet Jackson’s complete relationship history from 1984 to 2022.
James DeBarge (1984-1985)
Jackson’s first marriage was to a member of another family group, The DeBarges, in rebellion against her own famous family. In 1984, she and James DeBarge eloped in Michigan when they were 18 and 21. Jackson’s entire family opposed the marriage, which was annulled eight months later after it came out that DeBarge was battling addiction.
As she explained in her new documentary, Jackson started seeing warning signs of his drug use on her wedding night, and it ended up putting a strain on their marriage. “We would be rolling on the floor fighting for them, and that’s not a life for anyone,” she said. “I sit and I say, ‘Were you stupid, were you dumb?’ But it wasn’t that. I cared so much for him, and I saw the good in him as well and I just wanted that to take precedence as opposed to this ugliness. ’Cause I knew that he needed help. But I wasn’t the help that he needed.”
In 2016, over three decades after their split, DeBarge claimed that he had a secret child with Jackson during an episode of his show Growing Up Hip Hop. “I'm tired of the secrecy,” he told his daughter Kristinia after she asked about the rumors. “To be honest with you, I didn’t know. I was under the impression that there was no baby, and I wanted to believe it’s not true. But it is.”
Jackson never commented on the reports until the Janet Jackson. doc, where she adamantly denied the rumors. “Back in the day they were saying that I had a child and I kept it secret,” she explained. “I could never keep a child away from James. How could I keep a child from their father? I could never do that, that’s not right.”
René Elizondo (1991-2000)
Jackson first met her second husband René Elizondo Jr. in the mid-1980s, when he was a backup dancer for her older sister La Toya. While it’s not known when they started dating, the pair started a relationship and eventually got married in 1991. “He was actually from the film industry, that’s what his family did for a living,” Jackson said about Elizondo in the doc. “I needed to just be free from somebody that did drugs and all of that. I needed a lift. René was funny, we just always had fun together, and he was very, very charming.”
As usual, Jackson kept their romance private, with their marriage not even being revealed until Elizondo sued her for divorce in 2000. However, throughout the ’90s, rumors spread that they were a couple as Elizondo became more involved in Jackson’s career, co-writing an astounding 37 of her songs and directing some of her famous music videos, including “That’s the Way Love Goes” and “Again.” Even the hands covering Jackson’s body on her iconic 1993 Rolling Stone cover are his, proving just how influential Elizondo was on her music and artistry. “René helped Janet go into her own and flourish as an artist,” her sister Rebbie Jackson said in the documentary. “They just had a focus and aspirations of something they wanted to accomplish.”
Jermaine Dupri (2001-2009)
Jackson dated rapper and producer Jermaine Dupri for nearly a decade after they met at one of her concerts in 2001. While they were both quiet about their romance, the duo didn’t shy away from collaborating musically, with Dupri producing her 2006 album 20 Y.O., which won the Grammy for Best Contemporary R&B Album, and Jackson appearing in his video for “Gotta Getcha.” Neither their musical nor romantic partnership would last, as the pair called it quits in 2009.
In 2020, Dupri revealed that he felt married to Jackson during their eight-year relationship, but it didn’t last because neither one of them wanted to relocate from their respective homes to live with each other. “She wasn’t willing to move to Atlanta,” he told T.I.on his expediTIously podcast. “She was willing to come out here for a couple of weeks. But living in Atlanta, for her, just didn’t really seem like L.A. And me, I wasn’t ready to move to Malibu. ... That stuff didn’t feel like the space where either one of us wanted to be.”
However, the couple ended their relationship on good terms and remain friends to this day. In April 2021, Jackson took to Instagram to wish her ex-boyfriend a happy birthday, sharing a more recent photo of the pair. “Sending luv to u today @jermainedupri,” she captioned the post. Immediately, the comments section was filled with fans (including Bow Wow) asking them to get back together. Maybe Jackson’s sentiment in “Got Till It’s Gone” may apply to them after all.
Wissam Al Mana (2010-2017)
Jackson met Al Mana at a hotel opening in Dubai in 2010. Just months later, the Qatari businessman told Harper’s Bazaar Arabia that the singer was his “dream woman.” The pair got secretly married in 2012 and announced they were planning their family in March 2016, even forcing Jackson to delay her ongoing Unbreakable Tour. Reports confirmed that Jackson was pregnant with her first child, and the couple welcomed their son Eissa Al Mana in January 2017. Less than three months later, they announced their split after five years of marriage. “Yes, I separated from my husband, we are in court and the rest is in God’s hands,” she said in a Twitter video.
As of 2022, Jackson appears to be happily single and focused on herself and young son.