Janet Jackson Details Her Tumultuous Marriage to James DeBarge, Denies Rumors of a Secret Baby
By Mekishana Pierre
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Janet Jackson is shutting down the long-standing rumors that she gave birth to and hid a child during her year-long marriage to her ex-husband, James DeBarge.
The singer addressed the rumors in the first portion of her upcoming documentary, Janet Jackson, a four-hour series from Lifetime and A+E where the 55-year-old looks back at her life and career to tell her story. It's a rare moment for the pop icon to open up about her past, especially her relationship with her first husband. As she recalled the whirlwind romance that ended in despair, she got emotional, even telling the producer she doesn't want to talk about it anymore.
The singer revealed that she initially saw her marriage as a way to escape from under her father's thumb, saying that she felt as if she couldn't be her own person "unless I got married."
Like Jackson, DeBarge was part of a singing family vocal group called DeBarge. The group became famous in the mid-'80s with hits that included, "All This Love," "Rhythm of the Night" and "All This Love." DeBarge and Jackson married in 1984 when the latter was 18, but it was far from picturesque from the start.
Jackson described her ex as "a sweet guy," but explained that his frequent drug use caused their marriage to fall apart after one year.
"When we got married and came back to the hotel he said, 'OK, I'll be right back,'" she recalled of their wedding night. "And I'm sitting in the hotel room in Grand Rapids, Michigan by myself, just 18, and for three hours, he never came back. I don't know, maybe it's this person in me that wants to help people subconsciously. When it comes to relationships, somehow I'm attracted to people that use drugs."
"We would be rolling on the floor fighting for them. And that's not a life for anyone," she said, recalling how she spent nights searching the streets for DeBarge and would try to flush his pills down the toilet. "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."
"I was just incredibly innocent," Jackson adds. "That's the thing, is the innocence. And it's just hurtful for someone to see that and just try to take advantage of it… It's still painful."
But what's more painful for the singer are the rumors that she and DeBarge had a daughter that Jackson hid away by having her sister, Rebbie, or brother Jackie, raise the child as their own. Jackson reasoned that the stories began during her stint on Fame when she started taking birth control pills, which caused her to gain weight. Debbie Allen, who portrayed dance teacher Lydia Grant and served as Fame's principal choreographer, noted that no one on the cast ever saw Jackson with a baby bump or a child.
"These were rumors that were just flying around, honey, like hash in a diner. But what was sticking on the wall was where was the baby? Nobody saw a baby," Allen said in the documentary. "She was there with us all day every day -- where was the baby?"
"I'm tired of the truth not coming forward, and people being a coward when it comes to it. And I thought it was wise for me to speak out now because it needs to be addressed," he said. "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 -- who welcomed son Eissa with her estranged husband, Wissam Al Mana, in 2017 -- denied the rumors, recounting several theories she'd heard about her "secret baby," over the years. She recalled stories that said her niece Brandy is her daughter, that she gave her "child" to Jackie to raise and that her brother Randy's daughter, Stevanna, is her daughter because they looked so much alike.
"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," she asserted.