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JANET HAS LAST LAUGH.

DREW MACKENZIE discovers how Janet Jackson is exorcising the demons of her past and learning to love herself again

She comes from one of the world's most famous dysfunctional families and she indulges in various bizarre therapies which have fuelled rumours that she is headed for the same wacko league as her big brother Michael. But Janet Jackson's little eccentricities are firmly rooted in reality.

Janet stunned fans when she admitted that she had coffee enemas to cleanse her liver of "sad cells", and raised eyebrows when she sported tattoos and had a nipple and her nose pierced. But there is an inner logic behind such outer displays.

Her tattoos are a kind of road map of the struggles in her life. Each one reflects some personal trauma - her painful childhood with a tyrannical dad, her battle with her weight, her seven-month marriage at 18 to abusive, drug-addict singer James DeBarge, her feud with sister LaToya (since resolved), and her recent battle with depression.

"All my tattoos have a special meaning - especially the one on my wrist," says Janet who appears at Wembley this week. "I put it there to remind me of the difficult times I've had. It means, 'To go into your past and deal with your past to move into the future'."

The tattoos may be permanent but the nose ring has since gone.

"I gave Rene a choice of two areas and he chose the nipple," reveals Janet, 32, with a sly smile, referring to her business partner and longtime live-in lover Rene Elizondo.

Mexican-born dancer Rene is one of the team of five who will help Janet make it through her year-long tour. The others, including her chef, choreographer, trainer and massage therapist, will also be on hand.

Trainer Doug Yee makes sure she's full of energy throughout the two-hour show. Chef Ricardo Maachi keeps Janet on a strict diet of vegetables, chicken and fish, though he will occasionally rustle up some of the soul food she craves, as a special treat. And massage therapist Lisa Gianini keeps Janet toned and relaxed before each show. When Janet is low on energy Lisa uses Amma therapy. A lighted moxa stick is placed by Janet's ankles and the heat is supposed to jump-start the kidney and spleen energy points. If all this seems like a lot of paraphernalia, it's Janet's way of being in control, of dealing with her troubled past.

"I wanted to have ten kids," says Janet. "But there's so much about myself that I need to get rid of before having a child." Her own childhood was wracked with low self-esteem, and Janet turned to food for comfort. "Whenever something painful was going on I'd eat," she says. "People look at celebrities as if we're not human. But we have struggles and problems - maybe on a bigger scale because we're in the public eye and have certain demands on us."

Janet, whose albums Control and Rhythm Nation made her name, has fought a two-year bout of depression and contended with stalkers. Just two months ago a restraining order was put on Jay Myers, 29, after he wrote to Janet calling her Little Red Riding Hood and himself The Big Bad Wolf.

Janet's personal demons would have scared off most men, but Rene has stuck with her since they they were introduced by her brother Michael 13 years ago. "I've been very fortunate to have found someone who's been so caring and whose love is unconditional," says Janet, who lives with Rene in a beachfront estate in Malibu. "He's incredibly supportive."

She may need all the support he can give. Some believe Janet's star is fading following poor sales of last year's The Velvet Rope album - it sold a million copies compared to the six-million selling Janet. Onstage is where she can prove she's still got what it takes.

The show will feature Together Again, about a friend who died of Aids, one of Janet's many introspective new songs.

"It's not easy to look inward because you don't know if you're going to like what you find," she says. "But I can honestly say that for the first time I really like myself. Now I'm working at 'loving' myself."

Janet plays Wembley Arena tomorrow, Sunday and Monday.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Mackenzie, Drew
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 5, 1998
Words:712
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