Black History Month is coming to an end and just in time we found this epic Janet Jackson tee from her '93 tour. It was only Jackson's second tour, following her breakout Rhythm Nation tour in 1990.
The '93 tour cemented her extravagant and theatrical performances as her signature, featuring complex choreography and costumes. With 123 dates, the tour had the most shows she's done for any concert.
Her coinciding album, janet., is recognized widely as her sexual liberation. The pop and R&B record consisted of lyrically intimate tracks, incorporating hip hop, opera, house, and jazz styles.
janet. featured the hit number one singles, "That's the Way Love Goes," and "Again," along with "Any Time, Any Place," and "Because of Love." Embracing and celebrating her sexuality through her music, Janet became a global superstar and icon.
Janet's music career was revolutionary, but this week we're highlighting a different chapter; her first starring movie role in the romantic drama, Poetic Justice, premiering the same year as her '93 tour.
Jackson starred alongside 22-year old Tupac Shakur, Regina King, and Joe Torry in the film directed by John Singleton, known for his preceding film, Boyz n the Hood, released in 1991. With Valentine's Day behind us, we celebrate Singleton's ability to tell authentic stories about black love.
These days, the discussion around representation in movies and television too often overlooks the admittedly small but existent canon. The recent release of The Photograph (2020), starring Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield, has brought up discussions on the lack of black love stories in Hollywood. In the past two decades, some noteworthy films in this canon include Queen & Slim (2019), If Beale Street Could Talk (2018), Moonlight (2016), Phat Girlz (2006), and Brown Sugar (2002).
After the release of Boyz n the Hood, Singleton became the first African American and youngest person to have ever been nominated the Academy Award for Best Director at the age of 24, a record that remains today.
Native to South Central Los Angeles, Singleton's films contain nuanced depictions of the community, often reduced to the area's pervasive poverty and gang violence. Just a year after the release of Boyz n the Hood the 1992 Los Angeles riots took place following the arrest and beating of Rodney King, bringing to head decades of amassed tension and police brutality.
Following the riots, the city was in disarray, and Singleton tapped into his community's need for a story about family, friendship, and love. Justice embodied these themes from the perspective of a black woman overcoming the trauma of her boyfriend's murder, a perspective that had yet to be represented on the big screen, let alone the focal point of a film.
Justice is indeed poetic without romanticizing the very real conditions of South L.A. in the 90s, featuring poetry by Maya Angelou and a cameo appearance by the illustrious poet. Jackson's character, Justice, recites Angelou's powerful words as her own work throughout the film.
The iconic looks worn by Janet, Regina, and Tupac have cast their influence across generations. While they've existed for centuries, Poetic Justice brought box braids brought into mainstream style. Jackson's character, a hairdresser, rocks the style proudly, and real-life Janet was commended for bringing fame and glamour to the hairstyle. The decision to give Justice the iconic braids was a collaborative effort between Singleton, Jackson, and two of the film's choreographers.
In addition to the hairstyles of the film, the fashion showcased has once again made a resurgence in popular culture among celebrities, high fashion, and young people alike.
Over-sized baseball jerseys, snap-backs, and baggy jeans are just a few staples of 90s fashion, and Tupac and Janet epitomized these trends both on and off the screen.
Singleton suffered a stroke at the age of 51 that ultimately lead to his passing. His work remains as some of the most prolific movies of our time as powerful stories of black history in America, elevated by the superstar power of the cast.