The Timeline of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s Infamous Halftime Show

One of the most notorious incidents of the past 20 years, the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, had enormous repercussions for the careers of both people involved. One for the better, another for the worst. It led to many discussions and is still talked about a lot today.

Janet Jackson covers her chest while on stage with Justin Timberlake.
Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

Janet Jackson’s breast was briefly on the show during the halftime show due to a wardrobe malfunction. Here’s a short review of the events that led to the so-called “Nipplegate” and the consequences that followed it for her and him.

The 2004 Super Bowl

Two years after being reportedly booked for the appearance, Jackson is announced as the headliner for the upcoming event. Her team promises big collaborations and shocking moments. Then the day finally comes. Janet performs and welcomes special guests. Justin Timberlake appears at the end of the show.

Justin Timberlake performs with Janet Jackson during the halftime show.
Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images

The last song was Timberlake’s “Rock Your Body.” As he sang the final line: “better have you naked by the end of this song.” Justin reached over to Janet’s chest and ripped the right side of her corset, exposing her breast to the world

The Immediate Aftermath of the Incident

After being exposed, Janet tried to cover herself as the lights went down on the stage. There isn’t much known about what she did or said other than leaving the venue and going home. On the other side, Justin Timberlake smiled and gave interviews after the show.

Jackson tries to cover herself.
Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

That same night, Timberlake released a statement apologizing and calling the whole thing a “wardrobe malfunction.” The day after, Jackson released her statement apologizing as well. Although distinct in tone from Justin’s because she called it a “costume reveal.” On February 3, two days after the show, an investigation was launched by the Federal Communications Commission.

A Look at the 2004 Grammys

Jackson was scheduled to appear at the event, but she was reportedly asked to step down from the performance. However, Timberlake didn’t face the same pressure and not only attended but won two major awards. He did apologize during his speech, nevertheless.

Justin Timberlake poses with his Grammy Awards.
Photo by SGranitz/WireImage/Getty Images

A month after the Grammys, Jackson released her 8th album, Damita Jo. This album was her lowest-selling album since 1984. An unexpected consequence of the incident was the founding of YouTube. One of its co-creators, Jawed Karim, said that the infamous event made them sure that the platform would work because people were trying to watch the clip of the event.

The Following Years and Explanation

In 2006, Timberlake said in an interview with MTV that he probably could have handled the aftermath better and only got a small fraction of the blame and benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism.

Justin Timberlake stands onstage in front of a video of himself and Janet Jackson from Super Bowl XXXVIII
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Later the same year, Jackson said that the idea was to only reveal her bra underneath the corset. She regretted apologizing since it was an accident and felt that Timberlake “left her hanging” in the follow-up of the event. In 2021, Justin published his first direct apology to Janet through social media. And in January 2022, Jackson revealed that they both moved on from the incident.