Honoree Janet Jackson performs onstage at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards on May 20, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer (Getty Images for dcp)

On May 16, 1966 a tiny baby who would be named Janet Damita Jo Jackson performed an eight-count out of her mother’s womb and into the world.

Today marks Janet’s 53rd birthday and the iconic superstar is celebrating on the eve of her Las Vegas residency launch, aptly titled Metamorphosis. Beyond her well-known whispery vocals lie the body movements of an actual dancing machine. For decades, every black kid—and adult, don’t front—has watched Janet move with exceptional precision and yearned to recreate it in the comforts of their homes.

I, like many, was one of those black kids. I am no professional dancer by any means, but I am one in my head. I am the one who sweats out her twist-out on the dance floor. There’s an area to dance? I’m on it. So, yes, I found myself in front of the mirror trying to channel the essence of Ms. Jackson (if you nasty).

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It’s important to note that this particular tribute comes at an opportune time as May is Mental Health Awareness Month and I consider dancing to be one of my favorite forms of self-care. Endorphins for the win!

Janet has a stream of hits and fabulous visuals to match. Her music videos are as iconic as she is, and her incomparable dance breaks have a lot to do with it.

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Janet Jackson, in “Rhythm Nation” (1989)
GIF: GIPHY

Think of all the delightful memories of when you:

  • Busted your ass attempting the chair routine from “The Pleasure Principle.”
  • Forced your sibling or (play) cousin to learn the “Scream” routine with you.
  • Stole a dishrag from your mama’s sink to perform the old-timey routine from “Alright.”
  • Tutted to “If” like it’s arm day at the gym.
  • Thought you had the biggest and baddest bedroom step show just because you put on a black cap, courtesy of “Rhythm Nation.”

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Not to mention “Miss You Much,” “I Get Lonely,” “All For You,” “Doesn’t Really Matter”—the list is endless. Hell, the list is continuous, because at 50-damn-something, she is still executing strenuous dance breaks. In videos, live concerts, award shows, and possibly, in front of her own bedroom mirror. Just like us.

Janet Jackson - “Made For Now, Rhythm Nation, All For You” Live | MTV EMAs 2018 / MTV International (YouTube)

Happy Birthday, Janet. Flipping over a chair in your honor.