Screenshot: Robbie Fimmano (InStyle)

They said it wouldn’t last, we had to prove them wrong: Fresh off the historic wave of melanated magnificence on September covers around the world, a new crop of black beauties of is greeting us for October, as epitomized by Janet Jackson on the cover of InStyle magazine’s Beauty Issue.

The internet may currently be abuzz about her past romances, but Ms. Jackson (if you’re nasty) is firmly planted in the present, proving her ageless appeal and giving us “Love Will Never Do” vibes on the cover, nearly 30 years after the fact (I know. I felt a wrinkle form just writing that).

Inside the issue, Jackson talks with friend and InStyle editor-in-chief Laura Brown about growing up in the entertainment industry, overcoming insecurity and abuse, and what beauty is now, as both an enduring icon and 52-year-old mom to toddler son Eissa. As Brown writes:

“Janet occupies the place in women’s memories that turns us into girls, a place of loyalty and vulnerability ... But after a traumatic end to a marriage and a new life as a mother, she is back.”

Screenshot: Robbie Fimmano (InStyle)

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And the woman who taught us all to be in “Control” is open about the fact that she hasn’t always felt that way, especially as a teenager growing up in the spotlight (and initially, the shadow) of an already famous family.

“I remember growing up and being in this business was always this important thing. Because it was the thing. And you had to be a certain size, you had to be thin to be an entertainer. Stupid crap like that. That’s just this business I’m in. I think it’s changed, thank God. People are more accepting of others. Which is the way it should’ve been from the jump. That can really mess with you.”

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In fact, Jackson tells Brown she didn’t feel sexy until she was well into her 30s and newly single:

I got out of a funky relationship and finally got back to me. I went to therapy, which was all about finding that thing you like about yourself. The realization that, you know what, you’re not so bad after all. I’m not saying you’re great or you’re the best, but it’s not as bad as you were made to feel that it was. ...

We need to recognize those problems, what makes that happen, and reverse it. We need to be able to recognize those things before getting into a relationship. Even within yourself, what is it about you that is attracted to that? I stand on that side of the fence, you know. There’s a lot of work I have to do for myself. Enough of anyone trying to manipulate me. You don’t even deserve to be in my presence. I’m allowing you to [be here].

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And though she’s gone on record with relationship traumas in the past, Jackson is still vulnerable enough to confess that she’s been as susceptible as the rest of us to abuse and insecurities. She admits her still-enviable body has often been a source of self-doubt—shockingly, so has the iconic smile we all know and love.

“Therapy helped a great deal with that. I had to find something in my body that I loved, and that was difficult for me to do,” she says. “At first, I couldn’t find anything. I would look in the mirror and start crying. I didn’t like that I was not attractive. I didn’t like anything about me. But I wound up falling in love with the small of my back. And then from there I found more things. And then finally realizing my smile isn’t that bad after all. I thought I looked like the Joker because it was so big.”

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So what does beauty look like to Jackson now? One of the most adorable and desirable icons of her time believes beauty is ultimately an inside job.

“It’s vulnerability. It’s power. It’s confidence. It’s happiness. It’s seeing the goodness in the soul. It’s spirituality. It’s being selfless and what you do for others before doing for yourself.”