After an intense period of heartbreak that included her beloved brother Michael’s overdose death in 2009 and the announcement of her split from her longtime love, producer Jermaine Dupri, that year, Janet was desperately in need of some light in her life. Then along came Wissam Al Mana, a dashing Qatari billionaire businessman who swept the superstar off her feet.
The two had a quiet, whirlwind relationship that led to major changes in Janet’s life — including a move to London and abandoning her famously sexy style for extremely conservative garb in line with Al Mana’s Muslim religion. The couple wed two years after they met. Much to everyone’s surprise, then-50-year-old Janet announced she was pregnant with son Eissa, who was born in January of this year.
To even greater surprise, Janet then announced her separation from Al Mana four months later.
“It was quite an abusive situation,” her brother Randy told People of his sister’s marriage. He referred to “verbal abuse and being [made to feel like] a prisoner in her own home. No pregnant woman needs to go through being called a bitch everyday . . . That’s what she went through.”
Now, a family insider tells The Post what really went on inside Janet’s troubled marriage — and what went so wrong.
When the singer and Al Mana, then 35, met at Dubai’s Armani Hotel opening in 2010, they couldn’t be more different. He was, the family source said, reserved and devoted to Islam. She was “Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty” — and had spent years living down a 2004 “wardrobe malfunction” in which her breast was exposed by Justin Timberlake while performing at the Super Bowl.
Al Mana, who had never been married and had no kids, headed his family’s Al Mana Luxury Group, which operates 55 companies in eight countries. Janet had been a performer, in her family’s Las Vegas show and variety TV series, since the age of 7, then went on to record some of the biggest hits of the 1980s and ’90s.
“But,” a Jackson family source said, “when they met, their eyes locked and any apprehension . . . quickly dissipated. It was one of those love-at-first-sight-type things. They didn’t care about each other’s past.”
Janet, the source added, “said his eyes inspired her.”
As for Al Mana, the insider said, he confided to friends that Janet was his “dream woman.”
“She’d buy him jackets with his initials inscribed, and he’d order treats from Switzerland and other places as a way of saying ‘Good morning, sweetheart.’ ”
It was a relief for Janet, who had two failed previous marriages — to singer James DeBarge (1984 to 1985) and music-video director René Elizondo Jr. (1991 to 2000), as well as a seven-year relationship with Dupri (2002-2009).
The couple hit the high seas on multimillion-dollar yachts, escaping to Russia for dinner and to Italy to shop. Al Mana would take Janet on outings in London and cities in Italy and dazzle her with his knowledge of architecture. They’d surprise realtors by showing up at open houses, where Al Mana would talk about another of his hobbies, interior decorating.
“He’d tell Janet how architecture and interior design could convey so much,” said a source employed by the family. “It turned her on.”
But Al Mana was pragmatic enough to believe he couldn’t tame the sexy singer.
So the Muslim was no doubt pleasantly surprised when his new love quickly took to his more conservative lifestyle.
Janet’s readiness to reinvent may have been fueled by a desperation to flee her troubled existence in the wake of Michael’s tragic death. After a lifetime of living in the public eye, Janet had long craved privacy in her personal relationships. She’d managed to keep her nine-year marriage to Elizondo a secret until their divorce in 2000. Now, she would have a chance to leave America and its paparazzi and lead a quiet life with Al Mana.
“His money could afford them a lot of privacy, which was what she craved,” a source told Us Weekly.
Although she never converted, Al Mana’s friends, the family source said, noticed “Janet complying [with] Islamic traditions, including her dress with head coverings” and fasting during times of spiritual reflection.
Janet’s family, meanwhile, noticed “her not speaking out of turn when in the company of others. [Al Mana] took the lead.”
Once they began to talk of marriage, Al Mana imagined an extravagant wedding where he would treat guests to lavish gifts, including $10,000 Cartier watches. When the duo wed in a small ceremony in late 2012, “his people couldn’t believe it,” the family source said.
One reason to hurry? “He really wanted a baby and Janet was ready,” the insider added. “She realized she found the right guy.”
But getting pregnant at 46 — Janet’s age when she wed Al Mana, nine years her junior — would hardly be a cakewalk.
“At least twice, she thought she was pregnant, and each time, she realized that she wasn’t, and I’m not sure who was more disappointed,” the family source said.
Al Mana was having doubts about whether it could happen, while Janet was confident it would, another source said.
The disappointments began to create cracks in the marriage, which was, in turn, causing issues within the larger Jackson family.
For Janet’s “Unbreakable” concert tour in 2015, the singer’s outfits — high necks, long sleeves, abs hidden — were a far cry from the flesh-baring getups she was previously famous for. And when she played the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Al Mana allegedly dominated rehearsals, demanding that his wife remain chaste: “No skin, no dry humping and none of that American [stuff],” according to the employee.
That drew the ire of Janet’s father and former manager, Joe, who argued that his daughter’s fans wanted and deserved “the real Janet,” the Jackson employee said. Joe blamed the lack of sold-out concerts on Al Mana having made her tone down her sexy act.
At home, the couple was so stressed out by their failure to conceive, they became desperate to place blame. The family source recalled how the two would await doctors’ verdicts so that “they could point the finger at one another as being the reason they couldn’t get pregnant.”
In April 2016, Jackson announced she was “planning a family.” (In reality, she was already pregnant.) It should have been the happiest time of her life — a dream come true. But, the family source added, “that’s when the starry-eyed, ‘dream woman and ultimate man’ stories stopped and reality — a harsh reality — set in.”
As the pregnancy progressed, “s - - t hit the fan, the family source explained. “Janet usually ate well, exercised properly and kept herself looking good, but Wissam sort of freaked out, thinking she’d be this ‘fat pig.’ He was on her all the time about doing things right, eating right, as if she [weren’t] already.”
Fans were, admittedly, shocked when photos emerged of a heavily pregnant Janet, clad in a black hijab and flowing garments with only her face and hands exposed.
She was, it seems, obscured in more ways than one.
Janet “felt hidden from family and friends,” a Jackson family confidant told Us Weekly.
As her brother Randy has suggested, Al Mana verbally abused Janet, calling her nasty names.
“Her life was sheltered,” the confidant told Us Weekly. “Janet felt like a prisoner.”
Sources told The Post that, shortly after the Jan. 3 birth of the couple’s son, Eissa, the singer left Al Mana, although they kept that private until May.
The family insider explained how Randy orchestrated his sister’s departure from the London home she shared with Al Mana. He quietly arranged for their older sister Rebbie and mother Katherine to fly to London to visit Janet — and map a way out.
The trio gave her the strength to “leave her controlling husband,” the source added.
Janet and Al Mana have met in a London court to begin divorce proceedings, and Entertainment Tonight reported that Janet will be seeking full custody of Eissa.
Now the singer is back on the road, with a Nov. 15 tour stop planned for the Barclays Center. At a concert in Houston a few weeks ago, she wept while performing the domestic violence-themed song, “What About.”
“This is me,” she told the crowd before belting out: “What about the times you hit my face? What about the times you kept on when I said, ‘No more, please’?”
Al Mana’s reps declined to comment. They have said the businessman still loves Janet — who may get more than $200 million in a divorce settlement — and will concentrate on co-parenting Eissa.
“Janet doesn’t regret Eissa at all. That child is the love of her life,” the family source said. “She is grateful that she can point to the baby as something good that came out of that marriage.”