Update: Prince's brother Omarr Jackson, one of heirs of Prince's estate, sent out out a tweet disputing rumors of a Prince hologram during the Super Bowl. Sheila E, a longtime collaborator, also confirmed that she spoke to Justin Timberlake and that there will not be a Prince hologram.
This story was originally published on Feb. 3, 2018.
Tomorrow, the Super Bowl takes place in Minneapolis, MN. Justin Timberlake is slated to perform the coveted halftime show slot, and he'll no doubt have some special guest accompanying him on the stage. TMZ ran an unconfirmed report that one of those guests is Prince, in hologram form.
Yes, you read that correctly. Timberlake will reportedly be trotting out a hologram of Prince, who tragically passed away in 2016 from an overdose of fentanyl, an opioid drug.
We don't have to wonder if Prince would approve of his likeness being used in the manner. Sheila E., his drummer and protegé, specifically responded to the report: "Prince told me don’t ever let anyone do a hologram of me," she wrote on Twitter. "Not cool if this happens!"
Knowing that Prince himself would not allow himself to be turned into a hologram, it's worth examining why specifically Timberlake is an especially insensitive choice to be carrying a tribute to Prince, that has a lot of people up in arms.
There's the fact that Timberlake mocked Prince's height when he accepted Prince award in absentia at the 2007 Golden Globe awards; he bent his knees to appear shorter.
The two got into some beef when Timberlake titled his 2006 album FutureSex/LoveSounds, as many saw that as an uncredited nod towards Prince's album Lovesexy. Their tension escalated when Prince, who is never one to miss a shade moment, reportedly said "sexy never left," in reference to Timberlake's song "SexyBack."
Additionally, fans are still troubled about Timberlake's performance with Janet Jackson at the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. For quick reference, Justin ripped off a part of Jackson's costume to reveal her bare nipple on live television — a moment that many point to as the beginning of Jackson's career slump. She's never fully recovered from the rancor of the media and fans, even though it was blamed on a wardrobe malfunction. Timberlake is seen as never having truly apologized for the incident.
Many would have liked to have seen Timberlake pay proper tribute to Jackson when he takes the stage at the Super Bowl again, either with a statement or an appearance by Jackson herself. It appears that neither will be happening.
Prince was a fierce advocate women of color. He made a point to discover and collaborate with Black women who themselves would go on to become household names, like Apollonia, Misty Copeland, and Janelle Monaé. Timberlake, who many feel creatively feeds off Black music and embarrassed one of the most beloved black female performers without remorse, is seen as doubly disrespectful to Prince's legacy of championing women of color.
It also feels strange to use his death an opportunity to cash in, when the United States is in the midst of a public health epidemic of opioid substance abuse disorder and overdoses. The drug has caused fatal overdoses to skyrocket over the past few years, as many people unknowingly take painkillers or opiates cut with the potent drug — or specifically seek out fentanyl because it is so powerful. If Timberlake truly wanted to honor Prince's memory, he could do something related to substance abuse disorder advocacy.
Twitter erupted over the report, with many users wondering who made this executive decision. Others pointed how it is still unfair to adulate Timberlake while denigrating Jackson, and criticizing Timberlake for seeing himself as worthy of carrying Prince's legacy torch.
Refinery29 has reached out to Timberlake, Prince's estate, and the NFL for comment. We will update this story with more information as it becomes available.
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