Chapter 18

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Authors Note: Majority of this chapter was written word for word from the Live Oprah Interview with Michael Jackson and I do not claim whatsoever to have made up the questions Oprah had or the answers Michael gave. In order to not make this a super long chapter, I combined some answers with others and skipped some questions and answers altogether. The only things that came out of my own creativity were the questions and answers about the fictional character Shayla-Elizabeth Jackson and Michael Jackson's inner thoughts as the interview went on.

Thank you 💙


VII


I waited in the hallway talking to one of Oprah's cameramen as she set up while the homage and fan voiceover collage video of me played for whoever watched on television. Oddly enough, I'm far from nervous. It took a while for this to finally happen. My wife isn't by my side, however, which would have been nice. It would have been a great opportunity to announce our union all at once to the whole world. But she has my career and I have mine. I haven't done an interview in fourteen years, because I've been working so much and with everything that's gone on, I honestly didn't even want to be bothered with an intrusive interviewer. Now, it's been a while, I guess. I trust Oprah to do her job. I trust that this interview will get all the necessary points across. And I trust that it will finally let the world know I'm not a weird guy. I'm normal just like everyone else.


I went back to the kitchen to grab myself a glass of water. I'm honestly ready to begin this interview. The fact that it's live for the entire nation to see all at once made it all the better. I want them to hear what I have to say. I want them to see everything firsthand. This really means a lot to me. Although this was all Elizabeth's idea, this really means a lot to me, because I can finally get my point across. I drank my water as I walked back to the hallway before she introduced me. After this, we may only get one commercial break. Heck, maybe not even one at all. I don't want to be parched before I have to talk for an hour and a half. This will be exciting. "Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Jackson." I placed my glass on an end table and walked out to meet Oprah in the living room. We laughed as I walked up to her. I shook her hand and kissed her cheek before sitting down across from her. "How nervous are you right now?"


"How what?"


"How nervous are you right now?"


"Mmm, I'm not nervous at all actually," I sat comfortably in my chair.


"You really aren't?" she asked.


"No," I shook my head. "I never get nervous."


"You don't?!"


"No." How many times was she going to ask this? I think she's definitely nervous and just trying to pass it off on me.


"Not even for your first interview and it's live around the world? I thought you'd be a little nervous, but that's great, because if you're not nervous then I won't be nervous. I just wanted to let the world know that when we agreed to do this interview, you said that you would be willing to talk to me about everything and we haven't discussed one single question that's going to be asked here tonight. Just want to make that clear."


"That's very true," I adjusted the pillow in my seat. While we haven't discussed any of the questions, I certainly have an idea of what she's going to ask. The most obvious questions that I'm already mentally prepared for.


"When we were watching the video of you in the early years, did that bring back memories for you?"


I laughed, "it made me giggle because I haven't seen that footage in a long time. It brings back memories, yes. Me and my brothers, who I love dearly. It's just a wonderful moment for me."


"So, when I look at those tapes of you and heaven knows that putting this together, I think I've seen every piece of video done of you. And watching those tapes, especially when in the younger years, you seem to really come alive on stage. There's something going on with you when you were a little boy on stage. Were you as happy offstage as you appear to be onstage?"


I sighed, "well, onstage, for me, was home. I was most comfortable, and still, most comfortable on stage. Once I got off stage, I was very sad."


"Really?"


"Yes," I nodded.


"And sad from the beginning? Sad since it first started?"


"Lonely, sad, having to face with popularity and all of that. There were times when I had great times with my brothers. Pillow fights and things. But I used to always cry from loneliness."


"You did?"


"Yes." I almost feel kind of odd admitting this to her and to the whole world, but it's my truth. I can't feel odd admitting my truth.


"Beginning at what age?"


I looked away, "oh, very little. Eight. Nine," I shrugged.


"When you all first became famous?"


I nodded, "yes."


"So, it wasn't what it appeared to be to the rest of the world? All of us. I remember I was a little black child wanting to marry Jackie Jackson, your brother. So, to all of us, we thought this was the most wonderful thing in the world. Who wouldn't have wanted to live that life?"


"It is wonderful. And there is a wonderment in being famous. I mean, you travel the world and you see things. You meet people. You go places. It's great. Then there's the other side. There's, uh, which I'm not complaining, there's rehearsal, uh, and you have to put a lot of your time and give up yourself a lot."


"Do you feel, um... I talked to Suzanne De Passe the other day. And Suzanne De Passe worked with you all for a long time in Motown and really groomed you all and found the outfits for the Ed Sullivan Show. Suzanne had some interesting theories about your childhood. We talked about whether or not it was really lost. Was it?"


I sighed, "well, especially now, I come to realize and then, I would do my schooling, which was three hours with a tutor. Then right after that, I'd go to the recording studio and record and I'd record for hours and hours until it was time to go to sleep. So, it'd be nighttime, and I remember going to the recording studio, there was a park across the street, I'd see all the children playing and they'd be rooting and making noise and I would cry. It made me sad that I would have to go and work instead."


"I wanted to go and hear what Suzanne had to say about your childhood and we're gonna look at some pictures of you as a little boy."


I laughed, "okay..." She played a clip of me at ten years old being interviewed. I can remember the exact emotion I had when I was asked at ten what it was like for me to perform. It was almost an odd question, like what did he even mean? I just do it. I'm glad I answered the question the way I did though. Someone once told me I was like an old soul in a little body. I still don't know about all that now, but I can say that I grew up very fast and became extremely wise at a very young age.


"Suzanne said it was a heavy price. I want to know how big of a price it was. Losing your childhood or having this kind of life." Wow. I didn't expect that question. No one has asked me that, aside from Shayla. Now the whole world will know.


"Well, you don't get to do the things that other children get to do. You know the simple things that they so much take for granted. Having friends and slumber parties, buddies and just hanging out. There was none of that for me. I didn't have any friends when I was little. My brothers were my friends."


"Was it ever a place where, because you know children, you know, I remember having games and talking to myself and playing with my dolls and all that. And I think every child needs a place to escape into a child's world. Into a child's imagination. Was there ever a time you could do that?"


"No, and that is why I think now because I didn't have it then, I compensate for that. When I was little, it was all about work, work, work. From one concert to the next. If it wasn't a concert, it was the recording studio. If it wasn't that, it was a tv show. Interviews or picture sessions. It was always something to do."


"Did you feel, and Smokie Robinson and others have said it about you too, that you were like an old soul in a little body?"


"I remember hearing that all the time when I was little. They used to call me a forty-five-year-old midget everywhere I went. I used to always hear that, and I just would hear it and I never thought about it. Just like when people say, 'when you were little and you started to sing, did you know you were that good?' I never thought about it. I just did it and it came out. I never thought about it really."


"So, here you were, Michael Jackson, with hits. You all had so many hits. Four hits in a row. And you were crying because you couldn't be like other kids."


I sighed. Well, when she puts it like that, she makes me seem ungrateful and that's so far from the truth, "well, I love show business. I still love show business, but then there are times you want to play and have some fun and that part did make me sad. I remember one time, we were getting ready to go to South America and everybody was packed up in the car ready to leave and go and the plane was about to take off and I hid. I was crying when I was hiding because I really did not want to go. I wanted to play. I did not want to go."


"What's your relationship like with your family? Are you close still?"


"I love all my family very much. I wish I could see them a little more often than I do, but we understand because we're a show business family and we all work. We do have Family Day where we all go to someone's house and we'll fellowship and love each other and talk and catch up on who's doing what."


"You all aren't all upset about LaToya and her book and things LaToya has said about the family?" Inside, I was laughing. I didn't expect this question, but I certainly should have.


"Well, I haven't read LaToya's book, um," how do I word this so that no one gets the wrong idea about anything? "I just know I love my sister dearly. I love LaToya and I always will. And I always see her as the happy loving LaToya I remember growing up with. So, I couldn't completely answer on that."


"Do you feel that some of the things she's been saying are true?"


I sighed. She's going to keep pressing the issue. That's her job. I can't be upset with her for doing her job, but we've had enough talked about our family. We don't need anything else said. "I couldn't answer, Oprah. Honestly, I haven't read the book. That's the honest truth."


"Do you forgive her?"


"I didn't read the book, Oprah," I smiled nervously. "I don't know what I'd have to forgive her for, but I will say aside from all that, there's so much garbage written about me and my family. It's so untrue. Complete lies and those are some of the things I want to talk about. The press has made up so much god awful, horrifying stories that are completely appalling! Completely appalling and so far from the truth and it's made me to realize the more often a person tells a lie, the more times you hear a lie, I mean, you begin to believe it! If it's told often enough, you start to believe it. And it's appalling the things that have been said about me and it's completely false!"


Oprah pulled out a sheet of notebook paper, "there are so many. I normally don't write questions down, but there are so many, I didn't want to forget them. First of all, I have been in this house, getting lit and getting prepared for this and all over the house upstairs when you weren't looking, looking all over for that oxygen chamber. I cannot find that oxygen chamber in the house."


We laughed, "that story is so crazy, I mean, it's one of those tabloid things. It was completely made up."


"Okay, but you are in something there. There's a picture of you. Where did that come from? How did it get started?"


"I did a commercial for Pepsi and I was burned very badly, and we settled for like some million dollars and I gave all the money, we built this place called the Michael Jackson Burn Center. And that's a piece of technology that's for burn victims, right? So, I'm looking at the piece of technology and decide to just go inside of it just to hammer around. I get my manager to take the picture. The person who processes the picture says, 'oh, Michael Jackson!' The picture goes all over the world with a lie attached to it. It's a complete lie. Why do people buy these papers and it's not the truth? And I'm here to say, do not judge a person, do not pass judgment on anyone unless you have talked to them one on one. I don't care what the story is. Do not judge them, because it's a lie."


"But that story... You're right, it was like it had legs."


"It's crazy! Why would I want to sleep in a chamber?" I laughed.


"The rumor was that you were sleeping in a chamber because you didn't want to grow old-"


"It's stupid. It's stupid. It's completely made up and I'm embarrassed. I'm willing to forgive the press and anybody. You know I was taught to love and forgive, which I do have in my heart, but please don't believe these crazy horrifying things," I rolled my eyes.


"Okay, okay! Let's go down the list. Did you buy the Elephant Man's bones?"


"No. That's another stupid story. I love the story 'The Elephant Man.' It reminds me of me a lot, you know, I can relate to it. I saw myself in the story. But no, I did- Where am I gonna put some bones?" I laughed.


"I don't know," she laughed.


"And why would I want a pair of bones?"


"I don't know. So, where did that come from?"


"Someone makes it up and everybody believes it. You hear a lie often enough; you start to believe it."


"Alright. Just recently there was a story that you wanted a little white boy to play you in a Pepsi commercial."


I laughed at how absurd that allegation is, "that's so stupid. That's the most ridiculous, horrifying story I've ever heard. It's crazy. I mean, why, number one, it's my face as a child in the commercial. Me when I was little. Why would I want a white child to play me? I'm a black American. I'm proud to be a black American. I am proud of my race. I am proud to be who I am. I have a lot of pride in who I am and dignity. That's like you wanting an oriental person to play you as a child. Does that make any sense?"


"No."


"So, please, people. Stop believing these horrifying stories."


"Okay, Michael, so let's talk about the thing that's most discussed about you, I think. The color of your skin is obviously different than it was when you were younger. So, I think it has caused a great deal of speculation and controversy as to what you have done or are doing. Are you bleaching your skin? Is your skin lighter because you don't like being black?"


Here we go. "Number one, there is no such thing, as I know of, as skin bleaching. I've never seen it. I don't know what it is. Number one, this is the situation, I have a skin disorder that destroys the pigmentation of the skin. It's something that I cannot help. Okay, but when people make up stories that I don't want to be who I am, it hurts me."


"So... it is..." she waited for me to answer.


"It's a problem for me, okay? I can't control it. Okay? But what about all of the millions of people- Let's reverse it! What about all the millions of people who sit out in the sun to become darker to become other than what they are. Nobody says nothing about that."


"When did this start? When did the color of your skin start to change?"


"Oh, boy. Sometime after 'Thriller.'"


"And what did you think?"


"It's in my family. My father said it's on his side. I can't control it. I don't understand."


"Okay, so I want to get something straight. You are not taking anything. You did not purposely-"


"We're trying to control it to even it out because there are blotches on my skin. I have to even out my skin. But you know what's funny? Why is that so important? That's not important to me. I mean, it is important to me because I have to deal with it, but it shouldn't be important to you. I'm a great fan of art. I love Michelangelo. If I had a chance to talk to him or read about him, I would want to know what inspired him to become who he is. The anatomy of his craftsmanship. Not about who he went out with last night or why he decided to sit out in the sun so long. I mean, that's what's important to me."


"How much plastic surgery have you had?"


Interesting how I tell her what's not important and she's still stuck on talking about what's not important, "very, very little. You can count them on two fingers. If you want to know about those things, all the nosy people in the world," I laughed. "Read my book 'Moonwalker.' It's in my book."


"Well, since we're on the topic of your private life, if you don't mind me asking, do you date?"


"Yes," I nodded.


"Is it that Shayla girl we've all seen you with? Who is she to you?"


I smiled and wiped my top lip, "my soulmate."


"Is she a wife? Just a girlfriend?"


"My honest to God soulmate. I don't know where I'd be without her."


"But what about that ring that we've seen on your finger from time to time? Does that mean anything in terms of Shayla?"


"It has some significance."


"But Michael, anyone can be a soulmate. It seems the two of you are pretty close. Romantic soulmate, perhaps?"


"I only have one soulmate and that's Shayla-Elizabeth."


"Well alrighty then," Oprah turned to face the camera. "You heard it from Michael Jackson himself. It appears he's off the market, although he's not really saying, but I'm gonna get it out of him. Surely, she isn't your sister or cousin?"


My eyebrows furrowed in confusion and slight disgust. Did she really ask that on national television? "The whole world knows I have three sisters and you've seen them all. Rebbie, LaToya and Janet. That's it. I have no more sisters and I surely wouldn't date my cousin."


"I'm just asking what the whole world wants to know. That is absurd, isn't it? But what is the coincidence that your soulmate has the same last name as you?"


I nodded, "we are not related in any way, shape, or form."


"Are you and Shayla married? She may be new to some, but for those of us working in the media, we remember the reports of you potentially being married. Is Shayla the woman you're married to?"


"We've known each other for years. She means a lot to me. I'd do anything for Shayla."


She jokingly side-eyed me, "but that doesn't answer my question, Michael."


"Shayla and I met a long, long time ago. She was kind enough to write a letter to me a little before the release of 'Off the Wall.' And we've been best friends ever since."


"Do you want to marry her?"


I laughed. If only they knew. "Oh... I don't know. She's an amazing person. Truly amazing. I love her."


"In love with her?"


"In love."


"As in friends or..."


"She's my soulmate, Oprah!" I laughed. "Ask her yourself. She'll tell you the same thing."


"I wish I could, but I can't find her anywhere. I heard she's an author. She's so private."


"Yes, she is..."


"So, where is Ms. Shayla?"


"She's actually on a book tour right now. She'll be gone for a month. I miss her already."


"Tell me about what really happened in DC. All over the news, all we see are pictures of you and Shayla in a store and reports that you got a college kid fired from her job. Tell me that story."


"Oh, that," I shifted in my chair to get comfortable. "That was an act of racism towards Shayla. And like I said before, don't believe the garbage in the tabloids. Shayla went to this store in the Galleria in DC to buy a dress for the AMA's. The young lady in the store denied Shayla the opportunity to try on the dress because of the color of her skin. The young lady said that people of Shayla's complexion often come in the store, try on an outfit and the outfit goes missing although it was not purchased. Shayla called me crying about how upset she was and I was able to get a hold of the CEO of the store to tell him the issue. Long story short, the CEO allowed Shayla to purchase anything she wanted in the store on his dime and he dealt with the young lady accordingly. I did not get anyone fired and it hurts me to hear people say that I don't care about middle-class people. I care about everyone. That was an act of racism, Oprah."


"Wow... See, they didn't print that in the paper."


"And they won't," I shrugged. "They print what sells."


"So, when you said you'd do anything for Shayla you really meant anything."


"Anything."


"This woman clearly has a hold on you."


"Well..." I smiled.


"I'm gonna ask you this and it's embarrassing for me to ask you this, but I'm going to ask you anyway. Are you a virgin?"


I gasped and covered my face in embarrassment, "how could you ask me that question?"


"I just want to know!"


I smiled, "I'm a gentleman."


"You're a gentleman?"


"I'm a gentleman."


"So, um, I would interpret that to mean, you believe that a lady is a lady and therefore..."


"That's something that's private. I mean, it shouldn't be spoken about openly. You can call me old-fashioned if you want, but you know. To me, that's very personal."


"So, you're not going to answer it?"


"I'm embarrassed!"


"Do you plan on having children?"


"My life wouldn't be complete if I didn't have children. I plan on having children eventually. But I can't right now, because I'm married to my work. I don't have the time right now. I've thought about it a lot and I just don't have time."


"So, you and Shayla plan on having kids when you have time?"


"Me and Shayla? Oh... Um. We're soulmates and all, but I don't know if- Ya know." She caught me off guard with that question.


"She doesn't want to take it that far although you all are in love?"


"You can be in love with someone and not have children with them."


"Would you prefer that Shayla have your children?"


These are hard-hitting questions I didn't expect, "Shayla is a beautiful woman. She's stunning. I think she'd be an amazing mother."


"But not the mother of your children?"


"She would make an amazing mother, I'm sure."


"You'd have to get married first, right?"


"Right."


"Are you going to give me anything on the relationship between you and Shayla? I'm really trying here!" she laughed.


I laughed, "I told you everything. We're soulmates. We're in love. I don't know what else," I shrugged. I feel like I'm handling the interview perfectly. She's getting to some hard-hitting and some idiotic questions I didn't expect, but other than that, it's going pretty well. I can only imagine what Shayla has to say about this interview. The fact that Oprah asked me if I was a virgin on national television? As if I was a child? I think I handled that question perfectly, but Shayla will be pissed when we finally talk about this. I think we have another thirty minutes to go...

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