Chapter 17 - Michael Jackson's 30th Anniversary Celebration

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September 10, 2001


Based on the reviews Michael and the rest of the performers received for his celebration on the seventh, the thirtieth anniversary went exceptionally well.


Drew and I had a trip planned in Greece for the seventh, which was why we couldn’t attend. But today, it’s all about celebrating my children’s fathers’ career, and I’m excited for what’s in store.


“Now, when we get out, people are going to be shouting your names. You don’t know these people, but they’ve heard of you. This is their first time seeing you since you were babies. Do not stop to talk to them unless Daddy or I say so. They just want photos of us, and that’s all,” I warned the twins as we sat in the limo on our way to the red carpet.


“Normal” children don’t get these kinds of talks, but my children have to. It’s the only way they’ll be able to survive in this world.


Tailored specifically for my son by his father’s designer, MJ wore a jacket encrusted in white diamonds, a white shirt underneath, and black dress pants. Just like his father.


Designed specifically for Milan by Vera Wang, my daughter wore an emerald pantsuit, giving her room to dance and play like her brother.


Featured in their spring collection and gifted to me by Andrew, I wore an emerald jumpsuit by Blumarine with a black silk chiffon wrap to keep me warm.


And wearing a black suit with an emerald silk shirt and handkerchief to match, Andrew matched me.


We were photograph ready, but I just want this red carpet to be over with, so we can find our seats.


“Why do people want to take pictures of us if we don’t know them? What if I don’t want to take a picture?” MJ asked me.


“Because,” I reached over to fix his jacket collar. “We’re very important people. And strangers want to take pictures of us because of who we are.”


“I don’t want to be important,” he sulked.


I sighed. How do I explain that he was born into a family that people have adored for decades? I can’t. Not right now, at least. It’s far too complex for a four-year-old to understand. “I know, baby. This is why this will be the first and last time we do anything like this. Ready, Mimi?” I asked my shy girl. Gosh, she reminds me of myself before every event Michael dragged me to while we were in the process of publicizing our marriage.


She shook her head no, “you and daddy always say we can’t talk to strangers. Do we have to talk to these strangers?”


I reached over and pushed back any flyaways atop her head. I had given her two big beautiful afro puffs with gold and white hairballs on her head. I don’t care what anybody says; my babygirl is not getting a perm in her head. “Not unless we say you can answer their questions.”


The limo came to a stop right in front of the red carpet entrance.


“Put on those big, beautiful smiles mommy taught you, okay?” I reminded them.


The door was opened for us, and the cameras immediately began to flash. Michael and I had discussed whether we wanted our children to be raised in anonymity or not.


Michael suggested the twins wear masks whenever they went somewhere with us; that way, they could go maskless when they weren’t with us. But with the likelihood of them not being with us being slim to none, I suggested we just always keep low profiles, and when we wanted to be seen, we’d allow it. Besides, wearing masks everywhere is no way to live.


For the past four years, we’ve been fine and have had nothing to worry about. No one hounds us for the kids, nor do they chase us with the kids because we’ve always kept low profiles. And since the kids spent most of their time with me since they were born, we’ve never had any issues. This will be the first time the kids will be seen by the media since they were infants.


Andrew got out first, and while first met with confusion at his presence, the media immediately began asking him questions. He ignored them and turned around to help me out.


Once I was out, the flashes and demands to “look here” increased.


Drew helped MJ out, followed by Mimi. All the attention that was initially on me and Drew immediately went to my children.


“Mike Jr.! Look over here!”


“Milan, you look smashing! Look here!”


“Are you and Andrew Hammond an official couple, Shayla?”


“Is Michael okay with this?”


We ignored all their questions, grabbed the twin’s hands, and gradually made our way to the top of the red carpet. Aside from Michael, we were the most sought after on the carpet. Michael arrived shortly before us, so I know he can’t be too far.


“Shayla and Andrew, can we get a shot of the lovely couple with the twins?” A cameraman asked.


“Why don’t you just get a shot of Shayla and her children?” Drew asked and stepped out of the way for us to take the photo.


I bent down to look at the twins, “remember what mommy said, but if you don’t want to smile, you don’t have to, okay?”


“Good! Because these people are really getting on my nerves asking all these questions!” MJ rolled his eyes and turned around to face the cameras.


I stood up behind the twins and smiled in many directions until I decided I no longer wanted to smile and proceeded to give them neutral yet friendly looks.


“Can we get a photo with Andrew in it?” Another cameraman asked.


I looked over at my lover, who grabbed Milan’s hand and mine and smiled.


“I think we ought to move on now.” Drew knew I didn’t care for things like this. I only did it if it was expected of me. Not only did he rescue me, but he rescued my children, who obviously want zero parts of this. He’s making it so easy for me to fall for him.


As we walked up the red carpet, we waved at cameramen and women who wanted us to stop, but we kept going.


Just as we reached the end, we spotted Michael and Elizabeth Taylor.


“Daddy!” The twins let go of our hands and hightailed it over to their father.


Michael’s hair looked like he had just rolled out of bed, and his eyes hung dreadfully low as if he were bound to go to sleep.


And Liz, wearing a black gown with a purple furry jacket that looked like she swiped right off the back of an animal, looked at least awake and alert. A massive contrast to Michael.


“Michael! Michael! Are you excited about tonight’s performance? Are you excited about tonight’s performance?” I could hear an interviewer shout at him.


“Thank you,” Michael touched his chest. “Thank you very much.”


“What’s so special about tonight’s performance to you? What makes this such a great night for you?”


“It’s a reunion,” he leaned into the microphone and slurred. “And I’m honoredddd that the whirl appreciates my art… I’m very honored.”


“Are you nervous as well?”


“Neverrr.”


“Are you excited to be back with your brothers?”


Michael held up the peace sign just as the twins collided with him, hugging his legs. “Oh!” His reaction was delayed as he and Liz looked down at the twins. “My children are here! Say hi! Say hi to my children,” he slowly bent down to hug and kiss them.


“Something’s wrong,” Drew whispered to me.


“I know,” I said through my plastered smile. He’s either drunk or high. Well, whatever it is, why is he even doing it? Especially to knowingly do this before such an important event!


“Where’s your mother?” Michael stood up and looked around until he spotted me. “Oh, Shayla! Shayla, come here!”


Drew and I walked over hand in hand. The media took continuous photos of our encounter. The smile on my face hid the fury I was feeling deep inside.


“Shayla, Andrew, I’d like you both to meet my date, Elizabeth Taylor. Drew, have you ever met her before?”


“This is my first time. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Taylor,” Drew shook her hand.


“I’m sure! Shayla, you’re dating so soon? Shame on you!” She quickly turned her attention to me and swiped her right index finger across her left to indicate her shame towards me. “With Michael still being hopelessly in love with you, trust me, I hear it all the time,” she failed miserably at whispering to me. “And with two little ones, the last thing you should be doing is dating. Nice green,” she pointed at my jumpsuit.


I wonder how much he had to pay her to be here. The last time she went out in public with him was four years ago, amidst our divorce.


“Can we get a photo of the lovely blended family?” A cameraman asked.


Without looking to see if I’d be okay with the idea, Michael and Liz immediately positioned themselves and the kids for a photo. And in order not to cause an embarrassing commotion, I signaled Drew to follow suit.

Michael will be hearing from me when the show is over.


VII


Katherine, Joseph, and Liz all sat on Michael’s left side while Drew, the twins, and I sat on his right side. Michael’s other close “friends” and family were also in the VIP box. Michael wasn’t lying when he said he had seats for a select few only.


The lights in Madison Square Garden dimmed, causing the audience to scream in excitement for the show.


Samuel L. Jackson walked onto the stage just as cool as he wanted to be, thanked the audience, and began his speech, “Michael Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana on August twenty-ninth nineteen fifty-eight.” Michael scootched past Liz to kiss Katherine on the cheek. “Now, thirty years after his first solo single, ‘Got to be There,’ Michael always seems to be startin’ somethin’. And to start things off tonight, please welcome three incredible performers: Mýa, Usher, and the one and only, Whitney Houston!”


We all applauded in excitement as “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” began, and dancers came onto the stage.


Usher came out wearing brown leather pants and some type of animal fur across his body.


The twins started dancing and clapping, trying to emulate his dances, until he hit some kind of one-armed headstand, not once but twice. Mýa came out singing as beautifully as ever.


Somehow, she reminded me of Aaliyah, and although I was excited about the show, my heart immediately sunk. Hearing about Aaliyah’s tragic death really broke my heart. It happened almost four weeks ago, and I’m still shaken about it. I really enjoyed watching her grow into such a beautiful star. Now she’s gone in the blink of an eye…


I wiped away an unexpected tear.


“You okay, baby?” Drew handed me his handkerchief and kissed my cheek.


“She reminds me of Aaliyah,” I told him as he pulled me in for a hug and kissed the top of my head.

Drew was there for me when she passed as I mourned the death of one of my favorite up-and-coming singers. And once again, here he is comforting me even amongst this sea people, without a care in the world.


I kissed him and turned back to face the stage. I’m sure he’ll let me talk about it later.


I watched as Mýa and Usher sang back and forth until they were hoisted into the air doing all kinds of flips.


Right as they were coming down, a very thin Whitney Houston walked out onto the stage. Now granted, I haven’t seen her in a while… The last time I heard, she was heavily using drugs. I guess this is the effect of heavy drug use.


God, I hope she stops. She has beautiful little Bobbi Kristina to care for. If she needed any inspiration to stop, her daughter should be that very reason.


Michael, Liz, and the kids were just eating this up. It made me happy to see the twins enjoy themselves, but Michael looked like he didn’t even want to be here…


Once their performance was over, a young Billy Gillman came out to sing “Ben.”


Michael applauded as Mimi looked on in awe. I can tell that’s something my baby girl wants to do, and to see a young kid like herself do the same thing just ignited a fire in her, I’m sure.


MJ couldn’t be bothered, though. He was too busy chatting his grandma's ear off as he waited for the next performance to begin.


“Please welcome, Shaggy and Rik Rok!” An announcer said over the speaker as “It Wasn’t Me” began to play.


“I love this song!” Michael exclaimed.


I bet you do.


Rik Rok began singing his verse that I had grown to hate. Not just because of its contents, but how crass of Shaggy to release a song like this?!


As Shaggy began to rap, he forcefully hip thrust the air. Drew and I were quick to cover the twin’s eyes, but apparently not quick enough because MJ was already trying to emulate Shaggy’s very movements.


“Check this out! Check this out,” Shaggy came over to us. “Yo, Mike! Mikey! You the King of Pop, my brotha.” Michael held up the peace sign while Liz waved. The twins jumped up and down in excitement. “And I heard this song is one of your favorite songs.”


“Yes,” Michael nodded.


“You the original banger, ya know dat?” Shaggy once again hip thrust the air. This time all Drew, and I could do was laugh. Shaggy’s hip thrusts were so random at this point that we couldn’t cover the twin’s eyes if we tried. “But if you get caught, this is what you gotta say,” Shaggy pointed at Rik Rok.


“Listen,” Rik Rok began. “You better tell her that I’m sorry for the pain that I’ve caused….”


“Hear that, Shayla?” Liz yelled over Michael. “He says he’s sorry! You can take Michael back and bring your family together now!”


“Really, bitch?” I said without thinking.


“Baby…” Drew pulled me closer and kissed my cheek over and over as I glared at Liz. All Michael could do was laugh and avoid eye contact with me. “Baby,” Drew turned my face towards his and kissed my lips to try to calm me down. “She’s not worth it. She hasn’t been all these years. Don’t pay her any mind.”


“She’s such a royal pain in my eyes. To be honest, she’s one of the reasons our whole marriage was whack in the first place. Because he kept her around despite her constant disrespect towards me,” I told him.


“Do you really want her to know that she still gets under your skin?”


“I told you! I told you she wasn’t gonna last,” I overheard Liz say to Michael loud enough for me to hear. “Now, she’s just your ghetto baby mama that follows you around to all of your events. I don’t see what you love about her so much. It’s clear she’s always wanted to move on.”


“Excuse me?” I stood up to face her. “Where the hell have you been all these years, huh? The last time I checked, the last time you saw Michael was what? Four to eight years ago? And he had to pay you to see your trifling ass. I’ll always be here, and Michael doesn’t have to pay me to do shit!”


“Only because you have his offspring, sweetheart. That doesn’t keep a man, contrary to popular belief, dear,” she said as she stared out at the audience.


“Last time I checked, he’s the one that wants to keep me, not the other way around. Even if I didn’t have the twins, I guarantee you, I’d still have to reject his advances, so you can miss me with all that shit!”


“Shayla, please!” Michael looked up at me with pleading eyes.


“No, check your, girl, Mike. The one you constantly kept around despite her years of disrespect? Check her. Not me,” I finally sat down and crossed my legs.


Liz always tries it with me, and he’s never stopped it. Even now, four years post-divorce, who did he stop? Me!


How could he possibly want me back but continue to let this happen? Miss me with that.


“I’m sorry, Michael,” Liz touched his hand.


He shrugged her off and held his hand up to stop, “let’s just watch the show,” he pointed down at Marc Anthony, who was finishing up a rendition of “She’s Out of My Life.”


That old hag had me arguing through two whole songs.


“You okay?” Drew asked me.


“I’m fine. You see what I’m talking about, though, babe? I had to take it from him, but her too?! Nah. She’s not even his mom!”


“Please welcome the hottest trio in music today: Beyoncé, Kelly, and Michelle. The Bootylicious Destiny’s Child!” The announcer introduced the stunning trio.


Like, Aaliyah, I enjoyed this group. Their “Writings on the Wall” album helped me get through my divorce. And their “Survivor” album is easily my favorite album of the year.


Mimi quietly studied Beyoncé in the forefront as she sang and danced without a problem in the world. The look in her eye that she had for Beyoncé was not the same look she had for Mýa. This look was brighter. She was in pure awe as she watched the young singer sing and dance across the stage.


“This is for you, Michael,” Beyoncé said as she put on a sparkly white fedora and performed a Michael inspired dance sequence with Kelly and Michelle.


Michael was just eating their performance up. I don’t know if he had eyes for the pop stars or if he just truly enjoyed their performance. Whatever. At least Drew was a little bit modest about it.


“Mommy, when I grow up, I wanna be like her,” Mimi pointed to the stage.


“Like who?” I asked.


“Her. Beyoncé,” she pointed directly at the star.


“You wanna be in a girl group?”


She shook her head no, “I wanna sing and dance like Beyoncé, but be my own group. Daddy,” she turned to her father. “Can I be like Beyoncé when I grow up?”


“Of course, babygirl! You can be whatever you wanna be. Wanna meet her when the show is over?” Michael asked.


Her eyes lit up in excitement, “can I? Please?”


“I’ll make it happen,” he winked and kissed her forehead.


Before we knew it, Liza Minnelli had made her way onstage. I never had an opinion on her, but when I found out she was out with Michael and Liz almost twenty years ago when Michael left me high and dry for weeks, I can’t say that I’ve particularly liked her since.


But like her performance of “You Are Not Alone,” that I didn’t even realize was the song until I finally realized it, I don’t even think she should be here. The choir behind her could have done the song all by themselves without her leading “vocals.”


Performances by James Ingram, Gloria Estefan, 98°, Luther Vandross, and Usher followed. Usher and Luther did such a great job singing “Man in the Mirror,” that I had forgotten 98° were even up there.

After their performances, Michael and Liz left to get ready for their sets.


I swear, as soon as Liz left, all the tension and negative energy went away with her.


“She was dead wrong for what she said earlier, and she knows it,” Katherine told me.


“See?” I told Drew. “Didn’t I tell you she’d say something?”


“Yeah, when Mike didn’t accept her apology, she knew she messed up,” Joseph chimed in.


“So, I’m not the crazy one, right?” I asked.


“Now, you know good and well you ain’t the crazy one,” Joseph sucked his teeth. “He had to buy her a whole diamond necklace for her to even come for both nights.”


“I’m not even surprised. That’s his date,” I shrugged and faced the stage just as Liz walked on, just as happy as ever.


“Hi,” she said into the microphone. If only people knew how badly she had just spoken to me earlier… “I am so proud to be here tonight to honor the world’s greatest entertainer. The most successful recording artist in the history of popular music. And most importantly to me, my closest friend… Michael Jackson!” The crowd went crazy at her slurred speech. Has she had something to drink? “…is a man of integrity and sensitivity, who is a true humanitarian… Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Michael Jackson and the Jacksons!”


The crowd went crazy again. I looked over at Joseph and Katherine, who looked at their sons in pride. They’ve longed to see their sons on stage together again since the eighties. And now, here they are nearly twenty years later on stage again like they never missed a beat.


The twins hooped and hollered in praise for their father and uncles. This is their first time seeing their father and uncles perform live, and I’m honestly glad to share this first time experience with them.


MJ tried to emulate his father and uncles’ dances while Mimi soaked everything up like a sponge.


I can see it now. She’s going to be precisely what she’s saying she wants to be. The way she’s been soaking all of this up reminds me of the stories I’ve heard of Michael doing this exact same thing when he was a couple years older than her.


“You down with OPP?!” Randy asked the audience as his brothers sang “ABC.” “Come on, New York!” Michael walked over to him but stopped shortly to dance, keeping a close eye on his younger brother. “You down with OPP?!” Randy asked again.


This time, Michael walked over to him but was halted by Randy’s hand as he pushed Michael away from him.


“Go on, Mike. Go on!” He taunted as Michael ignored the antic and went over to finish the set without any further sabotage.


Joseph sucked his teeth, “now, Randy knew better than to have said that.”


“What’s wrong with it?” Drew asked me.


“They could get sued for that.”


“Why? Naughty By Nature sampled their song anyway.”


“Still wasn’t part of the original. That’s not their lyric to just blurt out like that,” I shrugged.


They finally went into “The Love You Save.” The last time I heard this song, Michael happily sang it as I was waddling out of his concert after learning his infidelity. I’ve avoided the song since because of the memory. It’s crazy how a song I enjoyed in my youth has since become a song I loathe and avoid.


The rest of their set brought back incredible memories of the time before I knew Michael and just simply enjoyed his music. And as he went into his solo set, it reminded me of the good days I shared with him. I couldn’t help but to smile when he sang “Billie Jean.” Usually, this song doesn’t have this kind of effect on me. I guess it’s just the thirty-year celebration because that was the era we reconnected. That era with him holds my purest memories. Had we stayed just like that, I’m almost sure we’d still be married today.


The bass lick to Michael’s newest song, “You Rock My World,” began, signaling the show's end but the beginning of a new era in his music.


Usher called himself trying to outshine Michael but ended up making a complete fool of himself as Michael stole the show right back from him.


His newest friend, Chris Tucker, from the Rush Hour series, came to dance as well, only for Michael to show him up once again.


Michael fell on the floor in laughter at Chris’ attempt at copying his dance moves until he finally stood up and said, “I love you! Goodnight!”


VII


Once backstage, everyone praised Michael for the incredible show. The only people Michael really cared to see, though, were our children, as he proudly scooped them up to hug and kiss them.


I’m proud of Michael and this show. Despite everything going on, he’s managed to remind everyone who he was in the way that only he knew how to.


“Congratulations, Michael! That was a good show out there,” Drew congratulated my ex-husband.


“Thanks, man,” Michael nodded.


“Michael, can we get photos of you and your family?” Michael’s personal cameraman requested.


“Of course,” he continued to hold the twins in his arms as I walked over to take photos with the entire Jackson clan.


After a couple of shots, Michael put the twins down.


“Michael, do you mind if I talk to you for a minute?” I asked him.


“Um, sure. Excuse me,” he said as he led me to his dressing room. After all that dancing, his high had come down, but this still needed to be addressed. I need to know if he’s doing this shit around my kids. “I really appreciate that you came. It means more to me than you realize,” he said as soon as I shut the door behind me. “Did the twins enjoy the show?”


“They really did. Mimi was soaking everything up.”


“That’s my girl. She’s gonna be a star. I can see it in her eyes.”


“Did you see the way she was looking at Beyoncé?” I laughed.


“I think we all had our eyes on Beyoncé,” he laughed to himself.


My smile slowly faded away, “Michael, I’m going to ask you something, and I need you to be completely honest with me.”


He sighed, “if this is about what Elizabeth pulled. I’m sorry. I didn’t-”


“She’s the least of my concern.”


“Oh… What’s going on?”


“Are you using drugs?”


My question had caught him off guard. His delayed reaction told me everything I needed to know, “excuse me?” He scoffed.


I rolled my eyes, “cut the bullshit. Are you using or not?”


“Shayla, would a man who’s using drugs do what I just did out there?”


“Yes. Did you forget we were married the last time you abused drugs during a tour? Don’t insult my intelligence.”


He swallowed, “look, the pain in my body is unbearable. If I don’t take something to alleviate it-”


“You’re doing this around my kids, Michael?!”


“No! I just-”


“No, you are! Because I caught you looking just as down and out tonight as you were when you were around my children. Hell, you were probably high when you met Drew. No wonder you had those sunglasses on,” I scoffed.


He was quiet for a moment, but his chest rose and fell rapidly. “You know what, Shayla? Yes. Yes, I am. But let me tell you one thing,” he held his finger up at me. “I do not use around my kids. I would never want them to see me like this?”


“Only when you’re coming down, right? That’s the only time it’s acceptable? You were high as a kite tonight, Michael. Why, huh? You were doing so well! You’ve been to rehab and therapy! What more is it gonna take?”


“It’s nothing,” he shook his head no.


“It’s gotta be something. You’re not taking these drugs for the fun of it.”


He looked me in the eye, “you know why?”


“If I didn’t wanna know, I wouldn’t be asking you.”


“You.”


“Me?!” I pointed to myself.


“You and Drew.”


I sucked my teeth, “seriously?! I thought you were okay with me dating!”


“I’m not!” He punched a hole in the wall, causing me to jump. “I never was! I still love you, and I know you still love me! You’re just using Drew to get over me. You’re using him to hurt me. And I’m hurt, okay? You did it, okay?! I’m hurt! I never wanted to see you with someone else. I never wanted to see you bring another man around my children,” he cried. “But you… You….” He struggled to get his following sentence out. “You chose the one man I would have never imagined you’d choose. And that hurts, Shayla. That hurts like a mothafucka! You chose someone I looked up to and admired. Do you know how that makes me feel as a man?! So, yes, I’m taking pain medication because seeing you with him hurts me.”


I don’t know what to say.


I feel like we just took a thousand steps backward, and we’re back to square one without the letters.


“I have to go,” I tried to open the door, only for him to slam it shut.


“Just tell me you love me,” he begged.


“Michael, I need to go,” I tried opening the door again, only for him to once again slam it shut.


“Do you love him?” He asked.


“Let me go,” I looked him in the eye.


“Just answer the question. Do you love him? That’s all I wanna know.”


“I have to go!”


“DO YOU LOVE HIM?!” He shouted at me.


“YES!” I shouted back. We were both breathing heavily. Tears threatened to fall from my eyes, but I refused to allow them.


“Okay,” he swallowed and opened the door, only for us to find Drew on the other side.


“What’s going on?” Drew asked me, eyeing Michael.


Eyes bloodshot and tears continuously streaming down his face, Michael said, “you can have her. She doesn’t love me any more.”

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