Friday, June 26, 2009

What to Tell Your Children when Asked about Michael Jackson

My Blog Sister (Christine) and I were both torn about the sudden death of pop icon Michael Jackson. We loved his music and danced to our own beat.

For Christine it inspired her creative talent as a dancer and performer. When Thriller album launched, Christine's college had a long-time tradition of each class performing a sing-song-dance competition.
With nonstop media coverage on his death, now my children are asking who was Michael Jackson? Now that's a loaded question! So I tell them the Michael Jackson I knew, the one who inspired every young person.

For me, Michael sparked my fashion sensibilities. I just had to run out and get the red leather jacket, the black pants, and sequined accessories. Do any of you remember that store "Chess King"? Did you notice Michael only wore the colors, black, white red, gold and silver? Except for the yellow vest for one album cover.
Looking at Michael Jackson he did not fit the stereotypical rock star. A skinny guy with a chiseled face, cute Barbie doll nose, sequined white mime glove in right hand, and strands of curly black hair was not your usual stud of music. But his exuberant songs and provocative dance electrified music and dance lovers. He overshadowed the "Karma" of Culture Club and the futuristic lyrics of Prince (1999--that was so far away in 1982). Michael Jackson, preempted the new US President, Ronald Reagan, and commanded attention worldwide that eventually his everyday clothing was a type of glorified uniform with epaulets and gold threading and buttons. The moral of this story, which the children loved, "It's OK to be different".

Then comes the harder question: "why and how did he change his skin color"? Like an objective reporter, I answered, "Michael said he suffered from a pigment-erasing skin disease called Vitiligo. My older child, smart as a whip then asked, "Is it true?". I neither confirmed nor denied.

In later years, I did not recognize the new Michael Jackson on the outside from what I assumed were various cosmetic surgeries. It was apparent he was struggling with demons of the past. Of a childhood lost to a parent's quest of celebrity stardom for their children. I never believed he molested any children. Perhaps he made poor choices but his love for children was apparent in so many other ways.

Now I learned he suffered from lupus, an auto-immune disease that can trigger vitiligo.
When he started wearing the white glove, I started to carefully study his hands in interviews (as we are trained in the media world) when he wasn't wearing the signature apparel. I noticed that it was blotchy with black spots. Friends in the industry who had personal contact with the celebrity shared with me that he had large, unattrative hands, especially the one with the white glove. Maybe Michael was telling the truth. Who am I to judge? No one.

I believe Michael would have risen again, and reinvented himself with his upcoming tour in London. But death had other plans for him. He never had a chance. But all of us, his fans, can still celebrate his music and his life by playing his songs at every party and never deleting it from the iPod.

I will always remain a true fan of this music genius. Thank you Michael for inspiring all people, all generations, cultures with the power of music and dance.

To read my Blog Sister's tribute, click here.