Interview, Portrait: La Toya Jackson Talks Michael Jackson, Celebrity Life

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CHICAGO – La Toya Jackson has been making news for two weeks now, as she tours with her new book, “Starting Over.” In it, she relates that her brother Michael Jackson feared for his life, and his premature demise might have had implications beyond the cause-of-death revelations.

She twisted the story with Matt Lauer on “The Today Show” last week, but gets to the point during her four question interview with on June 24th. She was in Chicago at Barnes & Noble Clybourn Avenue, where she greeted admirers and signed her new book.

La Toya Jackson at Barnes & Noble Clybourn, Chicago, June 24th, 2011
Photo credit: Joe Arce, Starstruck Foto for

La Toya Yvonne Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana, the fifth of nine children born to Joseph and Katherine Jackson. Her brothers – Tito, Jermaine, Jackie, Marlon and Michael – formed the pop group “The Jackson 5” when she was barely 11 years old. La Toya joined the act around the time of her 16th birthday, and carved a show business niche of her own starting around 1980. She has released nine albums since then, and has had international success as a performer.

During that period she was also embroiled in a difficult marriage (starting in 1989) to her manager, Jack Gordon. She survived his Svengali-like control and physical abuse, and divorced him in 1996, under the Violence Against Women Act. Her journey with her brother Michael, whom she lived with for awhile, and her path to true independence is all chronicled in her new book, Starting Over.

As well as her musical career, La Toya has participated in three reality TV shows, “Armed and Fabulous, the British “Celebrity Big Brother” and most recently “The Apprentice,” where she became notable for being “fired” by Donald Trump twice (she replaced Jose Canseco when getting reinstated after the first firing, but wasn’t hired by the end). Her appearance on Trump’s show was also characterized by clashes with fellow celebrity NeNe Leakes. had time for four questions to La Toya Jackson, and photographer Joe Arce captured her image at the book signing event. Since you’ve been all over the news this week promoting your book, I wanted to ask what specifically did your brother Michael and his business associates do that made his enemies so mad that they threatened to kill him? Isn’t business just business in this case? Or how did it get so out of hand that the threats were made?

La Toya Jackson: When you say ‘business is just business,’ in this case business is not just business. The business was robbery, and that’s what they did to my brother. They took advantage of him, they took away his publishing and they took these things because this is what they wanted from him. He didn’t have enemies, they just wanted to take advantage of him and take things away from him. In other words, some people don’t like that he was well off and they just wanted to have it. So it’s about money, as usual.

Jackson: Of course it is. What is still with you regarding your early work in the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Do you still interact with an organized religion because of that early basis in religion?

Jackson: No, actually I’m a very spiritual person and I do believe in God. Personally in my own life I don’t believe in organized religion whatsoever. I believe in God and I think that is more than enough. For years the the focus of your family business was on your brothers and the Jackson 5. Was it difficult for you at first when you were asked to join the family business as an entertainer?

Jackson: I never wanted to be in show business initially, it was my father who kept pushing me. I kept saying ‘no, I don’t want this,’ because I wanted to be an entertainment lawyer, to learn the contracts and business law. So I started to go to school for that and my father took me out and told me I would be in the entertainment business, just like the rest of the family.

Then once he did it, I enjoyed it, because I was there with all my family members, it was wonderful. I started out at 16 years old tap dancing and singing. What connection or work helped you to get over the years of your difficult marriage, and what would you tell women who find themselves in a similar situation?

Jackson: I would definitely tell women who are in an abusive relationship that the first time they are hit, that is one time too many. Because if they do it once they are going to do it again, and it is extremely important for you to get out of that relationship. It’s not going to get any better, it’s only going to get worse. And I want them to know that there is help out there for them. You can go to shelters, there are people you can reach out to and I am willing to help. There are things that you can do, it’s important to start your life over again and not allow this to happen to you. Very important. Thank you very much, from a fellow Hoosier from Michigan City, Indiana.

Jackson: Michigan City!

“Starting Over,” by La Toya Jackson, is available at Barnes & Noble or wherever books are sold. senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2011 Patrick McDonald,

Brandt Hardin's picture

The King of Pop

Michael Jackson’s legacy as an icon of music history is so clouded by our media-biased views of his life that we’ll never know the man behind all his rich music. He is the ultimate example of what happens when celebrity worship goes too far… having the press and court of opinion try him the last half of his life. I created a before and after portrait of The King of Pop on my artist’s blog at

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The Jacksons' Jehovah's Witness Secrets

The negative influence of the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses on Michael and his family have been either downplayed or totally ignored for as long as the Jackson Family has received public attention. For those readers who really want to know what life is like to be reared in the WatchTower Cult, nothing beats real world scenarios, and of real world scenarios, nothing beats actual civil and criminal court cases.

The following website summarizes 900 court cases and lawsuits involving children of Jehovah’s Witness Parents. The summaries demonstrate how JW Families rear their children and live life day-to-day. Also included are nearly 400 CRIMINAL cases — most involving MURDERS:



Excerpts from LaToya Jackson’s own 1991 biography, LATOYA: GROWING UP IN THE JACKSON FAMILY:

” … neither I nor my siblings ever led a normal existence, not even as small children, years before celebrity transformed our lives. We were a not-so-typical but classic dysfunctional family. Yes, there was love and happiness, but it was poisoned by emotional and physical abuse, duplicity, and denial. … The proscriptions of my Jehovah’s Witness faith, my mother’s seeming love and devotion, and my father’s inability to express any emotion but anger kept us all entangled in a web of guilt disguised as love, brutality that was called ‘discipline,’ and blind obedience that felt like loyalty. … We couldn’t identify it, but we all sensed something was wrong in our house. Most of my siblings ‘rebelled’ by essentially running away from home to teenage marriages. … I was Mother’s best friend, and the quietest, shyest, most obedient child of all. I surprised everyone. I also broke the cardinal rule of a dysfunctional family. I stopped living the lie and playing the destructive game. — pages 1-2.

“Thinking back over all those years, I realized that Mother was the guiding force behind the cruelty and abuse. This lady who pretended to be so gentle on the surface had in fact caused all the turmoil in our lives. We’d always thought that it was Joseph, but it was her, telling him what to do and how to do it. Like I’d said to her before, she was always throwing the rock and hiding her hand, convincing everyone — outsiders and my own
siblings — that she was sweet, kindhearted, and compassionate. Little did they know that the minute they were out of earshot she talked about them very, very viciously. After seeing it so many times, I finally had to face the fact that this was her true personality. — page 257.

“Michael and I were very active in the Jehovah’s Witness faith. … Five days a week the two of us and Mother studied the Bible at home and attended the Kingdom Hall. … Every morning Michael and I witnessed, knocking on doors around Los Angeles, spreading the word of Jehovah. … As my brother’s fame grew, he had to don convincing disguises, like a rubber fat suit he bought years later, — pages 53-4.

“… because we were supposed to associate exclusively with other members, Michael and I made few friends at the private high school … We did, however, become close with another [Jehovah’s] Witness. Darles was my first and only friend outside the family, and I treasured the time we spent together. … Each day at lunch the three of us studied the Bible together. She also joined us at the Kingdom Hall. During a meeting, Darles bravely challenged one of the elders. … The elder’s reply was typical. He cited the scripture, which supported his position but did not really address Darles’s
point. So she wrote a letter … This outraged the other elders. One day Rebbie’s husband, Nathaniel [Brown], also an elder, cornered me. ‘LaToya,’ he said, ‘you’re never allowed to speak to Darles again. Ever. … She’s been disfellowshipped.’ … After that neither Michael nor I had anything to do with Darles. We missed her so much and for the first time began to privately reconsider some of the [WatchTower Society’s] teachings. We felt that questions should be encouraged, not silenced through threats of disfellowship. — pages 55-56.

“Mother … frowned on our socializing with white kids, an attitude I found hypocritical coming from a Christian. — page 34.

“… both my parents harbor racist attitudes, particularly against Jews, … ‘Wherever you go, whatever you do in this business, you find a Jew,’ Mother used to complain bitterly all the time, ‘I can’t stand it.’ … She’d go on and on. ‘They’re always on top. Jews are so nosy. They like controlling you. I hate ‘em all.’ To their faces, however, my mother was as sweet as could be. … Hearing talk like this turned my stomach, especially when it came from my mother’s mouth. How could a religious woman be so hateful? … The depth of Mother’s loathing was expressed in one of her oft-repeated opinions: ‘There’s one mistake Hitler made in his life — he didn’t kill all those Jews. He left too many dxxx Jews on this earth, and they multiplied,’ —pages 132-4.

“On the Victory tour, … , [Michael] hired someone whose sole task was to locate a Kingdom Hall in each town so that Michael wouldn’t miss a single meeting. … Michael … won those record-breaking eight honors at the 1984 Grammy Awards. The very next morning one elder issued him an ultimatum that my brother must choose between music and the [Jehovah’s Witness] religion. … Because Michael diligently studied the Bible, he could usually cite chapter and verse supporting his contention that entertaining people was not wrong. ‘I’m still living according to the [WatchTower Society’s] teachings,’ he pointed out, as he’d done so many times before. I still go door to door wherever I am, even if I’m on tour. I can’t help it if people hang up my poster on their wall or tear my picture out of a magazine. I don’t ask them to idolize me. I only want them to enjoy my music.’ … many Jehovah’s Witnesses used to congregate outside the Kingdom Hall hoping to catch a glimpse of Michael Jackson, knowing full well this kind of adulation was forbidden. Michael did everything humanly possible to demonstrate his dedication to Jehovah. Once when an elder criticized, ‘Your movements on stage suggest sex; don’t do them anymore,’ my brother complied without protest and promptly changed the routine. He also invited an elder on tour to see for himself that he lived in harmony with all the [WatchTower] faith’s rules, canvassed door to door, and attended all the meetings. … One day I walked into Janet’s room to find Michael crying his eyes out. ‘LaToya, … I can’t talk to you ever again. … The elders had a big meeting, and they told me never to speak to you because you haven’t been coming to the Kingdom Hall. … they said that if I don’t stop talking to you, they’ll kick me out of the religion.’ … Michael decided to disobey the elders’ edict and after that never attended any more meetings. … he subsequently severed his ties to the organization through a formal letter. What made this painful episode even more agonizing was that for a long time I believed Michael might be one of the Remnant, the select 144,000. — pages 196-200.

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