“I don’t trip off of being a celebrity. I don’t trust it. I don’t like it. Cuz one minute they all love you and the next thing you know you dancing on the top of a car in the front of a court house trying to figure out wtf happened to you.”- Dave Chappelle in a stand up bit on fame and Michael Jackson.
While millions of fans across the globe mourn the death of Michael Jackson, I am left thinking about his tremendous influence on my life, our culture and the price he had to pay to be the “King of Pop”.
Many of his fans, including myself, have his music as the soundtrack to many childhood memories. I remember when I was 7, I danced for hours with a neighborhood boy to “Off the Wall”. I was in Mexico City visiting my dad when I first watched the “Thriller” video with amazement. I was 11. My best friend Vanessa in 6th grade was so obsessed with Michael Jackson that she wore a red and glittered MJ inspired jacket almost everyday to school; and she probably would have fainted if she saw him in person. She and I would practice the Moonwalk when we played after school. And my love of writing began when I was 20 and in college, when I opened a piece on interracial relationships for a journalism class with a breakdown of Michael’s “Black or White” video. I noted how the video not only had ground breaking special effects–remember all those people magically morphing into each other?–but also a ground breaking message: “If you want to be my baby, it don’t matter if you’re Black or White”.
Despite what bozos like Randy Jackson and Larry King proclaim, MJ was not “raceless”. He broke down racial barriers and promoted respect for people of all races and cultures. He was the first to break down MTV’s color barrier in the 80’s. It is mind boggling to think that Michael Jackson was the first Black artist to be featured on MTV, the same channel dominated by Black artists today.
I’m saddened that a lot of talking heads in the media have chosen to focus on his money and legal troubles. Many are also speculating about the cause of his multiple plastic surgeries. Was it internalized racism and oppression? Was it his way of obliterating the face that stared back at him in the mirror? The face that bared a strong resemblance to that of his abusive father. Or was it that his father taunted him, telling him he was ugly and worthless as a child?
If this is true, it serves as a cautionary tale–supported by years of research–that a parent’s comments about their child’s appearance have a tremendous effect on a person’s self-image.
What I do know is that MJ suffered greatly at the hands of unethical plastic surgeons who, if they upheld their oath to “do no harm”, should not have proceeded with further surgeries once he exhibited what were probably signs of body dysmorphic disorder. (It is said that similar unscrupulous “doctors” also fed him pills that might have contributed to his death.)
Regardless of all the unsubstantiated rumors swirling around his death, it is clear that the same people that shielded him from the outside world, did not protect him after all. He is just one of a handful of celebrities who have fallen victim to their fame and the vultures that made up their inner circle–Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Britney, Mariah, Martin Lawrence, and Anna Nicole Smith to name a few. Michael Jackson is a tragic figure who was surrounded by people who had their best interests in mind, not his. They should have gotten him the help he needed and fired those that contributed to his ultimate demise.
Today I’m choosing to remember Michael Jackson for his talent and his amazing contributions to my life and our culture.
Rest in peace Michael J. Imagine what additional amazing things you could have done if you accepted yourself as much as you accepted others.