Growing Up And It´s Pains
"Because I think every child star suffers through this period because you're not the cute and charming child that you were. You start to grow, and they want to keep you little forever. "
"Yes, and I had pimples so badly it used to make me so shy. I used not to look at myself. I'd hide my face in the dark, I wouldn't want to look in the mirror, and my father teased me and I just hated it and I cried every day."
Because show business and my career were my life, the biggest personal struggle I had to face during those teenage years did not involve the recording studios or my stage performance. In those days, the biggest struggle was right there in my mirror. To a great degree, my identity as a person was tied to my identity as a celebrity.
My appearance began to really change when I was about fourteen. I grew quite a bit in height. People who didn't know me would come into a room expecting to be introduced to cute little Michael Jackson and they'd walk right past me. I would say, "I'm Michael," and they would look doubtful. Michael was a cute little kid: I was a gangly adolescent heading toward five feet ten inches. I was not the person they expected or even wanted to see. Adolescence is hard enough, but imagine having your own natural insecurities about the changes your body is undergoing heightened by the negative reactions of others. They seemed so surprised that I could change, that my body was undergoing the same natural change everyone's does.
It was tough. Everyone had called me cute for a long time, but along with all the other changes, my skin broke out in a terrible case of acne. I looked in the mirror one morning and it was like, "OH NO!" I seemed to have a pimple for every oil gland. And the more I was bothered by it, the worse it got. I didn't realise it then, but my diet of greasy processed food didn't help either.
I became subconsciously scarred by this experience with my skin. I got very shy and became embarrassed to meet people because my complexion was so bad. It really seemed that the more I looked in the mirror, the worse the pimples got. My appearance began to depress me. So I know that a case of acne can have a devastating effect on a person. The effect on me was so bad that it messed up my whole personality. I couldn't look at people when I talked to them. I'd look down, or away. I felt I didn't have anything to be proud of and I didn't even want to go out. I didn't do anything.
My brother Marlon would be covered with pimples and he wouldn't care but I didn't want to see anybody and I didn't want anyone to see my skin in that shape. It makes you wonder about what makes us the way we are, that two brothers could be so different.
I still had our hits records to be proud of, and once I hit the stage, I didn't think about anything else. All that worry was gone. But once I came offstage, there was that mirror to face again.
Eventually, things changed. I started feeling differently about my condition. I've learned to change how I think and learned to feel better about myself. Most importantly, I changed my diet. That was the key."
"My skin broke out real bad. It was tough — especially after everyone had been calling me cute for such a long time. And the more I worried about it the worse I got.”
“I wore hats, I kept my head down all the time, I wouldn’t look at people when I talked to them. I wouldn’t say nothin’ hardly. It was terrible. I felt I didn’t have anything to be proud of. My success meant nothing.”
“On stage I didn’t think about it, it was gone. But when I came off stage, there it was again.”
"There was a time I was in an airport - and I will never forget this as long as I live - and there was this lady who said: ´Oh, Jackson 5. Oh my God! Where´s little Michael? Where´s little Michael?´I go: ´Here I am.´ She went: ´Urhhhg! What happened?´ They want you to stay young and little forever. You go through that awkward stage and they want to keep you small."
Michael Jackson in MJ Tapes
Oprah : So I’m wondering for you, being this cute little boy who everybody adored and everybody who comes up to you they’re pulling your cheeks and how cute, how adolescence going through that duck stage where everything’s awkward, and I’m wondering when you started to go through adolescence having been this child superstar, was that a particularly difficult time for you?
Michael : Very. Very, very difficult, yes. Because I think every child star suffers through this period because you’re not the cute and charming child that you were. You start to grow, and they want to keep you little forever.
Oprah : Who’s they?
Michael : The public. And um, nature takes its course.
Oprah : It does?
Michael : Yes, and I had pimples so badly it used to make me so shy, I used not to look at myself, I’d hide my face in the dark, I wouldn’t want to look in the mirror and my father teased me and I just hated it and I cried every day.
Oprah : Your father teased you about your pimples?
Michael : Yes and tell me I’m ugly.
Oprah : Your father would say that?
Michael : Yes he would. Sorry, Joseph.
"Adolescence proved awkward for Michael too. He sprouted from just over five feet to five feet ten. Overnight, it seemed, he went from a cute little boy to a gangly teenager. Certain body parts outgrew others, and now Michael was the object of merciless ribbing, especially from his father. “Look at that big nose on your face,” Joseph used to taunt. “I don’t know where you got that from… Bignose.”
LaToya Jackson, Michael´s sister
“When Tito and Jackie really want us mad´they call Jermaine ‘Big Head,’ Marlon ‘Liver lips’ and they call me ‘Big Nose.’"
SB: You have to live a long and happy life. But do you really think that one day you will decide to become a recluse and disappear?
SB: Live at Neverland and lock up the gates. Will that be it?
MJ: Yeah. I know I am.
SB: But why? Because you don’t want people to see you grow old?
MJ: I can’t deal with it. I love beautiful things too much and the beautiful things in nature and I want my messages to get out to the world, but I don’t want to be seen now… like when my picture came up on the computer, it made me sick when I saw it.
MJ: Because I am like a lizard. It is horrible. I never like it. I wish I could never be photographed or seen and I push myself to go to the things that we go to. I really do.
SB: Michael, some people have written that your father used to say that you were ugly. Is that true?
MJ: Uh-huh. He used to make fun of… I remember we were on a plane one time, ready to take off, and I was going through an awkward puberty when your features start to change. And he went, “Ugh, you have a big nose. You didn’t get it from me.” He didn’t realize how much that hurt me. It hurt me so bad, I wanted to die.
SB: Was that a hostile remark aimed at your mother, “You didn’t get it from me?”
MJ: I don’t know what he was trying to say.
SB: Don’t you think your father instilled in you a belief that you are not handsome? So you tried to change your appearance a bit, and you are still not happy. So really you have to begin to love your appearance and yourself and all of that.
MJ: I know. I wish I could.
SB: We all have problems with our appearance… The other night, Thursday night, you looked fantastic [Michael had gotten all dressed up for Denise Rich's Angel Ball cancer fundraiser]. You were the best looking guy there. So you don’t like being photographed?
MJ: I wish I could never be photographed and I wish I could never be seen. Just for entertainment so I design the dance the way I want it to look, and film the way I want it to look.
SB: Now you want to do movies?
MJ: I love movies, but I can control it, you see. I can’t control how those pictures come out with the lighting and my expression at the time. Arggh.
SB: If a child said that to you, “I hate being photographed,” what would you say to that child?
MJ: I would say, “You don’t know how beautiful you are. It’s your spirit that’s…”
SB: So why are you prepared to say that to everybody except yourself?
MJ: I don’t know. [He said this in a voice of confusion and resignation]
MJ: I have thrown up in his presence because when he comes in the room and this aura comes and my stomach starts hurting and I know I am in trouble. He is so different now. Time and age has changed him and he sees his grandchildren and he wants to be a better father. It is almost like the ship has sailed its course, and it is so hard for me to accept this other guy that is not the guy I was raised with. I just wished he had learned that earlier.
SB: So why are you still scared?
MJ: Because the scar is still there, the wound.
SB: So you still see him as the first man. It is hard for you to see him as this new man?
MJ: I can’t see him as the new man. I am like an angel in front of him, like scared. One day he said to me, “Why are you scared of me?” I couldn’t answer him. I felt like saying, “Do you know what you have done?” [voice breaks] “Do you know what you have done to me?”
SB: Do you think it’s important to tell children they are beautiful?
MJ: Yes, but not to overdo it. You are beautiful inside. Do it that way. Prince looks in the mirror and he’s combing his hair and he says, ” I look good.” I say, “You look okay.”
Interview regarding the tapes:
Springhill, Fla.: Why did Michael think he was ugly?
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: What I write in the book is that all of us living in this culture have somehow been conditioned to believe that we are not attractive. There is too much self-loathing with regards to appearance in America. Michael was guilty of it, as are so many of us. In his case, he referenced the fact that his father made hurtful comments. But there can be no question that a culture that promotes external appearance over internal beauty is going to produce a glorification of youth over wisdom and Michael relates in the book that he desperately feared growing old.
Bashir: Did your father and your brothers tease you about your appearance, as an adolescent?
MJ: My father did. And some cousins did.
Bashir: What did your father say?
MJ: Oh God. It was pretty embarrassing. They used to tease me real bad about it.
Bashir: It’s cruel, isn’t it?
MJ: Yeah. It used to hurt me. I don’t think he realized how much he would hurt me.
Bashir: What sort of thing would he say?
MJ: He would tease me about how I looked and he would say, “Well, you didn’t get it from my side of the family. Must’ve been from Kate-” Kate, he would always say, meaning my mother. “You didn’t get that from me, you must’ve got that from her.“
"Puberty is always a potential thief for a child star: it threatens to take away the image your dream is built on. Michael and I both struggled with acne; mine still stubborn and raging as an 18 year old, his rabid and new at 14. A liking for fried food and soda in dressing rooms had caught up with us. Like me, Marlon – who also suffered – accepted the break outs without too much angst, and I didn’t think Michael would be any different. I didn’t appreciate how much he worried about the threat his acne posed to his image because he never really spoke about it. We didn’t really talk about that sort of thing. What “cool” teenage boy does? We Jackson brothers were especially bound that way. We had been taught so much about pride, respect and performance that we had never learned the art of easy communication. We didn’t check in with each other unless it was album talk, tour madness, choreography ideas, basketball plans or girls. So Michael suffered quietly as his features changes and his skin flared up with pimples Indeed he locked it deep inside, except for the odd worry he expressed to Mother.
Michael’s acne was a confusion he wasn’t expecting. And then there was his nose. It widened noticeably and he hated it. In fact, he hated his nose so much that he found it hard to look at himself in the mirror. This wasn’t just typical teenage self consciousness: it became a full blown inferiority complex. The more he looked at himself, the unhappier he felt. In fact, he was painfully brittle during conversations with anyone, always looking down to avoid eye contact.
His comfort zone, as always, was the stage or platform of press interviews, when reporters spoke of how “energized”, “inquisitive” and “ebullient” he was. In performance mod, Michael’s teenage woes were well concealed behind makeup or the performance’s personality he projected. Offstage, our merciless teasing only made matters worse, but teasing is what brothers do, and we all had to go through it. When my acne kicked in, they – including Michael – called me “Bumpy Face” or “Map Face” and Marlon was “Live Lips.” I even received a second label, “Big Head,” because my head was, apparently, too big for my body. So when Michael was called “Big Nose” it was just part of the common initiation into manhood – but he struggled with it. Not that we knew so until much later.
Michael always recalled Joseph using the tease, and that was what hurt him most – hearing it from an adult’s lips and from the man who had driven home the importance of image all our lives. “Hey, Big Nose, come over here,” said Joseph. Michael said nothing and cringed each time."
Jermaine Jackson, Michael´s brother