“We saw it comin’ on him … at [an] early age. You know, just a little spot. My aunt had the same thing.”
Joe Jackson, Michael´s father
"It was obvious that Michael’s skin grew more pale during the mid 1980’s. The media, in their frenzy to print anything Michael, without any proof, stated that Michael bleached his skin and changed his features to appear European. Though there was no proof of this, the public, by now becoming more and more immune to the blurring lines of journalistic integrity, swallowed this lie whole, without question."
“It is well documented that in 1986, Michael was diagnosed with Vitiligo and Lupus. Vitiligo is a chronic disorder that causes depigmentation of patches of skin. It occurs when melanocytes, the cells responsible for skin pigmentation, die or are unable to function. The cause of vitiligo is unknown, but research suggests that is may arise from autoimmune, genetic, oxidative stress, neural, or viral causes.”
"The truth is that Michael noticed a small white patch on his stomach around 1982, just as I had found a spot on one thigh. Where mine didn’t worsen, his spread. I had suspected something was going on as early as 1984 and Victory, because he started to cover up all the time."
"Back in 1993 nobody knew anything vitiligo. He kept getting whiter and whiter and whiter, and nobody understood why. Anybody who knew Michael Jackson will tell you that when you are up close to him—he had absolutely no pigmentation in his skin—you are looking at his veins when you look at his hand. You are seeing through to the blue veins, and they're very, very apparent. At first that's a starling thing. Nobody ever talks about that, but it takes you aback at first. You're looking at a person who is almost translucent."
During court depositions in 1994, both Jackson’s dermatologist Dr. Arnold Klein and his nurse (Deborah Rowe, who Jackson later married) revealed that following a biopsy of his scalp in 1983, Jackson was diagnosed with lupus and vitiligo.
LARRY KING: What is vitiligo?
DR. ARNOLD KLEIN, Michael´s dermatologist: It’s a loss of pigment cells. And the pigment cells, you — for every 36 normal cells in your body, you have one pigment cell pumping pigment into them. Unfortunately, it’s an autoimmune disease and lupus is an autoimmune disease. And they tend to go together, because you make antibodies against your pigment cells.
KING: Did Michael have it?
KLEIN: Absolutely. We biopsied (INAUDIBLE).
KING: What causes it?
KLEIN: It’s caused by your immune system and your immune system destroying your pigment cells.
KING: Do black people have it more than white people?
KLEIN: No. But it’s just more visible on black people, because they have a dark skin. The other thing is, it certainly occurs with a family history. And I believe one of Michael’s relatives did, in fact, have vitiligo.
KING: How bad was his?
KLEIN: Oh, his was bad because he began to get a totally speckled look over his body. And he could…
KING: All over his body?
KLEIN: All over his body, but on his face significantly; on his hands, which were very difficult to treat.
KING: So let’s clear up something. He was not someone desirous of being white?
KLEIN: No. Michael was black. He was very proud of his black heritage. He changed the world for black people. We now have a black president.
KING: So how do you treat vitiligo?
KLEIN: Well, I mean there’s certain treatments. You have one choice where you can use certain drugs called (INAUDIBLE) and ultraviolet light treatments to try to make the white spots turn dark or — his became so severe, that the easier way is to use certain creams that will make the dark spots turn light so you can even out the pigments totally.
KING: So your decision there was he would go light?
KLEIN: Well, yes, that’s ultimately what the decision had to be, because there was too much vitiligo to deal with and…
KING: Otherwise, he would have looked ridiculous?
KLEIN: Well, you can’t — he would have to wear heavy, heavy makeup on stage, which would be ridiculous. And he couldn’t really go out in public without looking terribly peculiar.
KING: [...] How did you treat the vitiligo?
KLEIN: Well, we basically used creams that would even out the same color and we destroyed the remaining pigment cells.
KING: And did his color change a lot over the years?
KLEIN: No, because once we got — we got it more uniform, it remained stable. But you still had to treat it because once in a while — and he had to also be extraordinary careful with sun exposure because of a lot of things. And that’s why he had the umbrellas all the time (INAUDIBLE) skin now.
KING: So when you have vitiligo, you have it all your life?
KLEIN: Usually. Almost uniformly. You don’t just have a little bit of it. And it’s most disconcerting not in white people, but in black people because you begin to look like a leopard.
KING: You can see it. Yes. Did he have blotches?
KLEIN: He had blotches but we evened out almost all of them. And he was very, very devoted to treating it. I mean he wanted to look well. He wanted to look well for one group of people, his fans. He wanted to embrace and love his fans more than any performer I’ve ever know.
“It started happening relatively early, he even was trying to hide it from me.. he tried to hide it for quite awhile. He’d always try to cover it with makeup and even out his skin tone until it got so extensive. It’s all over his body. We were always trying to hide it and cover it for the longest time until he just had to tell Oprah and tell the world, ‘Listen I’m not trying to be white, I have a skin disease.’ In the beginning I tried to cover the light spots to match the darker part of his skin, but then it became so extensive that we had to go with the lighter part of his skin because his whole body was reacting…he’d have to be in complete full body makeup, every inch of his body. So it was easier to make the transition to him being to the lighter shade that he is.”
Karen Faye, Michael´s long-time make up artist and friend
Dark make-up stains on MJ´s iconic glove and on his shirt during a show:
"When you understand how sensitive he was about his condition, you also understand how much he trusted Karen. It was invasive work but every professional choice she made was designed to give him freedom and confidence, and make him look like the star he was. And he equally relied on her keeping all her work confidential. Some members of his entourage, video directors and photographers, didn’t understand that Karen’s challenge was to keep Michael looking perfect, and she couldn’t explain her actions because she was sworn to secrecy. So observers only saw an overly fussy makeup lady—one who sometimes inexplicably disappeared with her client. This was misconstrued: people decided she was competing as a woman for his attention. The truth was that she was working her butt off to keep him feeling safe and secure, ensuring none of his vitiligo was visible to anyone crowding near him."
Michael: Okay, but number one, this is the situation. I have a skin disorder that destroys the pigmentation of the skin, it’s something that I cannot help. Okay. But when people make up stories that I don’t want to be who I am, it hurts me.
Oprah: So it is…
Michael: It's a problem for me. I can't control it. But what about all the millions of people who sit in the sun to become darker, to become other than what they are. Nobody says nothing about that.
Oprah: So when did this start, when did your … when did the color of your skin start to change?
Michael: Oh boy, I don’t … sometime after Thriller, around Off the Wall, Thriller, around sometime then.
Oprah: But what did you think?
Michael: It’s in my family, my father said it’s on his side. I can’t control it, I don’t understand, I mean, it makes me very sad. I don’t want to go into my medical history because that is private, but that’s the situation here.
Oprah: So okay, I just want to get this straight, you are not taking anything to change the color of your skin …
Michael: Oh, God no, we tried to control it and using make-up evens it out because it makes blotches on my skin, I have to even out my skin. But you know what’s funny, why is that so important? That’s not important to me. I’m a great fan of art, I love Michelangelo, if I had the chance to talk to him or read about him I would want to know what inspired him to become who he is, the anatomy of his craftsmanship, not about who he went out with last night … what’ wrong with … I mean that’s what is important to me.
Of course the press got on him about that, about trying to be white. Which is the farthest thing from the truth. Michael never wanted to be white. He was proud of who he was and where he came from, but he had no choice. He one thing he never ever did, he never complained about it. He had every right to."
“His face is white because he has had this disease, and instead of having it spotted like a cow or something like that he just decided to just do the whole thing, because he could afford to do it.”
Kathrine Jackson, Michael´s mother
“The vitiligo is a real problem for Michael, and has been for years. It has affected him in many emotional ways, and has forced him to use a lot of make up and over cover ups. The horror of waking up every day with these spots made him miserable.
“Prior to this, Mike was upset because he had blemished. When they were finally gone because he was coming out of adolescence, then the vitiligo struck. It was if he could not win. All of this has just served to make him more insecure. It is very difficult to be a public person and have to deal with these kind of private tortures.”
"Here you go: I’ve worked with Michael Jackson in his studio on and off for over 17 years – that covers most of the time that everyone seems to be fixating upon.Michael has vitiligo. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, along with the unhappiness it has caused him both privately and publicly. Many great artists are reserved off stage, but for Michael this was compounded by the media and public obsession over his appearance. He covered much of this up with make-up – and for many years hid behind a screen of uncomfortable and impractical panstick.
He’s tried to learn to be accepting that people don’t believe the transformation he’s made over the years, but all this ridiculous argument over it makes it incredibly hard for him. I see him a couple of times a year, usually just for a day or so, and even now, all the speculation and prying offends and upsets him. He is one of the most loving, kind and gentle souls I’ve ever met, and has possibly the most stoic and forgiving nature in the light of such awful injustice, slander and bigotry. He’s not without faults, and has to be one of the most exacting professionals I’ll ever have the fortune to work with. Most of the time, he ignores what people say, and in the last few years he’s gone past caring what people think. He isn’t on earth to justify how he looks – but the public seem to assume that he must account for the changes he made to his appearance, including those that he couldn’t control. I can tell you: I’ve been in a pool with him: before he had depigmentation therapy, he was blotchy all over. Now, he’s basically so white that he burns at even slight exposure to the sun. This was a choice he made: makeup or treatment, and having the money, he got the treatment. I don’t blame him – had I this condition, and the funds, I would have done it too.And let me tell you: when you get to know him, he’s a normal, easy-going (out of the studio!) guy, with a great sense of humour and is most definitely a BLACK man.
I posted here because he bet me ages ago that I couldn’t find a single site online that really addressed his skin colour in an even manner. I hope I’ve cleared up some of your questions."
Question: Why are you wearing a silk mask in your latest appearances?
Michael: Because…uh..with time my skin condition has gotten worse. I hate to say it. I have vitiligo and uh, I am totally completely allergic to the sun. I’m not even suppose to be outside actually, even if I am in the shade the sunrays can destroy my skin.
VH1 interview, 1996
It was very disturbing to him that people thought he always wanted to be white and he was bleaching his skin. [But] he identified as being a black person and so it was troubling to him that everyone thought that he was a hater of his own race. And the lupus, why he didn’t just come out more clearly and say that was the problem, I’m not sure. But I know it was something that bothered him a lot.
He had a lot of blotches on his skin, huge white patches all over his body. So he would cover up his body and that of course gave food for fodder to the press.
Patches on Michael´s body:
Michael´s hand and leg:
Arlington, TX (PRWEB Reprinted) July 7, 2009 – Permanent cosmetic pioneer and celebrity permanent makeup artist, Sandi Hammons, and her company, Premier Pigments, the manufacturer of the permanent makeup worn by the late Michael Jackson, are speaking out against widespread assertions that “Michael Jackson didn’t want to be black.”
“That is so far from the truth,” says Hammons. “Anyone making those assertions obviously doesn’t understand the disease Michael suffered from or the
treatment options available to him.”
“There are even some medical professionals who still consider the disease to be nothing more than a cosmetic nuisance,” said Hammons, “But the truth is, many people diagnosed with the disease suffer greatly. A deep sense of shame and hopelessness (including depression and suicidal thoughts) along with a preoccupation with appearance and available treatments are really not uncommon. Vitiligo is especially traumatic for darker skinned individuals, as the contrast between pigmented and depigmented skin can be quite drastic.” Jackson was widely criticized for his use of bleaching medications and chemical peels. “What people don’t understand is that there are few, if any, treatments that are effective, especially for widespread cases like Michael’s.”
There are three common types of treatment for vitiligo:
1. Repigmentation as in the case of PUVA and UV lights (Typically ineffective on widespread cases)
2. Micropigmentation (i.e. cosmetic tattooing – recommended on small areas that accept cosmetic pigment)
3. Depigmentation, as in the case of using bleaching creams to remove smaller pigmented areas (typically recommended for widespread cases similar to Jackson’s).
Vitiligo affects 1% to 2% of the population. It is estimated that over 50 million people suffer from this little known and often misunderstood disease. The precise cause of the disease is complex and not fully understood. There is some evidence suggesting that it is caused by a combination of autoimmune, genetic and environmental factors. “Stress is definitely a contributing factor,” said Hammons. “Changing skin colors add even more stress, particularly if vitiligo develops on visible areas of the body, such as the face, hands, arms, feet, or on the genitals.”
In some cultures there is a stigma attached to having vitiligo. Those affected with the condition are sometimes thought to be evil or diseased and are sometimes shunned by others in the community. People with vitiligo may feel depressed because of this stigma or because their appearance has changed dramatically. Hammons has great compassion for Jackson and his battle with the disease. “To deal with the psychological impact of this disease is significant; to deal with the very public and cruel opinions of others must have been overwhelming." “Trauma drives addiction,” adds Hammons. “In my opinion, those who judged him unknowingly contributed to his preoccupation with appearance, his eventual addiction to cosmetic surgery and prescription drugs, and ultimately his early death. We all need to have more compassion for those who suffer from this baffling and misunderstood disease.”
Sandi Hammons, owner of Premier Pigments, a specialist dermatology make-up brand that Michael used, July 7th 2009
Michael trying to hide his face behind his hair:
"He was incredibly funny, very interested in science and medicine, and one day he picked up a medical book in my office and opened it to a picture of a black child with black and white skin. He told me: ´I know the pain that that child feels,´ and then he pulled up his pant leg and I saw his skin was black and white. His whole body was."
Dr. Patrick Treacy
Michael Jackson´s autopsy report:
I can confirm that Michael Jackson had vitiligo and discoid (chronic cutaneous lupus) and never had systemic disease that played any role in his passing.
I am concerned that some commentators are relating that a background of abuse has anything to do with lupus. There has never been a peer reviewed published article that specifically has shown this in lupus.
Dan Wallace MD
Clinical Professor of Medicine
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center/David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Lupus expert Dr. Wallace 9th July 2009
Vitiligo may be heritable.
In the Jackson family, it appeared on the side of Michael´s father, and Michael´s eldest son Prince has inherited it as well:
“Vitiligo is on my father’s side and Prince has it, too – on his arms and chest.”
La Toya Jackson, Michael´s sister in an interview with new! magazine.
Other People With Vitiligo
What is vitiligo
Vitiligo or leukoderma is a chronic skin condition that causes loss of pigment, resulting in irregular pale patches of skin.
The precise cause of vitiligo is complex and not fully understood. There is some evidence suggesting it is caused by a combination of auto-immune, genetic, and environmental factors.
The diagnosis of vitiligo is made based on a physical examination, medical history, and laboratory tests. If the doctor take a small sample (biopsy) of the affected skin to examine under a microscope, the skin sample will usually show a complete absence of pigment-producing melanocytes.
Vitiligo can have a significant effect on the psychological well being of the patient. This is especially true for darker skinned patients as the contrast between pigmented and depigmented skin can be quite drastic. Vitiligo is not contagious. It is not life-threatening. But, vitiligo can be life-altering. Some people develop low self-esteem, no longer want to hang out with friends or develop serious depression.
In some cultures there is a stigma attached to having vitiligo. Those affected with the condition are sometimes thought to be evil or diseased and are sometimes shunned by others in the community. People with vitiligo may feel depressed because of this stigma or because their appearance has changed dramatically. Other people with vitiligo experience no negative psychological effects at all.
Though there is still no cure for vitiligo at this time, researchers are closing in on blocking the immune response that results in pigment loss. In the meantime there are viable treatments being used.
- Several different topical (applied to the skin) medicines can repigment the small areas skin. The most commonly prescribed medicine is a potent or super-potent topical corticosteroid. About half, 45 percent, of patients regain at least some skin color after 4 to 6 months. These medicines have possible side effects, so patients must be carefully monitored. A possible serious side effect of using of a topical corticosteroid for a year or longer is skin atrophy. This means the skin becomes paper thin, very dry and fragile.
- Light treatment uses light to repigment the skin. Works best on the face; least effective on hands and feet. This treatment is effective for many patients, but results can disappear. About half, 44 percent, see results disappear within 1 year of stopping treatment. After 4 years, about 86 percent lose some color restored by treatment.
- Puva light therapy uses UVA light and a medicine called psoralen to restore skin color. Requiring treatment at a hospital or PUVA center is twice a week for about 1 year.
- Surgery may be an option when light therapy and medicines applied to the skin do not work. Usually removing unaffected skin or skin cells and placing where need pigment. It is for adults whose vitiligo has been stable (not changed) for at least 6 months.
- Depigmentation (this is the one that Michael Jackson had to endure) is used when there is affected more that 50% of body and other treatmed has not worked. It removes the remaining pigment from the skin by applying a cream once or twice day from one to four years. This cream gradually removes color from the skin and leaves a person with completely white skin, which is extremely sensitive to the sun.
Woman with vitiligo talks about her life with this disease and about Michael Jackson: