“Lies run sprints, but the truth runs marathons.”—Michael Jackson
The feuds. The rumors. The music. The dance moves. As arguably the most well-known musical family of all time, the Jacksons hardly need an introduction. The nine Jackson kids—Rebbie, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, La Toya, Marlon, Michael, Randy, and Janet—hailing from Gary, Indiana, have all made an impact on the entertainment industry, though some rose to greater fame than others. But the Jacksons’ drama kept them in the headlines nearly as much as their music did, and boy, is there a lot of drama to dish about. So shamone, moonwalk into a seat and get immersed in the lives of one of the most famous and dysfunctional families of our time. Hee hee.
42. Put ‘Em Up
As a young man, Joe Jackson aspired to become a professional boxer. He joined a boxing club in Chicago called Golden Gloves and was doing pretty well for himself—until he met a young lady named Katherine Scruse, after which his priorities changed. Joe was already married at the time, but he quickly annulled his first marriage to be with then-17-year-old Katherine. They were married in 1949 and moved to Gary, Indiana. With their first child, Rebbie, arriving six months afterward, Joe gave up his dream of boxing to support his family. He instead took a job working full-time as a crane operator for US Steel.
41. Mother Dearest
Katherine, whose name at birth was Kattie, came down with polio when she was only two years old, and developed a life-long limp from the disease. When the Scruse family moved to Indiana from Alabama when she was four years old, her dad changed her name. Her dad’s name, interestingly, is Prince Albert, making it a bit more obvious where Michael got his inspiration to name his son, Michael Jackson Jr., AKA Prince Michael.
40. Failed Musician
Joe tried to grasp at another dream in the early years of his marriage. He started a blues band with his brother, Luther, in which he played guitar, and the pair named their group The Falcons. After a couple of years, Joe became frustrated that the band hadn’t yet had their big break, and in fact hadn’t gained any notoriety. They split up.
39. Start of Something New
Disappointed in his lack of a music career, Joe saw a golden opportunity one night when he caught Tito playing his guitar, along with Jackie and Jermaine, and discovered his sons had some musical talent. The three brothers started playing gigs around town together, before being joined in the group by two of their cousins, later to be replaced by Marlon and Michael, who was only five years old at the time. Michael proved to be the most dynamic performer and quickly took over as the lead singer, casting Jermaine into the background. The group was originally called Ripples & Waves Plus Michael, which definitely doesn’t have the iconic same ring to it as the group’s eventual name, now known all around the world—the Jackson 5.
38. Knock Knock
Katherine converted to the Jehovah’s Witness faith in 1963 after meeting someone spreading the Jehovah’s Witness message door-to-door. Consequently, she raised her children in the faith, and encouraged young La Toya and Michael to preach the message in their neighborhood. Even after The Jackson 5 gained fame, Michael continued to preach door-to-door by disguising himself with fake mustaches or hats so he wouldn’t be recognized. He continued to follow the faith devoutly until after the video for his song Thriller came out, which did not thrill the church as much as it did fans worldwide.
37. Supreme Support
Although there is a widespread rumor that the legendary Diana Ross discovered The Jackson 5 in the early years, it was actually The Empress of Soul, Gladys Knight. Knight put in a call to Motown Records after she first met the group because she so believed in their talent. They were invited to audition by Motown executive Barry Gordy and blew him away. He immediately signed the group in 1969, and the rest is history.
As soon as the boys were signed, their careers exploded, with Joe taking on the role of their manager. In their first year with Motown, The Jackson 5 released five No. 1 hits and set a world record for selling ten million records in ten months. The label then made the group their main focus. Jacksonmania hasn’t really faded since then.
35. From One Abuser to Another
LaToya has been outspoken about Joe’s abuse during her childhood but also had to deal with another man who allegedly mistreated her for years, ex-husband Jack Gordon. Joe hired Gordon to look after LaToya’s career in the ‘80s, and she married him in 1989, staying together for seven years. LaToya claims she was forced to marry Gordon and that he was controlling and abusive, saying she was afraid for her life and referring to herself as a prisoner.
Their divorce was very public and messy, with both sides saying nasty things about each other in the media. She claimed he would lock her in the closet and physically beat her into performing topless and posing for Playboy. Gordon, conversely, claimed LaToya is a “psychopathic liar” who is dependent on alcohol and drugs, and pointed out her word cannot be taken as automatic truth, as she has retracted statements of abuse about her father and Michael. Gordon died in 2005 from cancer.
34. Higher Education
Michael’s kids certainly had a hard time adjusting to life without their father, but they all seem to be doing well at present. Prince, Michael’s oldest son, attended the Buckley School, a private school in California with many famous alumni such as Paris Hilton. He then went on to university, getting in for film, but eventually chose to study business at Loyola Marymount University. Paris tried a year of community college but determined it wasn’t for her. Blanket is involved in sports in school and is apparently the most “normal” one of them all.
33. Behind the Name
Prince Michael II, AKA Blanket, sure has one strange name. How high was Michael when he chose that name? Turns out, the nickname was chosen with purpose. Michael explained he used the word as an expression—“you should blanket her with something”—as in, a blanket is a blessing to be given and shared to show love. Blanket the person, however, isn’t crazy about his name and now that he’s a teen, he prefers to go by another name altogether: Bigi.
32. The Show Must Go On
In 2012, Jermaine, Tito, Jackie, and Marlon reunited to keep performing as The Jacksons. The brothers love touring together and are still surprised that their music touches so many young people. Earlier this year, they even left for the road the day after their father was buried—in the same cemetery as Michael, Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California—as a fitting tribute to him. Jackie told The Independent, “My father would say the show must go on, and we must carry on entertaining. He was the one who got us going, so it was very healing for us to continue what he started.” The Jacksons plan to continue on touring and releasing music for as long as they can.
31. Michael vs. Stan Lee
Michael apparently loved comic books and superheroes, so much so that he tried to purchase Marvel Comics when it was going through financial trouble in the ‘90s. Michael had a vision of creating a Spider-Man movie starring himself. Unfortunately for him, the movie ended up coming together and the part was given to Tobey Maguire. Michael didn’t give up there, though. When the first X-Men movie was announced, he fought hard to get the part of Professor X, but Stan Lee insisted the part go to Patrick Stewart.
30. Quirky Katherine
Katherine was consumed with the thought of cleanliness to the point that she would rub her children with rubbing alcohol and smear Vaseline on their faces to make them shine. She would also give her kids hot potatoes to take to school in their pockets in the winter time so that they would stay warm, giving a whole new meaning to the game “hot potato.”
29. Oh No He Didn’t
Scandal broke out when it was reported that Joe had had many affairs and mistresses over the years, but it wasn’t until he had a child with another woman that Katherine spoke out about it, denouncing him in public. Meeting at a Los Angeles police department Christmas party in the 1970s, Joe carried on a 25-year affair with a woman named Cheryl Terrell, with whom he had a daughter named Joh’Vonnie Jackson. Joe was 20 years Terrell’s senior and married, which was apparently no problem for Joe; the New York Post later revealed he had given himself a nickname for his ability to pick up much younger women: the Hawk. All nausea aside, Joe set up Terrell and Joh’Vonnie in a house not five miles away from his family home in California and visited his second family almost daily. Katherine filed for divorce twice but withdrew both times. Joe and Katherine may have stayed married due to her strong faith, but they were estranged for the last years of Joe’s life.
28. A Patriarch Passes
Joe was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and died on the morning of June 27, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was one month shy of his 90th birthday. Just days prior, a tweet by Joe seemed to indicate that he knew his time was running out: “I have seen more sunsets than I have left to see. The sun rises when the time comes and whether you like it or not the sun sets when the time comes.” Despite his controversial legacy, his family was at his bedside with him in his last days.
27. Badd Blood
Jermaine was the first of the brothers to pull a Beyoncé and leave The Jackson 5 in order to pursue a solo career. As he was involved with Motown executive Berry Gordy’s daughter, Hazel (with whom he has three children: Jermaine Jr., Autumn, and Jaimy), Jermaine stayed on with Motown Records and put out a feuding single called “Word to the Badd” meant to lash out at his brother Michael, who supposedly convinced producers to focus on his album rather than Jermaine’s.
26. Dare to Be Different
Marlon, the “Dancing-est Jackson,” chose a different path from the rest of his musical family and left the industry after releasing a solo album. He stepped out of the spotlight and started running an entertainment company called the Major Broadcasting Corporation, later known as the Black Family Channel, until it was later sold. He headed for the big screen to become an actor, and has worked on numerous B-list projects over the years, starring in films like Student Confidential (1987) and Cronies (2015). He even got a “normal” job as a real estate agent!
25. Till Death Do Us Part
Only two of the Jackson siblings have never gotten divorced. Marlon married Carol Parker at the young and risky age of 18 and against all odds, the two have been together ever since, with three children. Rebbie, the eldest Jackon, also married her childhood sweetheart, Nathaniel Brown, with whom she has three children. Brown sadly died in 2013 from cancer.
24. An Epic Dispute
After The Jackson 5’s major success, they decided to leave Motown Records in 1976 for a new label, Epic Records, citing that Epic would provide better promotion and the ability to sell entire albums rather than singles. Jermaine, however, would stay on with Motown to launch his solo career. With Randy replacing him, the group renamed itself The Jacksons, and went on to release five more albums.
23. Mommy No. 2
Katherine reportedly hated Elizabeth Taylor, with whom Michael shared a very close friendship. Katherine felt Taylor had stolen her son away from her and replaced her in his life. On her visits to Neverland Ranch, she would go so far as to refuse to sit where Taylor had previously sat at the table.
While her behavior may come across as jealous and possessive, Michael did prefer to spend time with Taylor over his family, and made that very clear to them. When he was hospitalized in the ‘90s, for example, Katherine had to make an appointment to see him, whereas Taylor was allowed to see him anytime she wanted. Eventually, the whole family developed a burning resentment for Taylor and went to therapy about it on Janet’s dime. It didn’t help.
22. Not the Children
The King of Pop seemed to do no wrong, but his lifestyle was certainly… odd. His obsession with reliving his lost childhood in Neverland Ranch and supposed friendships with young boys caused many to raise a quizzical brow. Then in 1993, allegations started swirling in public that Michael had inappropriate relations with the kids who stayed at Neverland with him. A 13-year-old boy named Jordan Chandler accused Michael of sexual abuse and won his case in court, forcing Michael to cough up close to $23 million.
Shortly after, La Toya publicly denounced her family for being silent collaborators and allowing Michael to take advantage of the young children he was frequently seen in the company of. She went even further to say that the family knew about pay-offs made to one particular child’s family for an amount close to $1 million. There were allegedly letters Katherine had written to Michael in which she calls him a gay slur and discusses these payments.
The family defended itself and Michael against the allegations, essentially throwing La Toya under the bus. However, longtime family friend Stacy Brown wrote in the New York Post he heard Jermaine mention those specific letters from Katherine to Michael, which would mean the allegations were true.
21. Family Dynasty
Although all of the Jacksons tasted musical success, debts started to pile up over the years and the family began relying heavily on Michael and Janet, who were bringing in the most money as their careers continued to shine. However, Michael and Janet eventually cut off their siblings and parents in 2003, for reasons unknown. Michael went so far as to leave his father and siblings out of his will so that when he died in 2009, his money was put into a trust meant for his children and Katherine, who was named their legal guardian. The rest of the money not used for the trust went to charity. Joe did not take this lying down and filed a petition for $15,000 per month for living expenses, which he withdrew a year later, again for unknown reasons.
20. Family Over Fame
Rebbie, like Marlon, decided to work outside of the family. After performing with her brothers in their shows in Las Vegas and appearing on the show The Jacksons, she wanted to keep singing as a hobby and go into acting. However, she was talked into continuing in music and worked as a background singer for some legendary artists, including Lou Rawls and Chaka Khan. Rebbie—whose real name is Maureen Reillette—went on to release four albums of her own, to moderately low success, while placing her family before her career.
19. Beat It, Not Her
Violence against a spouse is never justified, as Randy had to be reminded in court. In 1991, his then-wife Eliza Shaffy Jackson accused him of violence against herself and their daughter, 14-month-old Stevanna. He pleaded guilty but received no jail time. The judge ordered Randy to undergo 30 days at a treatment facility where he would do counselling for domestic abuse, but he simply chose not to do that. Almost a year later, Eliza reported that Randy continued to beat her, and divorced him in 1992.
18. Plastic Friends
Even though he was, at one point, the biggest popstar in the world, Michael’s extreme shyness never left him. One very strange way he would try to overcome his bashfulness is by surrounding himself with life-sized mannequins, like the ones you would see in store display windows. Creepy, but creative.
17. Love Bites
An encounter in line at Starbucks. A whirlwind romance. A wedding after just eight months. This is the story of Jermaine’s third wife, Halima Rashid. Jermaine and Rashid were married for just over a decade when their relationship fell apart, all in the eyes of the media. In 2015, Rashid was arrested for trying to bite a chunk out of Jermaine’s leg during a fight; however, the case was dropped because police could not determine who the aggressor in the situation was. Rashid left Jermaine the following year and filed for divorce.
16. More Than a Sugar High
Soda doesn’t lead to hard drugs, right? Well, in Michael’s case, it kind of did. In January of 1984, Michael was recording a commercial for Pepsi when something terrible happened—his hair caught on fire and he suffered third-degree burns along his scalp. What marks this incident as terrible is that it can be pinpointed as the catalyst for Michael’s lifelong dependency on painkillers. To manage the pain of those burns, Michael started taking Percocet, Demerol, and other opioids, leading to an addiction which defined the later years of his life and ultimately led to his death.
15. It’s a Conspiracy!
The world was shocked to hear the tragic news of Michael passing away in 2009. Leading up to the King of Pop’s death, he was reportedly rehearsing and pushing himself past his limits for what was to be his upcoming tour in London. Michael’s daughter Paris told Rolling Stone in 2017 she is certain her father was murdered by Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael’s former doctor, who prescribed him the fatal combination of medication.
Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in 2011, but Paris maintains it was voluntary. The family also sued AEG Live, Michael’s concert promoter, for overworking Michael and facilitating his drug overdose. It was actually AEG Live which hired Murray as Michael’s doctor. The Jacksons ultimately lost the case, but maintain their disgust for the company.
14. Murder by the Pool
Tragedy struck the Jackson family when Tito’s ex-wife Dee Dee was found dead in 1994. Tito and Dee Dee were high school sweethearts who married right after graduating, had three children together—Tariano, Taryll, and TJ Jackson—and stayed together until 1993, when they divorced amicably. Dee Dee then began dating Donald Bohana, a businessman who ran hospital and insurance companies. Three months later, she apparently drowned in his swimming pool.
Her death, at first ruled an accident, shocked the family, especially since all who knew her were well aware that Dee Dee couldn’t swim and wouldn’t get into the pool because she was terrified of water. Her sons brought the case before Superior Court and alleged Bohana beat Dee Dee to death for not agreeing to pay off his enormous loans for him, before throwing her in the pool. He was found guilty of second-degree murder and remains in prison in central California, although he maintains he is innocent.
13. Our Lips Are Sealed
Janet hid her marriage to Rene Elizondo from the world for almost a decade. The couple wed in 1991 and it wasn’t until 2000 when Elizondo filed for divorce citing irreconcilable differences, that their relationship came to light. Janet’s reasoning for this was that it was the only way to attempt to have a “normal family life” in a famous family.
12. Billie Jean
It should come as no surprise that many out there claim to be Michael’s son or daughter. However, Brandon Howard’s claim just might legitimate. Brandon not only looks like Michael, but his mannerisms are spookily similar. Brandon’s mom knew Michael in the 1980s, when she was going by a very familiar name—Billie Jean. Brandon believes Michael is his father and even took a DNA test, the results of which stated there was a 99.9% match.
Before jumping to support Brandon, though, it’s important to note the dental sample Brandon used for the test was 30 years old and purchased from an auction. And, let’s not forget Michael himself spoke out on this issue with his lyrics: “She says I am the one, but the kid is not my son.”
11. Paris’ Pain
Paris stunned and saddened the world when the media caught wind of a suicide attempt. At age 15, she slashed her wrists and overdosed on Motrin, after which she completed a residential therapy program at a hospital and attended a special therapeutic school in Utah, which she says really helped her. However, in an interview with Rolling Stone, Paris admits that was the only attempt to be made public, and sadly not the only time she had tried to kill herself.
She cites cyberbullying as the main cause of her self-hatred, as well as the aftermath of a sexual assault that occurred when she was 14. She was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, just as Michael was, and now takes the same antidepressants her father once did. She continued to live sober, happier than ever. She plans on pursuing modeling.
10. Moonwalk into the Kitchen
Michael’s talents extended from the stage to the kitchen. He was an excellent cook and taught his kids how to make all sorts of soul food. Paris says his fried chicken was “the best in the world,” and she continues to cook what he taught her at their family Thanksgiving celebration, which takes place a day before the holiday in order to respect Katherine’s Jehovah’s Witness faith.
9. Who’s Your Daddy?
Paris and Prince continue to receive a lot of speculation and disbelief in their parentage. Debbie Rowe, their biological mother, was married to Michael for three years, during which time the couple never shared a home. Rowe claims she had children as a present to Michael, as he desperately wanted to be a father. Several men have come forward to say they are the kids’ biological father instead of Michael.
After all, Paris and Prince’s skin is very light, even compared to their younger brother Blanket. But Paris has no doubt that Michael is her real father, and considers herself to be black, like her father would tell her: “You’re black. Be proud of your roots.” Prince, on the other hand, takes a more objective view and says regardless of DNA, Michael is and will always be his father, and it makes no difference if there is no blood relation.
8. Changing Faces
There’s no doubt Michael’s face underwent a complete transformation over the years. But how and why did his face change so drastically? Michael’s dermatologist, Arnold Klein, diagnosed him with vitiligo, which causes the skin to lose its color in blotches and has no cure. Michael chose to bleach his skin in order to even out the color, but then received a lot of criticism for abandoning his black roots.
Another dermatologist diagnosed him with discoid lupus, which destroyed the cartilage in his nose. However, Michael also admits to experimenting with his face cosmetically. He owns up to having two nose jobs in his autobiography, Moonwalk—no more Big Nose for his father to criticize—and experimented over the years with changing the shape of his chin and cheekbones. While Michael referred to himself as color-blind, not caring about race, he did explicitly tell Oprah in an interview in 1993 that should a movie be produced about him, he would want a black actor to portray him.
7. Thank Janet for YouTube
Is there anyone out there who hasn’t heard what happened at the 2004 Superbowl halftime show? In case you were living under a rock, Janet was performing with Justin Timberlake when he accidentally ripped off her bra and exposed her breast to the world during their dance routine. The infamous wardrobe malfunction got Janet banned from the Grammys that year—but interestingly, not Justin—and blacklisted her music from major channels. Jawed Karim, a programmer, became frustrated he couldn’t find the video of the wardrobe malfunction anywhere online and decided to create a site where people could upload and share videos, known today as YouTube.
6. Caught the Bug
Janet did not initially want to follow in her brothers’ footsteps as she watched them form The Jackson 5. Instead, she was interested in becoming a jockey, then a lawyer. But when she got her first chance to step on stage, performing with her brothers in Las Vegas at the MGM Casino, she fell in love with dancing and singing, and her destiny seemed set. Janet’s successful career has spanned decades and is far from over—she just wrapped up her eighth studio tour, State of the World, earlier this year.
5. Never Forget
There are actually ten Jackson children; Marlon and Brandon, sixth and seventh down the line, were twins born premature by several weeks. Sadly, Brandon died within 24 hours of birth, but he still has an impact on the rest of his siblings. At Michael’s funeral in 2009, during his eulogy, Marlon asked Michael to give their brother Brandon a big hug from him.
4. Green-Eyed Monster
Jermaine’s jealousy seems to have defined his relationships with his brothers. Understandably, when he was younger he had a hard time accepting Michael’s resounding success. After all, even though he was younger than Jermaine, Michael got to be the lead singer in The Jackson 5 over him, and they were both groomed for solo careers by Motown. However, even though Jermaine’s first single “Daddy’s Home” did get into the top ten charts, he never came close to Michael’s success in music. The jealousy never faded later in life, as Jermaine was quoted by family friends as saying “That should have been me,” many times.
3. What’s Yours is Mine
Jermaine inherited his dad’s love of women, evident from his own various affairs. When he was in his mid-20s, Jermaine coveted his brother Randy’s longtime girlfriend, Alejandra Oaziaza. Randy and Oaziaza had two children together, but that didn’t stop Jermaine from flirting his way into a relationship with her while Randy was away on the road. Jermaine married Oaziaza in secret and they had three children together (Jaafar, Donte, Jermajesty) before getting divorced in 2004. Needless to say, Jermaine and Randy’s relationship became so broken that the brothers stopped speaking to each other.
2. Just Wait Until Your Father Gets Home
Joe was a strict disciplinarian whose methods bordered on the extreme. In an interview with Oprah, he admitted to using a belt strap to beat his children and not regretting it because in his view, it kept them out of trouble and away from the gangs of their neighborhood. Michael detailed further instances of abuse in his autobiography from 1988 called Moonwalk, claiming that if any of the kids made some kind of mistake, Joe would hit them. Jermaine has said none of the kids can remember their father being affectionate with them or telling them he loved them. The claims of abuse spread into Joe’s role as manager of The Jackson 5. He allegedly would force the boys to practice to the point of physical exhaustion, five hours a day after school, and controlled every aspect of their lives, not allowing them to have friends or play outside. Joe is credited for forming his kids into stars of the music industry, but the question remains, at what cost?
1. On the Nose
Joe’s bullying seemed to focus most on Michael. Michael was a sensitive teenager, and when Joe discovered he felt self-conscious about the size of his nose, he gave his son a cruel nickname: Big Nose. Years of teasing led Michael to develop a habit of wanting to cover up his nose, and to the several surgeries he had to make it smaller.