When stories began to circulate last week that 20-year-old Paris Jackson, the daughter of Michael Jackson, had attempted to take her own life, many feared it was a re-run of the events of summer 2013.
Back then, aged just 15, in the throes of depression and drug addiction, she cut her wrists and took an overdose. Before that, she has since admitted, she made “multiple” suicide attempts. “It was just once that it became public.”
This time, however, despite leaked audio of a 911 call dispatching an ambulance to her Los Angeles home earlier this month, Paris claims it’s a very different picture. On social media she refuted allegations that the controversial documentary about her father, ‘Leaving Neverland’, had served as a “trigger”. “[expletive] you you [expletive] liars,” she wrote, in reply to a tweet by TMZ. “Lies lies lies omg and more lies.”
Along with Jackson’s two sons — Michael Jr, known as Prince, 22, and the somewhat confusingly named Prince Michael II, 17, known, since his infancy as Blanket — Paris is heir to her father’s mammoth fortune, estimated to be more than $2 billion (Dh7.3 billion). She appears, however, to be the only one to have taken on the mantle of the enormous celebrity they were bequeathed, as a model, actress and musician.
Her brothers, by contrast, seem to be more comfortable keeping a low profile — Prince with his Harley Davidsons and his dogs, and Blanket, who now goes by Bigi, at LA’s exclusive Buckley School.
“Blanket is as shy and timid as his father,” according to a family friend. “He’s very insular — he doesn’t have a very wide circle of friends,” says another LA-based source.
“Prince is more of an extrovert,” says the family friend. “He goes out, he has friends.”
“They’ve always had a tight sibling bond, but they don’t spend a lot of time with the wider Jackson family.”
Hardly surprising, given the junior Jacksons have commanded headlines since before they were born.
Jackson first met the mother of his eldest two children, Debbie Rowe, when she was a nurse in the 80s. According to her, after his marriage to Lisa Marie Presley ended in 1996, Jackson, then 38, was devastated at the thought of not becoming a father.
“He said ‘I really want to be a dad,’ and I said ‘So be a dad’,” she revealed in 2003. “I said, ‘Let me do this.’ I nagged him into it, if you will.”
When they married in November 1996, during Jackson’s Australian tour, Rowe was six months pregnant; Prince was born in February 1997, and Paris 14 months later, in April 1998. Jackson claimed, in the Martin Bashir documentary Living with Michael Jackson, that both were “natural conceptions”, but Rowe claimed she’d never had sex with Jackson.
In 1999, the couple divorced, with Rowe receiving an $8 million settlement and a house in Beverly Hills, but giving up all custody of the children, even going so far as to have her parental rights legally terminated in 2001. Elizabeth Taylor and Macaulay Culkin were appointed their godparents. Blanket was born in February 2002, via an anonymous surrogate. At just nine months old, he made news around the world when his father dangled him off the balcony of Berlin’s Adlon Hotel.
The early years of the children’s lives were spent at Neverland, where they were homeschooled. Jackson took bizarre steps to protect their identity, covering their faces with masks or sheets in public.
After Jackson’s death in 2009, their grandmother, Katherine, was made co-guardian (along with TJ Jackson, Michael’s nephew) of Prince, then 12, Paris, 11, and Blanket, 7, moving them to the family’s 0.8-hectare compound in Encino, LA. “It was beneficial. There were 16 people,” said Prince in 2016. “It took you away from the grief.”
Two years later, in 2011, Katherine and the children moved into a $10 million gated estate in upmarket Calabasas. All three were enrolled at the Buckley School, a small, $34,000-a-year private school. Prince dabbled in theatre, taking classes in acting and sound design, building sets and working as a stagehand, while Paris became a cheerleader. Blanket, still a student there, is keen on martial arts and an avid gamer.
At the age of 13, Paris re-established contact with her estranged mother and the pair became close. Rowe and Prince, however, have never formed such a relationship: “I’m lucky to have two mother figures in my life, my grandmother and my cousin Frances. As for my birth mother, she’s more of a friend, and that works for us.”
After high school, Prince studied film at Loyola Marymount University, and produced several music videos, has served as a guest correspondent on Entertainment Tonight and made a cameo on the reboot of ‘90210’. He recently bought a property of his own in Rancho Palos Verdes, a clifftop community north of Los Angeles.
With Paris having moved out at 18, only Blanket remains at the family home. Katherine, now 88, resigned her guardianship two years ago, and, according to sources, is often absent.
In spite of being heirs to a colossal fortune, they are “not in charge of their father’s money at all”, according to an LA source. “It’s distributed by lawyers who run the estate,” he adds.
The siblings are now reportedly considering a legal case against Wade Robson and James Safechuck — the men who made allegations of sexual abuse in Leaving Neverland.
“You could say my whole life has been unconventional,” Prince has said. “It’s all I’ve ever known.”