It’s been a decade since Michael Jackson’s death. In a few days, it will be 11 years since his departure. Regarded as the King of Pop, MJ has been a beacon for most singers who aspired to become professionals and became successful. Despite the controversies flung at him, no one can deny his positive influence in the music industry and racial diversity issues that still proliferate today. Obviously one of the great inspirational singers of our time.
I wrote this to let aspiring singers become more aware that any form of adversity, especially in the form of racism, shouldn’t stop them from reaching their dreams. The best person who has demonstrated that hardship and humiliation aren’t enough to prevent one from achieving success is none other than the King of Pop, Michael Jackson.
Forever A Target Of Racism
His family’s fame was not enough to escape the racial stigma as an obstacle in their careers and daily lives. They were demonized, ostracized, and were often subjected to sudden threats and imminent violence.
He was continuously harassed by pedestrians, cops, and even the media throughout his life. This situation didn’t change regardless if he’s in a concert, in front of his most loyal fans. The stigmas associated with it clung onto him until his death.
Most fans of MJ and the Jackson 5 will tell you that they were buried deep in poverty. I want to clarify that it wasn’t the case. They can be considered a family with a sustainable income. They might have struggled from time to time whenever there’s a new addition to the family. MJ, after all, had eight siblings, and he was born at eight.
Their primary sources of income were from a steel mill where his father, Joe Jackson, worked as a crane operator and from Sears, where his mother, Katherine Jackson, worked part-time. Joe often earned money from time to time when performing as a guitarist with his band the Falcons.
His Father and the Jackson 5
There are three primary hardships that Michael had to endure when he was still a kid. First, it was segregation. It was rampant during his childhood years. They can’t easily enter restaurants and other establishments.
Second, it was the neighborhood they were in that was filled with aggressive and violent gangs. Aside from getting constantly harassed, Michael was always teased by the people around him. That left an impact on him and would mold Michael to what he became later.
Third, it was his father. One can say that Michael had the talent, and it was inevitable that he’ll rise to stardom even without his family. It could’ve been great if that was the case. Unfortunately, his father played a huge role in his life, which resulted in catapulting him to become a star. However, it wasn’t all that pleasant for Michael.
Starting at age five, Joe started training Michael together with his brothers. Joe always had a whip on his hand and would often punish his kids whenever they made a mistake during practice.
MJ often received harsher treatment because he was the youngest and knew less than his brothers, who already developed their music skills and talents. Every day, he only got to spend three hours sleeping because of the exhaustive regimen his father gave him.
Even if it’s considered abuse in modern standards, the Jackson brothers said that it’s an acceptable form of discipline for them. However, in an interview with Oprah, Michael cited that Joe’s treatment of him made him feel isolated and lonely. Nonetheless, when he became successful, he never forgot to share his blessings to his family members and father.
Rise To Fame
Despite the strictness, Joe’s training immediately bore fruit. At around age six, Michael joined the family band, which was changed to Jackson 5. They often performed in a variety of events and places.
Even if they’re praised and revered locally, they still often met with undue criticisms and hateful words. They were often rejected by record labels because of their color. And when they were accepted, they were never given a chance to have a say about the songs and records that were being produced at that time.
By the age of 17, Michael has become a crowd favorite. He became distinct in contrast to the other members of the Jacksons. He left the band and went ahead to pursue a solo career. This was the time when his fame shot by leaps and bounds.
Superficial, Existential, and Medical Problems
As a child, he was often teased about his nose by his family members and neighbors. His father often found his nose ugly, which only fueled more to his harsher punishment for Michael. And this led Michael to have a complex about it, and it didn’t help that he understood early how much looks were crucial to become successful in show business.
This got even worse when he was a teenager and became prone to acne. With all the teasing, puberty, discrimination, and hatred, he developed an internal conflict towards his race. It’s the presumed reason he started to perform his alleged skin bleaching.
When word got around about it, he suddenly discovered that he has ‘vitiligo’. It was an autoimmune disease that destroyed skin pigments. He received topical treatments for it, and those same treatments made his skin look paler every year, and when he appeared publicly.
With all that riding on his shoulders, he never stopped performing. And he never flinched in front of his audience. His concerts were sold out, his records reached platinum, and he had been a consistent billboard chart singer. And it’s not just in the US—he’s world-renowned, and his albums broke records in other countries as well.
Just a quick trivia: Did you know that Michael Jackson’s highest-earning dead person in the world? As of this writing, he’s earning $223 million, by average, every year. He also won four awards after his death and can still get attention from crowds when featured by media entities.
Going back to the topic, him being one of the most prolific singers in his era had taken a massive toll on him. His nonstop concerts made his body often filled with excess adrenaline, which prevented him from getting sleep. His doctors then prescribed anesthetics, which isn’t really a good idea, to allow him to get rest. And this further complicated Michael’s health problems later in his life.
Hurdles of Being A Popular Man of Color
People of color were often exploited during the 20th century. Still, no other black celebrity has been taken advantage of as Michael Jackson. First of all, you might already have an inkling on how many controversies surrounded and still surround him. There’s a good explanation for that, and it’s not because they’re all true.
Primarily, tabloids and even the mainstream media have abused his popularity. They do it when they need attention or an increase in sales. After all, all they need to do is feature Michael in a bad light. They can easily amplify their sales by threefold with him on the cover.
And it’s not only the media, but some ordinary folks also tried to extort by throwing mud at the King of Pop. Do you know that he received at least 50 lawsuits every year? And he has been found innocent in most of them.
The usual celebrity antagonists were not his only problem. His raving fans are also an issue. He needs a lot of security personnel to keep him away from his overzealous followers. This made it almost impossible for him to walk around town like an average person.
Aside from his safety, he always feared the safety of his children. This made him live half of his life in isolation in his house in Neverland. Despite being a vast property, Neverland only limited MJ to interact with a few people, most of whom were his employees. Imagine being a prisoner of your success figuratively and literally.
Being in Michael Jackson’s shoes is something of a wish-fulfilling and scary thought. He’s talented, but the process used to refine it was cruel. He’s achieved success, but the path towards it was dismal. He’s still earning after his death, but there’s no point since he’s already gone.
Nonetheless, with everything that has happened, nothing stopped him. Even death can put a hold on his success. I’m sure you’re also facing troubles and anxiety, and I’m guessing they’re holding you back. After hearing this short story, it’s time to change gears and have a better and more positive outlook on how you’ll achieve your dream as a singer.
Remember that: No race, abuser, nor individual are capable of stopping you except yourself.
By the way, this is the start of the new series of posts that I’d be writing about. It’s titled inspirational singers. Here, I will reminisce and analyze the best singers that stepped upon this world. Expect that it would be something reading worthwhile.