Whatever happened to Debbie Rowe?

If you heard the name "Debbie Rowe" today, it wouldn't cause much of a stir. However, when her identity was revealed to the world in the mid-'90s, it was accompanied with the bombshell tabloid revelation that she was pregnant by music icon Michael Jackson. The bizarre nature of their relationship captivated the world for a time. Yet aside from public attempts to connect with her children, Rowe isn't quite the global talking point that she once was.

It isn't enough to ask what exactly happened to Debbie Rowe; first we have to answer a more important question: Who exactly is Debbie Rowe, anyway?

She made Michael Jackson a bizarre, but welcome offer

According to ABC News, Debbie Rowe first met the "King of Pop" when she worked as a nursing assistant for Beverly Hills dermatologist Dr. Arnold Klein. Rowe revealed the details of their initial encounter during a 2003 interview. "I go 'Hi'. And he goes 'Hi,' and I said, 'You know what? Nobody does what you do better, and nobody does what I do better. Let's get this over with.' And he laughed, and we just became friends. It was just right away."

Rowe was a huge fan of Michael Jackson's music and of the man himself. And it seems Jackson really valued Rowe's friendship, confiding in her when his marriage to Lisa Marie Presley started to fail. "[Michael] was really upset. He was upset because he really wanted to be a dad. I said, 'So be a dad.' He looked at me puzzled." What Rowe was suggesting would soon become clear: That she would willingly carry his child.

The offer was confirmed by Jackson's ex-wife Presley, who told Playboy (via the Official Elvis Presley Fan Club) that she was aware of Rowe's desire to have her ex-husband's children. "I knew Debbie Rowe was offering to do it for him while we were married, according to him. She was a nurse who had a crush on him and offered to have his babies."

Jackson's mother pushed for a marriage

It was supposed to be simple: Debbie Rowe would carry Michael's child and Michael Jackson would be somewhat of a single father. However, his plans went awry thanks to a friend of Rowe's who secretly recorded their conversations and sold the information to the tabloids. According to J. Randy Taraborrelli's book Michael Jackson: The Magic, The Madness, The Whole Story, 1958-2009, the shocking revelation of Rowe's pregnancy caught the attention of Jackson's mother Katherine. Katherine Jackson was strongly opposed to her grandchild being born out of wedlock. To appease his conservative mother, Jackson agreed to marry Rowe.

When Rowe revealed the situation to friend Tanya Boyd, Boyd asked Rowe if she felt any "romantic" love for Jackson. Rowe answered that "the kind of love I have with Michael is bigger, more important, than that."

It was clear that Rowe was more than a little star-struck when she said yes to the father of children Prince Michael Jackson and Paris Katherine Jackson, both of whom were conceived through artificial insemination. Perhaps still very much so when she gave up custody rights to her children following the divorce. It certainly wasn't enough to prepare her for the harsh public image and scrutiny she endured when the public caught wind of her existence and her bizarre connection to Michael Jackson.

The press labeled her a gold digger

The circumstances of Debbie Rowe's connection to Michael Jackson made her a prime target for tabloid fodder almost immediately. The idea that Rowe would allow herself to be artificially impregnated by the increasingly eccentric Michael Jackson made it seem that Rowe's ultimate goal was a hefty payday, something Rowe has repeatedly denied. "I [had the children] for him to become a father, not for me to become a mother. You earn the title parent. I have done absolutely nothing to earn that title." Although Rowe was overwhelmed by the presence of paparazzi on her wedding day, a photo of Rowe looking exasperated was captioned to make it seem like she regretted becoming Michael Jackson's wife.

Six months after the birth of daughter Paris, Rowe agreed to a divorce and a multi-million dollar settlement. Although she insisted to the press that she and Michael "were fine" and that she did have access to the children, she was later forced to admit during Jackson's child molestation cases that she hadn't seen her two children in years. The entire matter made it seem as if the pregnancies were little more than a transaction for financial gain, another claim Rowe has staunchly denied.

What seemed to hurt Rowe more than any claims by the press was the reality that she couldn't give Jackson what he wanted — more children. "I had so many problems when I was pregnant with Paris. After that I couldn't have any more children. Michael was upset about that, he couldn't understand it. He wanted more babies."

She moved on with her love life

With her marriage to Michael Jackson over and no real connection to her children, Debbie Rowe soon fell out of the spotlight. Although she eventually moved on with her love life, Rowe didn't move as far away from Jackson as one might anticipate. In 2014, it was reported that Rowe had become engaged to Marc Schaffel, a good friend and former manager of her ex-husband's. ABC News writes that Rowe first met Schaffel when he worked with Jackson and that the two became close.

Rowe's battle with breast cancer

In July 2016, Debbie Rowe revealed during an exclusive interview with Entertainment Tonight that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was determined to meet the condition head-on. "I'm a fighter and always have been."

By her side was daughter Paris Jackson, with whom Rowe reconnected following the teen's 2013 suicide attempt. With Rowe being there for her daughter during a low point in the young woman's life, Jackson was more than willing to return the favor, staying by her mother's side throughout the course of chemotherapy. Debbie Rowe successfully completed her chemotherapy in January 2017.

What's next for Debbie Rowe?

Now that we've examined both who Debbie Rowe is and what her life has been like, it's natural to wonder what's next for the enigmatic figure. Having recently completed treatment for breast cancer, it seems that Rowe is now focused on her recovery and continuing to strengthen her relationship with daughter Paris Jackson. When speaking of Paris, Rowe admitted that her daughter "was her rock" throughout the process and the "reason she gets up in the morning."

Prince Michael Jackson at one point updated reporters, saying Rowe's relationship with her children seemed to have improved following her health scare, a situation where that may have been the sole positive.  Now it seems she has an opportunity to begin to make up for an awkward and often non-existent relationship with her children and move on with her life.