Michael Jackson's tragic real-life story

After parting ways with his brothers and their family band, The Jackson 5, Michael Jackson embarked on an impressive solo career that peaked when his 1982 album, Thriller, became the best-selling album of all time. He declared himself the King of Pop, and through the decades he continued to perform top-grossing concerts, smash music records, and managed to dominate the charts long after his sudden, unexpected death in 2009

Despite his success as an international celebrity, it was his private life and odd behavior that frequently made headlines. There were rumors and allegations of childhood emotional and physical abuse, a child molestation lawsuit, and his own admission of how his shyness hindered his personal relationships. He may have been one of the most famous celebrities in the world and an international superstar with legions of adoring fans. But his life was far from ideal. Here's the tragic real-life story of Michael Jackson.

Is this the reason he got numerous nose jobs?

Throughout the years, Jackson's appearance drastically changed. He suffered from vitiligo — a skin pigmentation disease that cause areas of the skin to be lighter than others — and he was rumored to have gone under the knife multiple times. And at one point, his nose appeared to be "crumbling" after one too many rhinoplasty procedures. 

He copped to two nose jobs in his 1988 autobiography, Moonwalk (via the Telegraph), but what many people didn't realize was Jackson was likely undergoing the procedures to change his looks after years of being bullied about his appearance.

In 1997, the Washington Post revealed that at the age of 9, Jackson's father and brothers taunted him by giving him the nickname "Big Nose." Is it possible that he underwent multiple alleged nose jobs to erase the rumored painful memories of being tormented by his family? We wouldn't doubt it.

Rumors of child abuse

Prior to his death, Michael Jackson was very vocal about how his father would physically discipline him and his siblings. Jackson's brother, Jermaine, shed even more light on what most would describe as child abuse in an interview with ABC News.

As the disciplinarian of the family, their father Joseph reportedly punished the kids pretty severely, and he never hesitated to hit Jackson with a switch — a tree branch that's used to inflict physical discipline.

"[Joseph] wanted to show us, 'I care about you. Even if I have to whip your butt, I care about you," Jermaine said when describing his father's actions.

TODAY also released an excerpt from an interview Jackson gave to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach about his upbringing. The singer described his father as "very physical" and proclaimed: "He would throw you and hit you as hard as he can."

In 2013, Joseph gave an interview to Piers Morgan Tonight (via CNN) and defended his heavy-handed approach to child rearing by saying: "I had to be like that way because during those times, it was hard, and you have a lot of gangs there, you know, in the area where we were living." 

Essentially, Joseph believed his strict disciplinary actions would prevent his kids from partaking in a life of crime. However, while Jackson stayed off the streets, it seems to have come at the cost of his mental, physical, and psychological well-being. 

He missed out on his childhood

In the aforementioned interview with Rabbi Boteach, Jackson shared what it was like to miss out on his childhood due to work obligations. He described how desperately he wanted to play outside like a normal kid, but he was too busy recording music.

"I could see the park, right across the street," he said. "But I had to go in the other building and work until late at night making the albums. I sat there looking at the kids with tears running down my face and I would say, 'I am trapped and I have to do this for the rest of my life.'"

This same sentiment has been shared by other child stars. However, Jackson's inability to maintain a sense of normalcy during his childhood damaged him beyond belief. He told the Rabbi that he felt "so lonely" at times. He had no friends and no one to talk to, so he would sit in his room and cry all alone. 

Thankfully, he received a consolation prize of sorts when he became a dad to his children Paris, Prince Michael II, and Michael Jr. He may have missed out on being a kid, but at least he was able to give his children the childhood he always felt he deserved. 

He surrounded himself with dummies

It was a well-known fact that Michael Jackson suffered from extreme shyness, but many aren't aware of the unique way in which he combated this bashfulness once he reached adulthood. The singer claimed he was so shy around people that he would surround himself with life-size mannequins because they made him feel like he wasn't entirely alone. "Because I felt I needed people, someone, and I didn't have," he said in his lengthy interview with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. "I was too shy to be around real people."

The Sun posted photos from inside Jackson's Neverland Ranch that were taken during a 2003 raid following child molestation allegations. The images showed the singer's childlike mannequins up close and personal. The dummies were scattered around a cluttered memorabilia room, lying on top of boxes and sitting on chairs. They were dressed in "denim jackets and sneakers," and the website also reported that "some of the dolls were positioned as if they were talking to each other."

The sad reason he built Neverland Ranch

In life and after death, Michael Jackson's name has been synonymous with Neverland Ranch — a sprawling, gated compound he purchased in 1988. He had the property redesigned to replicate a fun and exciting wonderland, complete with an amusement park, a zoo, and a movie theater. "Everything that I love is behind those gates. We have elephants, and giraffes, and crocodiles, and every kind of tigers and lions," he said in a 2003 interview with CBS News.

When he was asked why he developed the Peter Pan-inspired compound, his answer really tugged on our heartstrings. "Because I wanted to have a place that I could create everything that I that I never had as a child," he said.

Since he was unable to go to Disneyland or any other amusement park without being mobbed by eager fans, Neverland Ranch was the perfect place for him to let loose while still remaining safe behind the walls of his compound.

Was his dad emotionally abusive too?

Aside from the alleged physical abuse, Jackson reportedly had to deal with emotional abuse while growing up, as well. The Daily Mail revealed an incident in which the pop star was sleeping in his bedroom. His father Joe Jackson reportedly climbed through the opened bedroom window, "wearing a fright mask," to teach Jackson and his siblings a lesson about leaving the window open while they were asleep.

Aside from keeping the kids living in what sounds like a nightmare, his father kept Michael and his siblings at an emotional distance. While some fathers dote on their children, especially if their kids are essentially bankrolling their lifestyle, a family source told the New York Post that Jackson and his siblings had a complex relationship with Joseph. And, reportedly, Joseph didn't even allow them to call him "dad." 

"They were ordered to simply call him Joseph," the source said.

Did this terrifying accident spark his alleged addiction?

In 1984, Michael Jackson was filming a Pepsi commercial when tragedy struck. While singing his hit song "Billie Jean" as cameras rolled, a pyrotechnic error caused a massive explosion, catapulting sparks of fire that eventually engulfed Jackson's hair and body.

According to the BBC, "three thousand fans" who were on set watched in horror as the accident unfolded. But somehow Jackson was able to remain calm during the ordeal and simply "covered his burning hair with his jacket."

He was treated for second- and third-degree burns to the back of his head and scalp, and many assumed it was this frightful accident that reportedly led to the singer's addiction to plastic surgery to correct the burn scars. It was also speculated that the incident was the catalyst to his alleged addiction to painkillers, as it was a lethal cocktail of medication that ultimately claimed his life many years later.

He was relentlessly called 'Wacko Jacko'

Sure, he was eccentric, flamboyant, and his childlike demeanor was slightly off-putting. But many believed the media went too far in an attempt to bash Michael Jackson and his lifestyle. 

Week after week, headlines were dedicated to solely reporting on the strangeness of his life, such as the oxygen chamber he claimed would help him live to see the age of 150. Then there was the horrifying footage of him dangling his son, Prince, over a hotel balcony ledge as screaming fans and paparazzi stood below. And he really raised eyebrows when he debuted his beloved sidekick Bubbles – a chimpanzee he'd dress in matching outfits. The culmination of Jackson's bizarre actions and the way he lived his life caused the press to eventually dub him "Wacko Jacko" in honor of his eccentricity. 

For his fans, it was troubling to see the talented star mocked and ridiculed. It's even harder to imagine how he must've felt about all of the ridicule himself.

Did he have an eating disorder?

Michael Jackson's former publicist, Kevin McLin, spoke to ABC and denied allegations that the singer was suffering from an eating disorder in the last years of his life. "He was just careful about what he ate; he just tried to be healthy," McLin stated. "He ate turkey burgers, Chinese food, a lot of vegetables. He always tried to eat healthy stuff…He tried to stay away from red meat."

However, Randy Phillips, the CEO of AEG Live — the company that promoted Jackson's final "This Is It" tour — said he specifically hired someone to "remind [Jackson] to eat," and the singer's trainer, Lou Ferrigno, told Good Morning America that Jackson "only ate once a day."

His autopsy later revealed that he weighed in at 136 pounds and stood 5'7.5" tall, according to CNN. These stats are considered within a "normal" BMI, but that hasn't stopped the rumor mill from speculating about his supposed issues with food.

He was $400 million in debt

Michael Jackson sold a billion records worldwide and his concert tickets sold out at lightning speed as soon as they went on sale. So how could the man behind the best-selling album of all time be in extreme debt?

According to Billboard, when Jackson passed away at the age of 50, he was $400 million in debt. A huge chunk of his fortune was used to pay out multi-million dollar settlements to families whose children accused him of molestation, including a $25 million payout in 1993.

He was acquitted of 10 felony charges during his 2005 child molestation trial, but the legal proceedings exposed his financial crisis. It was revealed that things had gotten so bad, his beloved Neverland Ranch was on the brink of foreclosure.

His misfortunes eventually turned around — albeit Jackson wouldn't be alive to witness it. Eight years after his death, Forbes listed him as the top-earning dead celebrity of 2017, with his earnings reaching $75 million. His estate was also able to pull itself out of debt and turn a $500 million profit, thanks to a series of posthumous deals, according to Billboard, including sales from the release of his Michael Jackson's This Is It documentary and music sales.