Michael Jackson's Daughter, Paris, Grew Up To Be Gorgeous

This article contains mentions of self-harm and suicide.

Paris Jackson's father, Michael Jackson, tried to shield her from the spotlight, but she couldn't remain at Neverland Ranch forever. Michael also couldn't protect her from a future navigating life as the daughter of an eccentric musician whose legacy was tarnished by a child molestation scandal.

Debbie Rowe was married to Michael when she gave birth to Paris in 1998, but two years later, she and Michael divorced and she relinquished her parental rights. The circumstances surrounding Paris' arrival into the world played out in the tabloids, as would the rest of her life. Some of Paris' most tragic moments, from her father's death to her own suicide attempts, are matters she wasn't allowed to address privately. Because her father was Black and she has light-colored skin, she's also been forced to answer questions about her parentage and race. "[Michael] would look me in the eyes and he'd point his finger at me and he'd be like, 'You're Black. Be proud of your roots,'" she told Rolling Stone. According to Paris, this is exactly what she's done.

Having one of the biggest pop stars in the world as a father has also given Paris a complicated relationship with fame. On "Red Table Talk," she revealed that the paparazzi have caused her to suffer from PTSD. "I experience audio [sic] hallucinations sometimes with camera clicks and severe paranoia," she said. But she's also stepped in front of cameras willingly many times, allowing fans to witness her transformation into the gorgeous, talented woman she's become.

Paris Jackson didn't like her dad's mask mandate

Paris Jackson and her brothers, Prince Michael Jackson and Bigi Jackson, grew up on Michael Jackson's sprawling Neverland Ranch estate near Santa Barbara, California. Their dad kept them so sheltered that Paris had no idea he was a global superstar during the seven-year time period that the family resided there. "I just thought his name was Dad, Daddy. We didn't really know who he was," she told Rolling Stone. "But he was our world. And we were his world." When the kids left the seclusion of their home, Michael made them hide their faces behind masks and veils.

During a 2011 appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," Paris admitted that she was not a fan of wearing the coverings at the time. "I'm like, 'This is stupid. Why am I wearing a mask?'" she recalled. However, she later came to appreciate Michael's effort to give her and her siblings some modicum of privacy. While explaining his reasoning on "Oprah's Next Chapter" in 2012, Paris said that Michael only made them hide their faces when they were with him. "When we went out without him, we wouldn't be recognized, and we could have a normal childhood," she stated. This anonymity afforded Paris and her brothers the opportunity to act like normal kids at two places they loved to visit, Toys "R" Us and Chuck E. Cheese.

Her fond memories of her father and Neverland Ranch

Paris Jackson told Rolling Stone she wasn't allowed free rein to ride Neverland Ranch's many amusement park attractions — which included a Ferris wheel, carousel, and train — whenever she pleased. Instead, Michael Jackson's rides, petting zoo, and theater were used as rewards. "If we were good, every other weekend or so, we could choose whether we were gonna go to the movie theater or see the animals or whatever," she shared. Paris and her brothers were homeschooled for many years but didn't feel like they were missing out on getting to be around other kids because they loved spending time with their dad. "We were like, 'We don't need friends. We've got you and Disney Channel!'" she recalled.

Paris also had her siblings to play with. In a 2019 Vogue video, she and Prince Jackson even reminisced about the time a game of hide-and-seek in total darkness resulted in Paris suffering a broken nose. She'd been running across Neverland Ranch's theater stage at the time.

The Jackson children were also exposed to music from a wide variety of genres, and Paris was quite the songbird herself. "It was cool seeing the look on my dad's face when he realized I could match pitch and harmonize," she told The Standard. As her father's only daughter, she says that he doted on her more than her brothers. "I was the princess," she told Harper's Bazaar. "I was perfect in my dad's eyes."

Her emotional memorial tribute was reportedly unplanned

Paris Jackson's first big exposure to the spotlight came at a distressing time. When she was 11 years old, Michael Jackson died from a propofol overdose administered by Dr. Conrad Murray. Michael's mother, Katharine Jackson, became the guardian of his children. In a 2016 interview with "60 Minutes Australia," Katharine described Paris' reaction to Michael's death. "Paris was screaming and crying and saying, 'I want to go with you daddy, I don't want to live without you,'" she recalled (via ABC News).

Despite being in a fragile emotional state, Paris took the stage with the rest of her family members at Michael's 2009 memorial service. The tearful tween wanted to share a message about her father with the world, saying, "Ever since I was born, daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine. And I just want to say that I love him so much." A producer for the show later told Entertainment Weekly that Paris' speech was spontaneous. Speaking to Reuters, media historian Ron Simon predicted, "That will be one of the iconic moments from today's service."

Eight years later, the speech came up during Paris' Rolling Stone interview. It turns out that she'd been preternaturally media-savvy for her age, saying that she was trying to protect her father's memory by issuing a preemptive response to Michael's critics. "I knew afterward there was gonna be plenty of s***-talking, plenty of people questioning him and how he raised us," she explained.

Paris Jackson's dad inspired her interest in acting

After her father's death, Paris Jackson didn't simply stop hiding her face behind a mask; she made plans for the world to see it on the big screen. In 2011, she got cast as the lead in a fantasy movie with an eco-friendly message, "Lundon's Bridge and the Three Keys." Paris promoted the film during her first solo talk show appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," saying that its plot about caring for the planet would have appealed to her father. She also shared that seeing Michael Jackson's 1988 movie "Moonwalker" inspired her to get into acting. "I knew he could sing really well, but I didn't know he could act," she stated. "I saw that and I said, 'Wow, I want to be just like him.'" According to Paris, her father helped her hone her acting skills. "We did improvs together," she recalled, adding that she could cry on cue.

One person who didn't support Paris' acting dream was her aunt, Janet Jackson. However, her only issue was her niece's age. "I told her I thought she should enjoy being a kid, possibly go to college — or not — but wait till she turns 18," Janet told Prevention in 2012. Paris herself said on "Oprah's Next Chapter" that Michael had wanted her to have a normal childhood after he experienced child stardom firsthand. Paris ultimately didn't make her acting debut until 2017, so Michael and Janet got their wish.

She was a cheerleader and football player

Paris Jackson was by no means an average teen. In 2012, she appeared on People's Most Beautiful list and posed for a seemingly makeup-free photo. "My grandmother [Katherine Jackson] doesn't like it when I wear makeup," she told People. "I can understand why — foundations aren't always good for your skin." By then, she'd traded homeschool for The Buckley School, a private institution in Sherman Oaks, California, and was making new friends. "When I spend the weekend at my friend's house, we usually have one night where we wash our faces and use those nose things for our pores," she said. "They're really cool!"

Paris got to engage in extracurricular activities at her new school, and at age 13, she earned the distinction of being its first female member of the flag football team. According to TMZ, she played linebacker. Her notoriety and proficiency on the field earned her an offer to be a spokesperson for America's Lingerie Football League, which Katherine Jackson reportedly found highly inappropriate. "A teenage spokeswoman for a lingerie league? That's just creepy and downright offensive," a family source told Radar.

Paris didn't let playing football stop her from also being a cheerleader; in 2013, she was photographed rocking an edgy black bob while cheering for her school's basketball team. This earned her an offer to join the Philadelphia Eagles cheerleading squad. "Paris has that 'wow factor' that makes a great cheerleader," the team's director, Barbara Zaun, told TMZ.

She was too cool for kids at her school

As a teenager, Paris Jackson was getting opportunities that were bound to make some of her peers jealous, such as getting to meet Justin Bieber in 2012. MTV News even suggested that the teens would make a cute couple after they posed for photos together during Michael Jackson's hand and footprint ceremony at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. 

However, according to Paris, it was her taste in music (which skewed towards artists of the non-teenybopper variety) that made her unpopular with her classmates. "The clique in my class, they don't like me or my friend because we're outside of the box," she told Glamour. "We're not copycats. Prince calls me goth, but I'm more rock 'n' roll. (I listen to older music like AC/DC; Phil Collins is the ish.)."

Luckily for Paris, she had better things to do than worry about what the popular crowd thought about her, like calling out a rockstar on X, formerly known as Twitter. After hearing Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx say something about her father that she didn't like, Paris wrote in a since-deleted tweet (via SFGate), "Heyy quick question dude — and this is coming from a huge fan of motley crue — but why do u feel the need to hate on talented ppl?" Paris' tweet didn't go unnoticed by the rocker. "My snarky humor and sarcasm sometimes gets the best of me," Sixx replied. "I sincerely apologize to you and your family."

Paris Jackson had to deny getting married

After a reported suicide attempt in 2013, Paris Jackson's public appearances became sparse. She spent some of her time in Utah away from the spotlight, where she was attending a therapeutic high school. "I was going through a lot of, like, teen angst. And I was also dealing with my depression and my anxiety without any help," she told Rolling Stone.

When Paris started making more frequent public appearances again, it was often in the company of soccer player Chester Castellaw. The then-17-year-old made her relationship with Castellaw Instagram official in April 2015, and the pair walked their first red carpet together when they attended Deaf West Theatre's "Spring Awakening" production the following month.

Castellaw even earned the approval of Paris' cousin TJ Jackson, who had become her co-guardian. "No one's perfect, but he's a good boy," TJ told ET that August, saying "He treats her well. She's happy." In October 2015, an Instagram page bearing the name "Paris Jackson Castellaw" sparked rumors that the young couple had tied the knot. However, Paris filmed a video saying that the account belonged to an imposter. She spread the word via Castellaw's Instagram page, explaining that she didn't have a public account. Two months later, the couple called it quits. "Paris still will not tell anyone what happened to cause the breakup," a source told Radar. "She is kind of shutting everyone out when it comes to the topic."

Her tattoo tributes to her dad

When Paris Jackson turned 18 in 2016, she moved into the guesthouse of her father's Encino, California, estate — and spent a lot of time in tattoo parlors getting inked up with tributes to Michael Jackson. On her birthday, she got the words "Queen of My Heart" tattooed on her wrist in Michael's handwriting. "To everyone else he was the King of Pop," she captioned a since-deleted Instagram photo of her tat (via Today). "To me, well, he was the king of my heart."

A month later, Paris got the artwork from Michael's "Dangerous" record, which includes a closeup of his eyes, tattooed on her arm. In June 2016, she added the title of his song "Bad" to her collection and explained why she's so fond of tattoos. In addition to simply appreciating the art form, she revealed that they've helped her heal from self-harm. "Today I can look at my inner forearms and see art that has meaning for me, I don't see a dark past anymore," she wrote (via Glamour). "My scars and past of self-hatred have been covered by loving marks, creativity, ingenuity, and depth." By the time Rolling Stone interviewed Paris in 2017, she had nine Michael-inspired tattoos.

Another meaningful piece of body art she added to her collection in 2016 was the last name of her boyfriend at the time, drummer Michael Snoddy. The ankle piece was photographed while Snoddy was celebrating Paris' birthday with her at Disneyland.

Why she found modeling so appealing

Paris Jackson seemed destined to be the next big thing in fashion in 2017. She attended her first Met Gala, scored a front-row seat at a Paris Fashion Week show, signed with the prestigious IMG modeling agency, and partnered with Calvin Klein. After she hard-launched her fashion career, Rolling Stone wanted to know how she felt about modeling. "Plenty of people think I'm ugly, and plenty of people don't," she said. "But there's a moment when I'm modeling where I forget about my self-esteem issues and focus on what the photographer's telling me — and I feel pretty."

Jackson also did a photoshoot in front of the Eiffel Tower for Harper's Bazaar in 2017 and spoke about the stars she looked to for style inspo. Like many Gen Zers, she was embracing throwback fashion. But whereas "It" girls like Bella Hadid were bringing back '90s trends, Jackson was rocking looks inspired by two female rock icons of the '60s and '70s: Janis Joplin and Stevie Nicks. "There's never been anyone like them and there never will be. They're legendary and incredible," she said.

Jackson's Instagram from that era of her early foray into fashion is filled with photos of her modern take on the flower child aesthetic. She's pictured rocking actual flowers in her hair with Converse on her feet and pairing a tie-dye top with gray leggings. She was also fond of crystals, beads, and the circle sunglasses favored by John Lennon.

Activism is more important to her than acting

Paris Jackson didn't put her old dreams of becoming an actor on the backburner when she started modeling. In 2017, she also made a guest-starring appearance in Lee Daniels' Fox series, "Star." She played a social media maven who was tasked with snapping publicity photos of the show's girl group for an internet campaign. The character had a no-nonsense, take-charge attitude that Jackson felt opposed to her own personality. "For it being my first real on-camera acting, I think it's a good way for me to show my acting capabilities," she said in a behind-the-scenes video.

Jackson told Teen Vogue she was also writing music in 2017 but had no plans to record anything at the time. Still, she wasn't satisfied just being a double-threat with her modeling and acting; she was also an activist. In fact, she said that activism was more important to her than any of her career pursuits. "From a young age, I've always cared about the wellness of animals and the environment," she stated. 

One of the causes close to her heart was the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which she gave a shoutout to at the Grammys before introducing the Weeknd and Daft Punk. "We could use this kind of excitement at a pipeline protest," she told the crowd. Jackson also followed in the footsteps of her godmother, Elizabeth Taylor, by becoming the ambassador of the late actor's Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

Why she apologized for a magazine cover

Paris Jackson addressed questions about her sexuality via social media in 2018. During a Q&A on her Instagram Story, she was asked if she was bisexual. "That's what you guys call it so i [sic] guess but who needs labels," Paris replied. When her response began getting media coverage, she pointed out that it wasn't exactly breaking news that she was a member of the LGBTQ+ community. "I even mentioned having crushes on girls when I was 8 in a magazine before," she tweeted. This seemingly referred to Paris telling Rolling Stone that Michael Jackson once playfully teased her for said crush. "I've been caught kissing girls in public," Paris added. One such girl was model Cara Delevingne.

Because Paris was out and proud, her decision to pose on the cover of Harper's Bazaar Singapore in 2018 raised a few eyebrows. In an opinion piece for Gay Star News, writer Jamie Tabberer deemed Paris a hypocrite, pointing out that gay sex was a criminal act in Singapore. Paris quickly issued an apology on X. "I don't want to be hypocritical or hurt anyone, and my support for my fellow LGBTQ+ community comes first before my love for fashion and gratitude for this opportunity," she wrote. She also argued that her cover could be viewed as a sign of progress, writing, "Someone that is openly a part of the community being on the cover in a country against the community, should be celebrated."

She started making music with her boyfriend

Paris Jackson told Numéro that she was 13 years old when she began learning how to play guitar, but it wasn't until 2018 that she started pursuing a music career in earnest. She and her boyfriend at the time, Gabriel Glenn, teamed up to form a folk-rock duo called The Soundflowers. That June, they performed at Canyon Sessions for an audience that included Katherine Jackson. "I can't believe my grandma made it to our second live show ever," Paris wrote in a since-deleted Instagram post (via E! News). "And she actually liked it!?!!! I was s***ting my pants." On her Instagram Story, Paris revealed that she had undergone a painful surgical procedure to have an abscess drained the day before her big performance. Also in 2018, Paris made a cameo in the 30 Seconds to Mars music video for "Rescue Me."

In March 2019, Paris and Glenn landed another big gig at The Mint in Los Angeles, where their set included a cover of the Jimmy Buffett classic "Margaritaville." According to TMZ, Paris' mom Debbie Rowe was in attendance, as was Chris Brown, her father's close friend Macaulay Culkin, and Culkin's girlfriend Brenda Song.

According to one insider, Paris and Glenn's relationship was growing just as serious as their musical aspirations. "They're not planning on getting married soon, but that's the long-term plan," said a Page Six source in May 2019.

The singer went solo

After dating for two years, releasing an EP, and filming their own Facebook Watch series, "Unfiltered: Paris Jackson and Gabriel Glenn," Paris Jackson and Gabriel Glenn broke up in 2020. In the final episode of the series, Glenn admitted that it wasn't easy for him to see Paris getting so much attention when they partnered up. "It's weird in this relationship not being the one in the spotlight," he shared. Jackson described the two of them as "double stubborn" and said of their musical partnership, "I can't do this without Gabe." She later added, "I can't see my life without him."

Two months after the couple called it quits, Jackson expressed her heartbreak in the song "Let Down," the first single she released from her debut solo record "Wilted." But in a statement about her new music, she revealed that she was anything but sad. "I'm excited, I'm nervous, mostly grateful and happy," Jackson said, per USA Today. "The freedom to create, not being told what to sing and how to sing it, what to write; it's awesome. It's a gift, it's a blessing."

Jackson told Billboard that she was also excited about indie rocker Andy Hull producing the album, as she was a huge fan of his band. "Manchester Orchestra was the soundtrack to the most vital time in my life in regards to mourning and becoming who I am today," she said. According to Jackson, the record's sound was heavily influenced by Radiohead.

Her famous godfather gave her acting advice

From birth, Paris Jackson has had some big celebrity connections. On "Red Table Talk," she explained why she and Paris Hilton share the same first name. "Kathy Hilton and my dad were really close growing up ... They made some kind of a pact that they were going to call their first daughter Paris," she said. Then there are her famous godparents, Elizabeth Taylor and Macaulay Culkin.

Jackson and Culkin share a close bond. In 2016, Jackson posted an Instagram photo of herself painting her godfather's toes, and she was hanging out with Culkin when she was photographed kissing Cara Delevingne in 2018. The tight-knit pals even got matching spoon tattoos in 2017. Culkin explained to Esquire that this is because they both like to steal that particular piece of cutlery from restaurants. Something else Culking and Jackson have in common is their casting in the "American Horror Story" franchise.

Culkin appeared in "American Horror Story: Double Feature" in 2021, so Jackson reached out to him for some advice when she scored an audition for the "AHS" spinoff "American Horror Stories." Speaking to E! News, she recalled that he told her, "Overdo it at certain points. Kind of like, overact and kind of make it theatrical." Jackson scored the part and loved getting to film inside the Murder House from the first season of "AHS." She told USA Today, "I was running around taking pictures and being a total nerd about it."

She was Willow Smith's 'dream girl'

When Willow Smith interviewed Paris Jackson for "Red Table Talk" in 2021, she revealed that the two of them were longtime friends who bonded over having famous parents, working in the same industries, and struggling with similar issues, including their mental well-being. So who better to play Smith's love interest in her 2022 "Ur a Stranger" music video than Jackson? When Jackson shared a snippet of the video on Instagram, Smith wrote in the comments, "Fav music video dream girl."

Jackson was also busy writing and recording new music of her own. In a 2023 interview with Allure, she revealed that the EP she was working on at the time was inspired by grunge bands of the '90s, including Nirvana and the Smashing Pumpkins. "I'm going for a louder sound these days," she said. An example is her single "Bandaid," which has some pretty dark lyrics. "I dream of you when I'm bleeding out, I'm veiny / I'm draining out and done," she sings.

Jackson's dedication to her craft earned her the opportunity to perform at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in 2023 and go on tour with Incubus. She was also continuing to score acting roles; in an episode of "Swarm," she plays a stripper who performs under the name Halsey. "I try and enjoy every moment regardless of where I'm at," Jackson told People. "Even if things are tough, I think it's important to still find things to be grateful for."

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