The real reason Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley divorced

The so-called King of Pop shocked the world by marrying the King's daughter in a secret ceremony in the Dominican Republic in 1994. Yep, we're talking about Michael Jackson and Elvis' daughter, Lisa Marie Presley. Even though Jackson had been previously linked to other entertainers, including model Brooke Shields and actress Tatum O'Neal, Lisa Marie arguably marked his first romantic relationship that became front-and-center news in the public eye.

Many people called foul on the relationship, and there were a ton of reasons why the public believed the marriage was nothing more than a perfectly crafted publicity stunt. Nonetheless, the couple set out to prove its union was rooted in love, but the dynamic didn't last. Lisa Marie told Jackson to "Beat It" by filing for divorce in January 1996 — just 15 months after their wedding, reported CNN. What happened to this high-profile pair? We've got all the juicy details about the real reasons why Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley got divorced.

Was it all a publicity stunt?

Michael Jackson was still reigning supreme as the King of Pop when he wed Lisa Marie Presley, but you wouldn't know it judging by his music sales. The Los Angeles Times, citing SoundScan, reported that sales of Michael Jackson's latest album at the time, HIStory: Past, Present and Future Book I, were "disappointing," noting that "U.S. sales were fewer than 2 million copies" through the end of 1995. Compare that to his 1982 album, Thriller, which remains the best-selling album of all time, with more than 33 million copies sold worldwide, as of 2018. Did Jackson marry Presley to boost his star power and kick his album sales into overdrive? 

A slump in Jackson's music career may not have been the only reason people believed this marriage was a farce. At the time of their wedding, Presley was also trying to kick start her own music career. What better way for two artists to garner some much-needed attention than by embarking on an orchestrated romance that would surely get people talking?

Together but separate

Two people fall in love, start building a life together, and live happily ever after, right? That wasn't the case for Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley. According to a 1996 piece in The Washington Post, "The newlyweds reportedly lived apart in their respective mansions, but they appeared together — nude, but tastefully draped — in Jackson's "You Are Not Alone" video. Can you say thirsty?

This independent arrangement supposedly made sense to those closest to the couple, including Adrian McManus, who worked as Jackson's personal maid at his Neverland Ranch. She told the Daily Mail that while Jackson and Presley were dating, she "never saw them have any real genuine romantic interaction." McManus reportedly noticed that Presley visited Jackson's home a few times but "never even stayed over in his room that I can remember; Michael always made her stay in the guest unit or Rose Room." Take this housekeeper's dirt with a grain of salt, but this kind of reporting certainly makes a case for why the superstar spouses divorced so quickly. 

She allegedly gave him an ultimatum

Soon after they wed, things supposedly began to unravel for Lisa Marie Presley and Michael Jackson. Toward the end of their brief union, Presley was apparently at her wit's end as well. In a 2010 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Jackson's ex pinpointed the exact moment when, in her view, things took a turn for the worse between her and her husband. Presley told the talk show maven that she gave her Jackson an ultimatum: It was either "the drugs" and the "vampires" or her. Wait, what? Vampires? 

Winfrey clarified that by "vampires," Presley was referring to "sycophants" and the people Jackson kept in his life that allegedly took advantage of him. Presley claimed Jackson made his choice by pushing her away, so what's a girl to do? It didn't take long for Presley to take the necessary steps to end their marriage for good, but did she manipulate the situation on her way out the door?

Timing is everything, and Presley may have won that game

When Lisa Marie Presley filed for divorce in 1996, it may have felt like the only person who was shocked about the decision was Michael Jackson … but not for the reasons one may think. 

When Karen Faye, the pop star's hairstylist and makeup artist, testified during the Jackson family's wrongful death lawsuit against AEG Live, she reportedly dropped a bombshell about Jackson and Presley's breakup. According to CNN, Faye claimed Presley begged Jackson not to file for divorce, and the pop star allegedly caved and promised not to do so. The next morning, it was all over the news that Presley had filed for divorce, supposedly blindsiding Jackson in the process. Faye claimed the King of Pop was upset by Presley's plan. Apparently in Hollyweird, timing a divorce announcement is everything — at least in the court of public opinion, but in the grand scheme of things, did it really matter for this couple?

She felt 'disposable' around him

Though there was reportedly some resentment at the time of their divorce, Lisa Marie Presley insisted in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that Michael Jackson "wasn't a bad person." However, she apparently knew that things between them would never work out, in part, because Jackson actually reminded her a lot of her father, the late Elvis Presley. When she noticed all of the drugs and the doctors coming in and out of Jackson's life, she was rightfully afraid. "I felt I was disposable," she said. "And it was the same with my father." 

Presley also said that she often felt like didn't have a voice in their marriage, and she was upset that people around Jackson wouldn't stand up to him either. Jackson's ex described finding herself in a tough predicament, believing that voicing her concerns would only lead to more problems. "Because if you did, you were out. It's very simple," she said.

She says he pressured her to have a baby

Lisa Marie Presley told Oprah Winfrey that Michael Jackson began pressuring her to have a baby from the start of their marriage. Presley already had two children from her five-year marriage to musician Danny Keough. "I did want to [have a child], but I just wanted to make sure," she said. Make sure of what? Running through her mind were thoughts about potentially having to go through a custody battle with Jackson, which isn't exactly what most people think about in the afterglow of their own wedding. 

Soon after their divorce was finalized in the summer of 1996, news broke that Debbie Rowe, a nurse who worked at Jackson's doctor's office, was pregnant with Jackson's baby. "I know that she was there the whole time telling him that she would do it," Presley alleged. "He would come tell me, 'If you're not gonna do it, Debbie said she'll do it.'" 

Jackson and Rowe married the same year his divorce from Presley was finalized. They reportedly had two children together, Prince Jr. and Paris Jackson, before splitting in 1999, according to the Mirror. Lending credence to Presley's concerns, Rowe wound up entangled in a bitter custody battle after Jackson's death in 2009.

Did he have ulterior motives?

Michael Jackson's former maid, Adrian McManus, described the King of Pop's relationship with Lisa Marie Presley as "strange" in an interview with the Daily Mail. McManus believed Jackson was using his wife because of her iconic family tree — in particular, the fact that she's the daughter of the legendary Elvis Presley. "He thought he could manipulate Lisa Marie to get hold of her dad's music catalog, Michael wanted her dad's songs — not her," McManus alleged. 

McManus said she "felt sorry for Lisa as she was genuinely in love with him, and taken in by the nice, playful side of Michael." When McManus allegedly spotted a note on Jackson's "to do" board that read: "Got to acquire the song list for Elvis," she believed she knew exactly what his true motives were for the marriage. Is it possible that when Jackson realized he couldn't get his hands on Elvis' music catalog, being married to Presley didn't seem like such a good idea anymore? 

They attempted to reconcile

After their divorce was finalized, Michael Jackson jumped right into another marriage and a pregnancy with the aforementioned Debbie Rowe, but according to Lisa Marie Presley, she and her ex continued to try to work things out between them. Presley told Oprah Winfrey in 2010 that although their relationship had its problems, they spent the next "four years" following the divorce attempting to reconcile. Presley said she continued to travel "all over the world with him for years." Eventually, she decided she "had to push it away," Presley said. "I wasn't moving forward with myself."

Presley admitted that even after she left Jackson, she was still "very much" in love with him. She said she thought filing for divorce would wake him up. "I left him to sort of stomp my foot into the ground," she said. "I was trying to take a stand and say, 'Come with me. Don't do this.'" She later referred to her decision to leave Jackson as a "stupid move" and insisted their relationship had been the real thing.