Why You Don't Hear From La Toya Jackson Anymore

As a member of one of the most notorious families in American pop music, fame was almost a guarantee for La Toya Jackson. But how that fame would manifest remained to be seen, and would prove ever-changing. Her brothers became teen idols and R&B superstars in the '70s as the Jackson 5. That group launched the career of Michael Jackson, the King of Pop and probably the most famous solo act of all time, and before long, sister Janet Jackson was an '80s icon in her own right as the leader of rhythm nation.

La Toya Jackson also entered the family business of music, but has lived personal and professional lives arguably filled with even more ups and downs than those experienced by her more famous family members. While La Toya was a near-constant media presence in the '80s and '90s, she has since retreated from the spotlight. Here's what the fifth-oldest Jackson sibling has been up to in recent years.

The Jackson family turned on La Toya

The downfall of La Toya Jackson arguably began in 1991, when the singer-actress released her controversial memoir, Growing Up in the Jackson Family. It was full of salacious, scandalous, and deeply unsettling details about her famous relatives, particularly her father, Joe Jackson, whom she alleged was extremely abusive. 

Claiming that the Jackson family patriarch was so violent that eldest sibling Rebbie left home at the age of 16 — after police interventions and pleading with their mother, Katherine, proved ineffective — La Toya alleged that her father's abuse toward her escalated after the family moved from Indiana to California. "He only sexually abused me once in California," La Toya wrote (via the Associated Press). "But he still kept up a lot of verbal abuse toward me." At the time, both Joe and Katherine Jackson denied La Toya's claims. The fallout and familial distance stemming from the release of Growing Up in the Jackson Family left La Toya tainted by scandal and estranged from her more popular and influential siblings

Fortunately, La Toya later reconciled with the rest of the Jackson clan, claiming during a 2003 Larry King Live interview that her father had since apologized. "It's so important to forgive and move forward, because that's negativity and it's toxic to the body and to the mind," she said (via CNN). "So once you're over that, you feel pure and you're positive and you can move on with your life, with positive things."

She spoke out against brother Michael Jackson amid his legal troubles

In the summer of 1993, the Associated Press obtained legal documents detailing a 13-year-old boy's allegations against Michael Jackson, claiming that the singer had abused him and forced him into certain acts of a sexual nature. The King of Pop's lawyer, Howard Weitzman, called the allegations "totally false," while Jackson delivered a statement on live television (from his Neverland Ranch) similarly denying any wrongdoing. 

As plenty of Jackson defenders stepped forward, his sister, La Toya Jackson, was first in line to ... affirm those allegations of horrible misdeeds. La Toya called off her vacation to Israel that December, and instead called a press conference. "I cannot and will not be a silent collaborator of his crimes against small, innocent children," she said (via Jezebel). "And if I remain silent, that means I feel the guilt and humiliation that these children are hearing, and I think it's very wrong."

Similar allegations of crimes against children committed by Michael Jackson would return throughout his life and after his 2009 death — including in the 2019 documentary, Leaving Neverland. But while Michael Jackson eluded charges, jail time, or much effect on his popularity, La Toya Jackson suffered for speaking out. Her comments on her brother were ultimately chalked up to just more of the same from the singer-actress: airing the family's dirty laundry and publicly attacking her siblings over incidents that many didn't believe to be true.

La Toya Jackson's musical career was never all that successful

The two biggest stars in the Jackson family are undeniably Michael and Janet. During his lifetime, Michael Jackson released 10 studio albums, while Janet Jackson has put out 11, as of this writing. They've both sold millions of records, but in terms of musical output volume, La Toya Jackson has them both beat. 

Since 1980, La Toya has released more than a dozen records. However, she's hopped around labels — from major ones like RCA and Polydor, to relatively small and obscure ones like Funky Town Grooves and Pilz — likely because none of them sold particularly well. Her first three albums (La Toya Jackson, My Special Love, and Heart Don't Lie) all peaked in the bottom portion of the Billboard 200 album chart, and none of her later records even got that far. In fact, La Toya landed a single on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart just once with "Heart Don't Lie," which, despite some major MTV exposure in 1984, climbed the chart to #56. For the sake of comparison, in the wake of Michael Jackson's mega-hit record Thriller, even oldest sibling Rebbie Jackson managed a top 30 hit with "Centipede." 

In 2004, La Toya Jackson enjoyed a bit of a comeback under the pseudonym Toy, when her singles "Just Wanna Dance" and "Free the World" received major play in dance clubs. But after that, the world went back to being indifferent to the recording career of the middle Jackson sibling.

Her shady manager-turned-husband made some bad career decisions

In the late '80s, La Toya Jackson got a new manager: Jack Gordon, a businessman with a background in casinos who once spent six months in prison for bribing a gaming official. The two were married from 1989 to 1998, according to People, but the singer later shared disturbing allegations about their personal and professional relationship — including claims of physical abuse at the hand of Gordon — during a 2013 episode of Life with La Toya (via HuffPost).

Jackson also claimed that she'd had no interest in marrying Gordon in the first place, but had been allegedly forced into the marriage after a bodyguard kept her from fleeing the chapel. "I was brainwashed by him. I really felt like a robot. I was being beaten," Jackson said on her show. "He dictated my career choices ... he made me say the things that he wanted me to say in interviews." Adding even more trepidation to this nightmare marriage: Jackson claimed Gordon "had very strong ties and connections to the mafia." 

Per the Chicago Tribune, Gordon orchestrated Jackson's nude pictorial in a 1989 issue of Playboy, which that became one of the magazine's all-time bestsellers. This led to Gordon pushing Jackson to perform in pornographic productions, at which point she filed for divorce and thankfully got away. While that's a happy ending personally, having Gordon as a manager left a veneer of criminality, sleaze, and scandal that rubbed off on Jackson professionally.

La Toya Jackson descended into reality TV, from which there is no escape

The good news for celebrities of yore — those whose careers have fallen off significantly, but who still enjoy name recognition with the general public and Hollywood casting directors — is that the rise of reality TV makes for hundreds of shows that need to fill out their casts, providing a paycheck and attention for familiar famous faces. La Toya Jackson is a quintessential reality show celeb, popping up whenever a series needs a famous person to play themselves and do whatever needs to be done for a camera. 

In addition to serving as an Indiana police officer on Armed and Famous, La Toya won a season of Worst Cooks in America, competed alongside Omarosa on The Celebrity Apprentice, locked herself up on Celebrity Big Brother, judged contestants on RuPaul's Drag Race, and let cameras follow her around on her day-to-day activities for two seasons of Life with La Toya on OWN. The downside to becoming a reality show staple? There's a stigma attached to it. Once a star goes the cheesy reality show route, it's hard for them to break out of that cultural niche.

La Toya Jackson's acting career was limited

La Toya Jackson isn't just a famous person, singer, and reality show stalwart — she's also an actress. Well, sort of. In addition to appearing as herself in a number of projects (including a late '80s Flintstones special where she voiced "La Toya Jackstone"), she's starred in exactly four made-for-TV narrative projects. 

On the heels of her tabloid-hogging antics in the early '90s, Jackson guest-starred on a 1992 episode of the USA Network spy show, Counterstrike. A full twenty years later, Jackson gave acting another shot, appearing in an episode of the CW's 90210. A relatively brief three years later, she starred in a pilot called San Francisco Blues, and three years after that, made a cameo as "Cleopatra" in The Last Sharknado: It's About Time. Unfortunately, none of these did much to share Jackson's latent acting talents with the world, or lead to regular scripted gigs.

Did she try to be a svengali to Michael Jackson's kids?

When Michael Jackson died in the summer of 2009, he left behind three minor children: Prince Michael Jackson, Paris Jackson, and Prince Michael Jackson II (better known as "Blanket"). A few years later, as the adult members of the Jackson family fought over the King of Pop's estate, La Toya Jackson focused in on her late brother's kids. 

According to Stacy Brown, a New York Post reporter and "longtime friend of the Jackson family," La Toya reportedly moved in with the children in their Calabasas, Calif. mansion to look after them and show them some much-needed fun, including watching TV and eating a lot of ice cream. But it would seem La Toya allegedly had ulterior motives — eventually, all three of Michael Jackson's kids had signed with Ja-Tail Enterprises, a talent agency run by La Toya that had no other clients.

La Toya did manage to book her charges some work — a gig as a correspondent on Entertainment Tonight and a small role on 90210 for Prince, and a movie for Paris set to start shooting in 2013 — all of which would reportedly lead to a 15 percent cut for Aunt La Toya. There was even talk of a reality series on Oprah Winfrey's OWN about these second-generation Jacksons, but, like Paris' movie, that never came to fruition. Instead, OWN approved a different show with a different focus: Life with La Toya.

Perhaps a televised unmasking will help La Toya Jackson return to the spotlight

As a longtime member of the celebrities-who-do-reality-shows community, it was probably a foregone conclusion that La Toya Jackson would, at some, compete on The Masked Singer. The Fox reality show, based on an extremely popular South Korean TV series, is a singing contest like American Idol or The Voice, but instead of fresh-faced and earnest singers, the competitors are seasoned celebrities out to prove to the public (or themselves) that they've still got the goods ... and also, they're dressed in elaborate, identity-obscuring monster costumes, with their faces revealed only when they've been voted off. 

The Masked Singer has been a ratings smash — the first season was a top five show and became the most popular new show of the 2018-19 season. Judges Nicole Scherzinger and Robin Thicke correctly guessed that the lithe alien from a famous family was the one and only La Toya Jackson. "This experience was absolutely fabulous. It was wonderful," Jackson said backstage after her last episode (via Gold Derby). "I'm glad that people got the chance to see a different side of my personality." 

Will this feel-good appearance on an extremely popular show bring about a comeback for the singer-actress-media personality? Time will only tell.