Paris Jackson, the only daughter of world-famous singer Michael Jackson, is gradually becoming a star in her own right. She’s now breaking away from the shadow of her father and forging a different path, in fact. And in October 2017 Jackson used her fame to make a strong statement, calling into question just how we expect young women in the public eye to look.
Paris herself was born in 1998 as the daughter of Michael Jackson and Debbie Rowe. Her father raised her alone, however, as he had made arrangements with Rowe for custody rights beforehand. And Paris therefore grew up at Neverland, her dad’s ranch, with her brothers Prince Michael Jackson I and Prince Michael “Blanket” Jackson II.
In fact, Paris has apparently never had much of a relationship with her mother. That’s because Rowe had carried her children mostly for the benefit of Michael, and she considered him the only parent they needed. Indeed, Rowe would explain in 2003 documentary The Michael Jackson Interview: The Footage You Were Never Meant to See, “My kids don’t call me Mom because I don’t want them to. They’re Michael’s children.”
And Paris’ childhood was unusual in other ways, too. Her famous father insisted that all of his children wear masks for privacy when out and about with him, for example. Paris would tell Oprah Winfrey in 2012, “When we went out without [Michael], we wouldn’t be recognized, and we could have a normal childhood.” She added, “[Michael] told us when he was younger he didn’t really have a childhood… He wanted us to have that.”
Unfortunately, in the end, Paris’ childhood didn’t pan out the way her father had wanted it. That’s because Michael would pass away in June 2009 of a prescription drug overdose; his daughter was just 11 years old at the time. And while there was a massive torrent of grief from all around the world at the news of the pop legend’s death, perhaps nobody felt the loss more keenly than Paris and her brothers.
Paris went on to speak at her father’s memorial service – the first time that she had ever made a public statement. And while watched by an audience of millions, she cried as she spoke about her dad. “Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine. I just wanted to say I love him so much,” Paris said to the crowd, before being comforted by her family members.
Tragically, though, life without her father has sometimes been very difficult for Paris. In 2013, for example, celebrity news website TMZ reported that the teenager had tried to kill herself – and, reportedly, that hadn’t been the first occasion on which she had attempted to do so. Paris had apparently been suffering terribly from depression, had cut herself frequently and had been sent to treatment centers by her concerned family.
But Paris’ family’s intervention seemed to work, because gradually she did get better. Then, as she grew into a young woman, she started to appear more and more frequently on social media and talk about herself. In September 2016, moreover, Paris made a video about online bullying and how she had suffered from it. “I got so much hatred that I tried to kill myself,” she is seen saying tearfully in the clip.
Then, in January 2017 Paris gave her first ever in-depth interview to Rolling Stone. There, she revealed that she had overcome her mental health issues and was happy, sober and working on careers in both modeling and acting. Being in front of the cameras, she told the magazine, helped her feel better about her self-esteem.
Paris also explained to Rolling Stone, “Plenty of people think I’m ugly, and plenty of people don’t. 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.” Her father had famously struggled with feeling comfortable in his body, and it seemed that that had been passed down to Paris.
But Paris was seemingly determined that she wouldn’t fall prey to the same demons her father had. Indeed, as 2017 continued, she apparently began to promote body positivity in a major way. And her bravest statement came in October of that year, when she attended the People’s Ones to Watch red carpet event looking as if she was wearing not a shred of make-up.
Indeed, while Paris may have had a bit of clear lip gloss on, that was seemingly it in terms of cosmetics – and she still looked beautiful anyway. The message was clear, then: women don’t necessarily need make-up to look good. And there was no need for it to be seen as a requirement for beauty.
And although many female celebrities post “make-up-free selfies” and promote the virtues of going barefaced, it’s still fairly unusual for aspiring models to dare to walk a red carpet without wearing cosmetics. Media outlets praised Paris for her move, however, with Allure magazine writing, “Paris Jackson has made it incredibly clear she’s not one to abide by society’s arcane — not to mention sexist — notions of how women are ‘supposed’ to look.”
But that was actually far from the first time that Paris had made a statement about body positivity. In August 2017, for example, she had attended the MTV VMAs with visible armpit hair – an incredibly rare thing for a starlet to sport. After the reaction to that, she subsequently Instagrammed a picture of her unshaven legs, then another shot of her and her brother both sporting leg hair.
And Paris told Elle after the VMAs, “I love hair and sweat and BO. I f**king love it, I think it’s great. Some people think that it’s like super-disgusting, especially on girls, but every human body does it. It’s natural. Get over it.” Indeed, the idea that women are supposed to shave body hair has been pushed against in some quarters for years now.
Paris also once called out a Twitter troll who suggested that she lose weight. In April 2017 someone had tweeted her, saying, “You have put on a little weight”; Paris’ response, however, was to write, “F**k yeah I have.” It was a fierce message against fat-shaming, and many of the model’s followers applauded her for the clapback.
Meanwhile, an August 2017 interview with i-D revealed the depths of Paris’ passion for different beauty standards. There, she explained, “Unfortunately in the world we live in, it’s almost impossible to feel comfortable in your skin 24/7. Especially with what the media is constantly feeding us. I still have countless insecurities and fears, like everyone else I know.”
Paris continued to the magazine, “But we’re getting there, slowly but surely. Which is a big reason I want to change this fashion/beauty stigma, so it’s not as difficult for people around the world to feel beautiful just the way they are.” She added, “I can’t fit into a runway sample size of designer clothes, I have scars and stretch marks and acne… I’m human. Not a dress-up doll.”
And Paris concluded, “The human body is a beautiful thing and no matter what ‘flaws’ you have, whether it be scars, or extra weight, stretch marks, freckles, whatever, it is beautiful and you should express yourself however you feel comfortable.” It seemed, then, that the teen whose insecurities had led her to self-harm had now beaten her hang-ups in the most spectacular way.
In fact, Paris continues to promote different beauty standards on her Instagram – she still posts pictures of her unshaven legs and armpits, for instance. Those shots probably won’t hold her back, either; after all, given her lineage, she probably has enough influence to make almost anything happen for her in the modeling world. So, while Paris’ father was known as the King of Pop, perhaps in the future Paris will be known as the Queen of Body Positivity.