There has been many a claim made about Michael Jackson. Even after his death in 2009 – which was eventually declared to be involuntary manslaughter on the part of his doctor – he remains a figure whom very few people can say they fully knew or understood. In fact, his daughter Paris Jackson was one of that select group. However, she’s now found herself at the center of a whole new controversy surrounding the late King of Pop.
Paris Jackson was born in 1998, the only daughter of Michael Jackson and his then-wife, Debbie Rowe. The full name given to her at birth was Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson – named after her father and his mother. She even had famous godparents, among them Elizabeth Taylor, Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin and Oliver! actor Mark Lester.
Her parents, though, had a strange relationship; there’s no doubt that their arrangement was an unusual one. They started off as friends, and Rowe subsequently agreed to bear Michael’s children and leave them for him to raise. Indeed, he never intended to marry Rowe, but on advice from his mother he changed his mind. Consequently, the pair were married in November 1996, while Rowe was pregnant with Paris’ older brother.
However, the marriage didn’t last long. Indeed, in 1999 Rowe requested a divorce, and the pair subsequently reached an amicable agreement. Simply put: Michael would have full custody rights of their children, while Rowe would receive a settlement of $10 million. Moreover, they would remain friends, as Rowe had never intended to be a hands-on mother to the children she had carried for Michael.
“My kids don’t call me Mom because I don’t want them to. They’re Michael’s children,” Rowe said in the 2003 documentary The Michael Jackson Interview: The Footage You Were Never Meant to See. “It’s not that they are not my children, but I had them because I wanted him to be a father… I didn’t do it to be a mother.”
So, even by celebrity standards, Paris Jackson’s childhood was unusual. Indeed, she and her brothers were heavily protected – some might even say overprotected – by their famous father. Whenever the children went out with him, for example, they had to wear masks so that the paparazzi who constantly stalked the family couldn’t see what they looked like. It was doubtless a confusing thing for a young child to be told to do.
However, Paris has subsequently claimed that growing up as the daughter of one of the most famous people on the planet wasn’t a bad experience. In fact, in the interviews that she gave after her father’s death, she sang his praises. “He was an incredible father. We all loved him to death,” she told Event magazine in 2013. “He’d try to educate us as much as he could and was always looking out for us.”
It’s not surprising, then, that his death in 2009 changed Paris’ life forever and sent her into a deep depression. She was only 11 years old when he died, and it was undoubtedly a lot for a young child to deal with. The ensuing battles over the custody of her and her brothers, as well as the bitter rows regarding the inheritance of Michael’s estate, didn’t help matters, either. Furthermore, there were the rumors regarding Paris’ parentage.
Coping with her father’s death and its acrimonious aftermath was difficult enough for Paris; she attempted suicide more than once during her teenage years. But what’s more, she was dogged by speculation that she wasn’t Michael Jackson’s biological child. At first, there was speculation that Dr. Arnold Klein, once an associate of Debbie Rowe, was the father of Paris and her brother Prince.
Someone else subsequently made a claim of paternity, too – and that someone was one of Paris’ godfathers. In August 2009 Mark Lester gave an interview to the News of the World in which he announced that he’d donated sperm for Michael in 1996. He claimed that, as a result, he could very well be the biological father of Paris. In addition, he stated that he would take a paternity test. However, lawyers for the Jackson family insisted that Lester’s claims were groundless.
In May 2017 – almost a decade after Michael Jackson’s death – Lester spoke once again about the possibility that he had fathered Paris. During an interview with the Daily Mail, he provided more details about the circumstances in which he’d donated his sperm. “I was just helping out a friend,” he said. “I think he had a problem with actually doing the physical act of sex.”
Lester stated that Michael had wanted children but suggested that his friend had, in fact, been afraid of women. He related an anecdote about the pop star Madonna attempting to seduce Michael. “[She] threw the covers off and was completely naked,” Lester said. “He took one look at her and screamed and ran away — not something I’d have done!’”
The interview contained further revelations. For example, Lester said he initially believed that Michael wanted him to sleep with Debbie Rowe, whom he described as “a most horrendous-looking creature.” He added that Michael Jackson had asked several other people to donate their sperm, but none of them had been black.
Lester stood up for his friend, too, claiming that in contrast to allegations that Michael was a bad parent, he was in truth an excellent father. “My kids absolutely adored him and his kids,” Lester said. “I would have completely trusted him with mine.” However, Lester did concede that before Michael died he was starting to become “a bit unbalanced” due to the effects of drug use.
After Michael’s death, then, Lester claimed that he attempted to contact Paris but was rebuffed by Rowe. “The family closed ranks. The shutters came down,” he said. “I did try and get through to [Paris] then and her mother told me to eff off.” There is clearly no love lost between Lester and Rowe. Indeed, in the same interview, he added, “[Michael] wanted to breed super-humans… though I don’t know why he picked Debbie Rowe. That would have negated the whole thing.”
The Daily Mail asked Lester why he had initially gone to the media back in 2009 about the possibility that he was Paris’ dad. Lester put the blame on another of his and Michael’s circle of friends. “Uri Geller was going to leak the story and link my name to it,” he claimed. “So I decided to put it out there myself.”
Throughout the interview, Lester showed little concern about confirming once and for all who Paris’ real father was. “I wish her well. She’s bright and a great-looking kid, so if she is my daughter, it’s nothing to be ashamed of,” he said. However, what about the paternity test that he had promised he would take one day?
“I can’t be bothered,” he claimed. “I’ve got four kids of my own.” That was quite a departure from what he had once said. There was a chance, though, that after a wild and difficult adult life – one that had, like Michael’s, involved a serious drug addiction – he simply wanted to settle down and enjoy life as a sober adult with his family.
For her part, Paris hasn’t addressed the claims made by Lester directly. However, she did deal with a question about her paternity a few months prior to Lester’s Daily Mail interview. In an article in Rolling Stone in January 2017, she made a firm statement about who she believed her real father to be.
“He will always be my father. He never wasn’t, and he never will not be,” she said about Michael. “People that knew him really well say they see him in me, that it’s almost scary.” Perhaps many people – including even Paris herself – will never be certain where her DNA came from. However, she’s in no doubt about who her family are.