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Michael Jackson, Feeling Ugly, Plastic Surgery And Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Michael Jackson, Feeling Ugly, Plastic Surgery And Body Dysmorphic Disorder

There’s been much speculation that Michael suffered from body dysmorphic disorder. With various media pundits, armchair psychologists, and real psychologists alleging he suffered from this disorder, as well as a host of many other mental disorders, normally only focusing on either soundbites out of context, photos taken at odd angles, or worse, just unfounded tabloid gossip. They also almost unanimously ignore the real issues Michael had with his appearance which were beyond his control.

Some of the external factors which influenced his appearance:

What we do know and what is often trivialized in any of those discussions is that: Michael suffered from two disfiguring diseases, vitiligo and lupus. The vitiligo resulted in loss of pigment in almost all areas of his body leaving his skin translucent and not white, and the physical manifestations of lupus resulted in hair loss, skin rashes and skin lesions.

He also suffered from severe acne as a teenager which caused scarring and he suffered a third degree burn on his scalp in 1984, something which according to his autopsy report had never healed, leaving a permanent bald patch.

To compensate for his vitiligo he initially tried to use treatments like PUVA to restore his skin color, but after they failed it was only in 1990, according to jury transcripts from 1994, that he was prescribed creams to even out the remainder of his skin. On top of that, he had begun to wear the glove and long sleeved clothing and heavy make up to hide the visible parts of himself which were not evenly pigmented. Something many vitiligo sufferers empathize with doing.

As a result of his lupus and vitiligo he had his scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes tattooed with dark pigment in order to disguise the recurring loss of hair and pigment in those areas. He also had treatments to his face to help restore the damage caused by his lupus lesions and rashes.

Initially, with the burn, he attempted to have a “balloon” inserted into his scalp in order to expand the skin there in the hopes of growing out the scar tissue, allowing hair to grow naturally there again, but after many attempts this failed. In the mid 90s it seems he gave up and had to start using hair pieces and other wigs to disguise the loss of hair. It’s also reported that he would sometimes wear the fedora to disguise this lump caused by the balloon on the back of his head, too.

With his nose, according to reports from a doctor for the District Attorney in 1993 who had looked over his medical records, it seems that his second nose job in 1983 had resulted in complications due to a flare up he was suffering with his discoid lupus, which was undiagnosed at the time, and because lupus can cause skin in the areas involved to “die”, especially with surgery, he had to have further reconstructive work there to fix it.

He seems to have kept much of this private because obviously  most of this would have been embarrassing and traumatic to him, as they would be for most other people.

These very real issues he had with his appearance which were beyond his control were added to how he had been bullied and teased as a child by his father and family over his nose and appearance. This was further compounded by the media who publicly also teased, mocked and vilified him over his appearance and how he was reluctant to seemingly just give them an extensive list of what he had done and why he had done it.

What we also know: According to the autopsy report Michael’s nose had not “fallen off” and there is no evidence that it had ever fallen off.

He never had his eyes altered, his lips thinned, or received cheek implants.

We know most of this from a simple look at his family: Michael, Janet, LaToya, Paris and Blanket all have the same large doe eyes and all the Jackson family have the same cheekbones that Michael had.

He had to go through so much with his appearance, under such scrutiny that it seems inevitable he would feel insecure and anxious about it.

I’m not sure if the media were satisfied in hearing him repeatedly state how unhappy he was with his physical appearance. On the one hand they would question why Michael didn’t feel good about his appearance, on the other, they’d spend countless news articles, TV documentaries, interviews with doctors who’d never met him/best friends who met him at a party once in the 80s, mocking and laughing about his appearance, especially his vitiligo.

So, my biggest problem is not that people want to state Michael was unhappy with how he looked and that he likely suffered from a complex about it, but that they never seem to use this empathy with his plight in order to understand him better, instead only seeming to wish to use this to vilify him further and erase what had really happened to him, ex. “He had body dysmorphic disorder and therefore this proves he had 100 nose jobs; he hated how he looked so this means he never really had vitiligo and just re-creationally bleached his skin; he changed absolutely everything about his appearance, including his actual bone structure. I know that he did all this because he felt he was ugly and so clearly he wished to utterly redo his face from scratch and because we know he had those nose jobs it must mean he was willing to bleach his skin and reconstruct his entire face.”

Nobody ever chooses to discuss or commend him on how hard he fought to look “normal” and to keep these issues private. He chose to wear make up, gloves, tattoos, long sleeved clothing, hats, wigs, so that people wouldn’t have to see things about him that could make them feel sorry for him, but instead people use this as a means to condemn him. “Well, why didn’t he just show us? Why didn’t he walk around half naked at all times carrying his medical records so that I could see all these things going wrong with him for myself? That’s the only way anyone could really know the truth about him. I really promise I wouldn’t just laugh at him again, and again, and again, the way I did when he spoke about his other problems.”

People also neglect to mention that illnesses like Body Dysmorphic Disorder are rooted in shame.  Sufferers are ashamed about the aspect of themselves they hate, they’re ashamed about what they do to disguise it, they’re ashamed at having it brought to anyone’s attention. So wondering why Michael wouldn’t address these issues while at the same time insisting he had this disorder shows that most people don’t wish to understand him, only to continue to label him. In the Oprah and Bashir interview he is visibly distressed and uncomfortable when asked about his skin, his plastic surgery and the bullying about his looks. Even when he isn’t being filmed and is just on audio his voice grows faint as he talks about it. But people still seem to have wished he could have made himself utterly vulnerable for them, to feel humiliated and degraded (it doesn’t matter if people say he wouldn’t have been; he would have felt as if he were), just so people could satisfy their ideas about how and why he looked the way he did.

One of my favorite quotes about this was from, Tom Chiarella, in Esquire Magazine of all places: “I never liked the glove, although when I saw his monstrous hand, I got it. And I admired what he’d done to cover it up. It was never clear to me if that hurt or not, but I imagine it did. Think about the beauty of that. Putting sequins on your open wounds. Think about the entire world staring at the one thing that makes you feel most ugly.”

But the two oldest boys often tease their younger brothers.

“When Tito and Jackie really want us mad,” Michael laughs, “they call Jermaine ‘Big Head,’ Marlon ‘Liver lips’ and they call me ‘Big Nose.’

“My skin broke out real bad. It was tough — especially after everyone had been calling me cute for such a long time. And the more I worried about it the worse I got.”

“I wore hats, I kept my head down all the time, I wouldn’t look at people when I talked to them. I wouldn’t say nothin’ hardly. It was terrible. I felt I didn’t have anything to be proud of. My success meant nothing.”

“On stage I didn’t think about it, it was gone. But when I came off stage, there it was again.”

When asked about cosmetic surgery, Michael defended the procedure, saying everybody did it.  “I’m a perfectionist when it comes to skin,” he said.

“But take Marilyn Monroe, and all those people. They got the works. Julie Andrews, Raquel Welch. Even Elvis. You look at his nose and the difference.. it’s true. But nobody ever mentions it.”

“You can clear up physically but still mentally you’re scarred — so you really haven’t improved.”

“I would look in the mirror and I didn’t like they way I looked, so… of course, never print this. Please don’t…”

Adolescence proved awkward for Michael too. He sprouted from just over five feet to five feet ten. Overnight, it seemed, he went from a cute little boy to a gangly teenager. Certain body parts outgrew others, and now Michael was the object of merciless ribbing, especially from his father. “Look at that big nose on your face,” Joseph used to taunt. “I don’t know where you got that from… Bignose.”

Glenda Tape 2:2

(This part seems to take place sometime during the Bad tour)

MJ: The other day, after my video came out,.. I don’t know what happened. They kicked me out of the trailer with my own band and stuff. And I’m on tour and stuff. Traveling with my (I) people and stuff like that. And — “Who was that?” – you know, it was like — I don’t associate with them. Only if there’s a rehearsal, or I have to be on stage. When we’re back in the hotel room. I don’t associate, really, with those people.
G: Not any of them?
MJ: No, I don’t associate with them. I stay off to myself.
G: Why? Isn’t there anybody you could be real close to?
MJ: No. I feel uncomfortable – It’s like… okay, this is my band, we got Michael here, we got so-and-so.”
G: (Started, interrupted by Michael)
MJ: “We got Sheryl, we got, you know, Jennifer.” And, I just don’t associate with people.
G: Do you, um? Okay. Maybe is it hard for you to (sigh) to be so open?
MJ: I just–
G: In a way, In a way, and to be looking at someone in the face or having someone look at you in the face cause you don’t want them to… ’cause…
MJ: You know what, I don’t want them to get close and I don’t want them to see into my soul. And then I deal with this anorexia thing… I feel sad…
G: Don’t, Michael. You look really good. (Silence) You look really good.
MJ: (After a silence – very low, strained) I don’t look good. I (inaudible)
G: (I)

(Sometime after Latoya posed for Playboy)

MJ: Joseph used to beat us all the time and… (inaudible) dance… would… He would, he would just… get to me. And I bought into that, he was like, “Oh you put on a few pounds.” The only thing that I could control in my life, what with Motown… ’cause they tell you – in the interviews, when we used to go on Carson or Mike Douglas or whatever back then, when we used to do interviews as the Jackson Five, you know when you’re in this kind of business they kinda like, they like…okay, girl… “Do you have a girlfriend?” “No.” Do this… You know got, it’s like, they dictate to you everything. What you wear, what you sing. ‘Cause back then we weren’t allowed to sing our own stuff and do our own stuff. They dictate to you what you can wear… If you’re on an interview, if you’re going on Carson, “This is what you say, this is what don’t say.” The only control I had over my life was eating. I had no control. We had no control. *clears throat* I didn’t, I didn’t… I wasn’t like my brothers. People, they’re angry and they take it out on others. I was angry and hurt, and I took it out on myself. And being brought up with Joseph and stuff like that… when we were rehearsing on 2300 – where we used to live. It’s like, If I danced wrong, if I sang the wrong note, I’d get the hell beat out of me, I’d get thrown in the basement. So instead of taking that out on other people, I withdrew and I’d take it out on myself. There was nothing I could control in my life but my eating. And Joseph told me, “Oh, you’re… oh you have such a big nose.”
G: He told you you were too…?
MJ: Yes. When I was little. “You look so, you don’t look like my child. Your nose is so big,” and this and that. They used to call me Big Nose and stuff. And instead of retaliating on them, I just did it with myself.
G: Michael? Are you happy with your face?
MJ: Yeah. I’m happy with my face and stuff.
G: Are you happy you did all that surgery?
MJ: Yeah. Because I don’t wanna look like “(inaudible)”[like that? Like him?]
G: Well, you don’t? (laughs)
MJ: I mean, people tell me, “Oh, yeah, you’re really Janet”. Or “Oh, (low voice) before LaToya posed nude.” Sayin’ “Toya and you is the same person and stuff.”
G: Who said that? (laughs)
MJ: Oh, god, it was in the media!
G: That’s just bad.
MJ: Toya even wrote that in Playboy. She said, “Well, at least I can put the rumor to rest that Michael and I aren’t the same person.”
G: (Laughs)
MJ: And showin’ her breasts and stuff like that. Then they say, “Janet and Michael are the same person.”
G: (chuckle) That’s crazy.

Oprah : So I’m wondering for you, being this cute little boy who everybody adored and everybody who comes up to you they’re pulling your cheeks and how cute, how adolescence going through that duck stage where everything’s awkward, and I’m wondering when you started to go through adolescence having been this child superstar, was that a particularly difficult time for you?
Michael : Very. Very, very difficult, yes. Because I think every child star suffers through this period because you’re not the cute and charming child that you were. You start to grow, and they want to keep you little forever.
Oprah : Who’s they?
Michael : The public. And um, nature takes its course.
Oprah : It does?
Michael : Yes, and I had pimples so badly it used to make me so shy, I used not to look at myself, I’d hide my face in the dark, I wouldn’t want to look in the mirror and my father teased me and I just hated it and I cried every day.
Oprah : Your father teased you about your pimples?
Michael : Yes and tell me I’m ugly.
Oprah : Your father would say that?
Michael : Yes he would. Sorry Joseph.

Oprah: How much plastic surgery have you had?
Michael: Very, very little. I mean you can count on my two fingers, I mean let’s say this, if you want to know about those things, all the nosey people in the world, read my book Moonwalk, it’s in my book. You know, let’s put it this way, if all the people in Hollywood who have had plastic surgery, if they went on vacation, there wouldn’t be a person left in town.
Oprah: Mmm, I think you might be right.
Michael: I think I am right. It would be empty.
Oprah: Did you start having plastic surgery because of those teen years because of not liking the way you looked?
Michael: No, not really. It was only two things. Really, get my book, it’s no big deal.
Oprah: You don’t want to tell me what it is? You had your nose done, obviously.
Michael: Yeah, but so did a lot of people that I know.
Oprah: And so, when you hear all these things about you, and there have been more…
Michael: I’ve never had my cheekbones done, never had my eyes done, never had my lips done and all this stuff. They go too far, but this is stuff that happens every day with other people.
Oprah: Are you pleased now with the way you look?
Michael: I’m never pleased with anything, I’m a perfectionist, it’s part of who I am.
Oprah: And so when you look in the mirror now and so the image that looks back at you are there days when you say I kinda like this or I like the way my hair…
Michael: No. I’m never pleased with myself. No, I try not to look in the mirror.

SB: You have to live a long and happy life. But do you really think that one day you will decide to become a recluse and disappear?
MJ: Yeah.
SB: Live at Neverland and lock up the gates. Will that be it?
MJ: Yeah. I know I am.
SB: But why? Because you don’t want people to see you grow old?
MJ: I can’t deal with it. I love beautiful things too much and the beautiful things in nature and I want my messages to get out to the world, but I don’t want to be seen now… like when my picture came up on the computer, it made me sick when I saw it.
SB: Why?
MJ: Because I am like a lizard. It is horrible. I never like it. I wish I could never be photographed or seen and I push myself to go to the things that we go to. I really do.

SB: Michael, some people have written that your father used to say that you were ugly. Is that true?
MJ: Uh-huh. He used to make fun of… I remember we were on a plane one time, ready to take off, and I was going through an awkward puberty when your features start to change. And he went, “Ugh, you have a big nose. You didn’t get it from me.” He didn’t realize how much that hurt me. It hurt me so bad, I wanted to die.
SB: Was that a hostile remark aimed at your mother, “You didn’t get it from me?”
MJ: I don’t know what he was trying to say.
SB: Don’t you think your father instilled in you a belief that you are not handsome? So you tried to change your appearance a bit, and you are still not happy. So really you have to begin to love your appearance and yourself and all of that.
MJ: I know. I wish I could.
SB: We all have problems with our appearance… The other night, Thursday night, you looked fantastic [Michael had gotten all dressed up for Denise Rich's Angel Ball cancer fundraiser]. You were the best looking guy there. So you don’t like being photographed?
MJ: I wish I could never be photographed and I wish I could never be seen. Just for entertainment so I design the dance the way I want it to look, and film the way I want it to look.
SB: Now you want to do movies?
MJ: I love movies, but I can control it, you see. I can’t control how those pictures come out with the lighting and my expression at the time. Arggh.
SB: If a child said that to you, “I hate being photographed,” what would you say to that child?
MJ: I would say, “You don’t know how beautiful you are. It’s your spirit that’s…”
SB: So why are you prepared to say that to everybody except yourself?
MJ: I don’t know. [He said this in a voice of confusion and resignation]

MJ: I have thrown up in his presence because when he comes in the room and this aura comes and my stomach starts hurting and I know I am in trouble. He is so different now. Time and age has changed him and he sees his grandchildren and he wants to be a better father. It is almost like the ship has sailed its course, and it is so hard for me to accept this other guy that is not the guy I was raised with. I just wished he had learned that earlier.
SB: So why are you still scared?
MJ: Because the scar is still there, the wound.
SB: So you still see him as the first man. It is hard for you to see him as this new man?
MJ: I can’t see him as the new man. I am like an angel in front of him, like scared. One day he said to me, “Why are you scared of me?” I couldn’t answer him. I felt like saying, “Do you know what you have done?” [voice breaks] “Do you know what you have done to me?”

SB: Do you think it’s important to tell children they are beautiful?
MJ: Yes, but not to overdo it. You are beautiful inside. Do it that way. Prince looks in the mirror and he’s combing his hair and he says, ” I look good.” I say, “You look okay.”

Interview regarding the tapes:

Springhill, Fla.: Why did Michael think he was ugly?

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: What I write in the book is that all of us living in this culture have somehow been conditioned to believe that we are not attractive. There is too much self-loathing with regards to appearance in America. Michael was guilty of it, as are so many of us. In his case, he referenced the fact that his father made hurtful comments. But there can be no question that a culture that promotes external appearance over internal beauty is going to produce a glorification of youth over wisdom and Michael relates in the book that he desperately feared growing old.

For one of Jackson’s final music videos, 2001′s Guys and Dolls-in-Cuba-style “You Rock My World,” director Paul Hunter simply resorted to hiding the star’s ravaged features as much as he possibly could — there’s even an extended dance sequence where Jackson performs entirely in silhouette. “One of the tricks that we did was we said, ‘We’re in this gangster world, so let’s come in with some swagger, get your hat brim pulled down, get a doo-rag going,” Hunter says. “What I tried to do was not call too much attention to it.”

MJ was filmed almost entirely in shadows in YRMW

The summer of 2001 found us on the set for the You Rock My World video, when John McClain, a long term adviser to the Jacksons, called me. He had met with the director, he said, and reported, “They want to use make up to darken Michael’s skin for the video. They also want to fill in his nose with putty.” He wanted me to suggest these cosmetic effects to Michael. He clearly didn’t know Michael at all.

I was stunned. And I refused.

“John, I cannot have this conversation with Michael. There’s no way he’ll ever go for anything like this. If you need to, go ahead. But I’m not doing it.” I didn’t want to get involved.

A little while later I was back in my hotel room when the phone rang. It was Karen Faye, Michael’s makeup artist, calling from Michael’s room. She was supposed to be getting him ready for the video shoot, but he had locked himself in the bathroom and she had no idea why. She asked me to come to the room immediately.

When I arrived, I heard Michael inside the bathroom, freaking out and throwing stuff around. Clearly John McClain had talked to him about the proposed changes to his skin and nose, and he was extremely pissed of. I tried to get his attention, but the chaos inside the bathroom went on. Finally I heard him bang something with such force that I got worried. I started trying to break down the door.

At last, Michael let me in. He was sitting on the floor. He’d been in the middle of having his hair cut when he’d heard the news, so his hair was half long, half short. He was holding his hands over his face, sobbing.

“Can you believe it?” he said. “They think I’m ugly? They want to put putty on my nose? What the fuck is wrong with them? I don’t tell them how they should look. Fuck them.” Talking through his tears, he kept saying, “They think I’m a freak, they think I’m a freak, they think I’m a freak.”

Seeing him crouched on the floor, sobbing and with his hair half cut, was devastating, to say the very least. This was the second time in recent days that I’d seen him break down. Although for years, the media had been mocking and attacking his appearance, Michael didn’t always react so strongly to what people said about him. It depended on the day. Sometimes he didn’t care what people though. He was a strong guy. Then there were times when enough was enough, and he would break down. The fact that his supposed allies were criticizing his appearance at a time when he was in such a fragile state was too much for him to bear.

This wasn’t the Michael Jackson that existed for the rest of the world. This wasn’t Michael Jackson the icon. This was Michael Jackson at his most vulnerable, his most human, being pushed to the brink. While it had become a habit for me to force him to face painful truths, this time there was no truth at stake. There is no objective right or wrong to a person’s appearance. Michael had been ignoring headlines about his appearance for years, so my advice to him now was simply not to listen.

“We can walk away from this,” I said. “They need you, you don’t need them.”

I canceled that day’s shoot and told everyone involved that we would start fresh the next day. Michael and I returned to our rooms and stayed in for the remainder of the day. Before leaving, I spoke to John McClain and the director of the video, Paul Hunter.

“John,” I said. “I can’t believe you said what you said to Michael. We’re going to finish this project, but there will be no more conversations regarding Michael’s appearance in the video. If that’s a problem, we’ll walk off the set for good and deal with the consequences.”

Bashir: Did your father and your brothers tease you about your appearance, as an adolescent?
MJ: My father did. And some cousins did.
Bashir: What did your father say?
MJ: Oh God. It was pretty embarrassing. They used to tease me real bad about it.
Bashir: It’s cruel, isn’t it?
MJ: Yeah. It used to hurt me. I don’t think he realized how much he would hurt me.
Bashir: What sort of thing would he say?
MJ: He would tease me about how I looked and he would say, “Well, you didn’t get it from my side of the family. Must’ve been from Kate-” Kate, he would always say, meaning my mother. “You didn’t get that from me, you must’ve got that from her.“

Ahmed Elatab,22nd November 2003

Jackson also gave the teen the blue silk germ mask he was wearing that day – which he told Elatab he wears “only because he feels ugly sometimes.”

Link to interview

“Oh God no. We had many talks about that (his looks). He had that inner light but he always considered himself to be extremely ugly. He said he’s not a handsome man.”

Puberty is always a potential thief for a child star: it threatens to take away the image your dream is built on. Michael and I both struggled with acne; mine still stubborn and raging as an 18 year old, his rabid and new at 14. A liking for fried food and soda in dressing rooms had caught up with us. Like me, Marlon – who also suffered – accepted the break outs without too much angst, and I didn’t think Michael would be any different. I didn’t appreciate how much he worried about the threat his acne posed to his image because he never really spoke about it. We didn’t really talk about that sort of thing. What “cool” teenage boy does? We Jackson brothers were especially bound that way. We had been taught so much about pride, respect and performance that we had never learned the art of easy communication. We didn’t check in with each other unless it was album talk, tour madness, choreography ideas, basketball plans or girls. So Michael suffered quietly as his features changes and his skin flared up with pimples Indeed he locked it deep inside, except for the odd worry he expressed to Mother.

Michael’s acne was a confusion he wasn’t expecting. And then there was his nose. It widened noticeably and he hated it. In fact, he hated his nose so much that he found it hard to look at himself in the mirror. This wasn’t just typical teenage self consciousness: it became a full blown inferiority complex. The more he looked at himself, the unhappier he felt. In fact, he was painfully brittle during conversations with anyone, always looking down to avoid eye contact.

His comfort zone, as always, was the stage or platform of press interviews, when reporters spoke of how “energized”, “inquisitive” and “ebullient” he was. In performance mod, Michael’s teenage woes were well concealed behind makeup or the performance’s personality he projected. Offstage, our merciless teasing only made matters worse, but teasing is what brothers do, and we all had to go through it. When my acne kicked in, they – including Michael – called me “Bumpy Face” or “Map Face” and Marlon was “Live Lips.” I even received a second label, “Big Head,” because my head was, apparently, too big for my body. So when Michael was called “Big Nose” it was just part of the common initiation into manhood – but he struggled with it. Not that we knew so until much later.

Michael always recalled Joseph using the tease, and that was what hurt him most – hearing it from an adult’s lips and from the man who had driven home the importance of image all our lives. “Hey, Big Nose, come over here,” said Joseph. Michael said nothing and cringed each time.

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
― Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit

Comments { 9 }

Michael Jackson and Lupus

According to the grand jury depositions in 1994 Michael was diagnosed with discoid lupus in 1986.

Vitiligo and lupus are both auto immune disorders; diseases where the  body’s immune system attacks its own cells. When you have one auto immune disorder your propensity for having another is increased and it seems as though Michael first developed vitiligo as a child and then the first signs that he also had lupus were at the age of 18 when he suffered a pneumothorax related to pleurisy, followed by the appearance of the discoid lupus rash at the age of 24.

He presented with one of the trademark symptoms of the illness, the Malar or Butterfly Rash in 1983 and 1984, which reappeared again in 1986.

Michael Jackson and lupus, malar rash, butterfly rash, skin lesions
Michael Jackson and lupus, malar rash, butterfly rash, skin lesions

Michael in 1983 and 1984

Michael Jackson and lupus, malar rash, butterfly rash, skin lesions
Michael Jackson and lupus, malar rash, butterfly rash, skin lesions
Michael Jackson and lupus, malar rash, butterfly rash, skin lesions

And in 1986 when he was diagnosed with the disease.

Michael Jackson and lupus, malar rash, butterfly rash, skin lesions

In 1990 and 1991 Michael was seen wearing a small plaster on his face just to the right of his nose

Michael Jackson and lupus, malar rash, butterfly rash, skin lesions, blemishes

In this photo of Michael on the set of Black or White in 1991 he isn’t wearing any make up and you can see a faded blemish right in the area where that plaster had covered

Michael Jackson and lupus, malar rash, butterfly rash, skin lesions, blemishes

He was also seen with blemishes on other occasions; on the left in the late 90s and on the right a photo taken around 2002

Michael Jackson and lupus, malar rash, butterfly rash, skin lesions, blemishes

These marks are consistent with lupus lesions, another symptomatic form of discoid lupus:

The lesions normally are inflamed, crusty or scaling in its appearance, with the lighter complexion at the center and rims being darker.

This is what Michael has said about his sun sensitivity:

Michael Jackson, VH1 Interview, 1996

Question: Why are you wearing a silk mask in your latest appearances?
Michael: Because… uh… with time my skin condition has gotten worse. I hate to say it. I have vitiligo and uh, I am totally completely allergic to the sun. I’m not even suppose to be outside actually, even if I am in the shade the sunrays can destroy my skin.

He is famous for having been seen carrying an umbrella:

Michael Jackson and lupus, umbrella, malar rash, butterfly rash, skin lesions, photosensitivity
Michael Jackson and lupus, umbrella, malar rash, butterfly rash, skin lesions, photosensitivity

1986 is when Michael was diagnosed with lupus and this is also when he first started wearing the surgical mask to cover his face. The late 80s is also when he first started carrying around umbrellas. This is because lupus is aggravated by sun exposure.

  • Photosensitivity is a common feature of lupus erythematosus.
  • The overwhelming majority of specific lupus lesions, occur on sun-exposed areas.
  • In people with cutaneous lupus, photosensitivity affects 50 percent of those with discoid lupus and 70-90 percent of those with subacute cutaneous lupus.
  • Furthermore, people with subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus, especially those who have anti-Ro (SSA) antibodies demonstrate pronounced photosensitivity.
  • It has been estimated that 90% of patients with systemic or discoid lupus who have anti-Ro (SSA) antibodies are photosensitive.
  • Furthermore, a number of these patients are so photosensitive that they will burn through window glass.
  • Also there is clinical evidence that shows that ultraviolet light can induce flares in people with sle.

Once he’d started covering his face up it seems to have halted further appearances of his malar rash.

His first malar rash appeared in 1983 which is also when he had his second nose job. Dr Richard Strick was one of the doctors appointed by the District Attorney to perform the court ordered examination of Michael in December 1993 and had reviewed Michael’s medical records, he has stated that the reasons Michael had so many nose jobs were for “reconstructive” reasons due to the skin healing problems and scarring associated with his discoid lupus.

“Lupus is also an autoimmune disease and he also had skin involvement, which had destroyed part of the skin of his nose and his nasal surgeries and all were really reconstructive, to try and look normal. “

So all these nose reconstructions you’re saying were as a result of him treating his lupus?

“The first one was to try and reconstruct from some scar tissue and obstruction that had happened with the skin there. It didn’t work out very well and all subsequent attempts were to make it right.

I think he was trying to look like a normal guy as best as that he could.”

According to Dr Brooke Seckel:

Lupus can cause large areas of skin on the face or tummy to actually die after plastic surgery and result in terrible scars.

The fact that his second nose job occurred during a discoid lupus flare up likely complicated the healing there and this is why he needed reconstructive work done.

Regarding the state of his lungs (the “blisters” Michael would tell Quincy Jones about), this was the pleurisy that he’d been diagnosed with in 1977 – pleurisy is autoimmune in nature and directly associated with lupus.

Cardiopulmonary complications from SLE, those affecting the lungs specifically, are common in lupus patients. Often, lupus can trigger inflammation of the lining surrounding the lungs, the pleura, causing pain when breathing or coughing. This condition is called pleurisy or pleuritis. It is the most common pulmonary manifestation of lupus.


Pleurisy’s main symptom, however, is pain in the chest and, possibly, the shoulder, worsened by deep breathing, coughing, and movement of the chest. It can also cause a build up of fluid in the chest, making breathing difficult and causing coughing, cyanosis (blueness of the skin from oxygen deprivation; occurring in only the most extreme cases of pleural fluid accumulation due to lupus pleuritis), shortness of breath and rapid breathing.

The issue with his lungs seems to have begun at the age of 18 after Michael suffered a pneumothorax in 1977.

Michael Jackson Okay After Lung Collapse, Jet, Aug 25, 1977

Michael Jackson is feeling his old energetic self again after suffering a lung collapse recently that forced a month’s cancellation of The Jackson family concerts. Explaining his son’s uncomfortable condition, Joseph W. Jackson, president of Ivory Tower Records, explained to Jet, “Michael’s lung collapse came as a result of overwork from the family’s television series and other projects. Essentially what happened is that over a period of time a bubble appears on the lung and eventually bursts. Each time it does, a fraction of the lung is destroyed. People don’t realize how the grind of television can affect you, even during just a 30- minute show.”

Restricted to total rest for a month, Michael bounced back on his feet to begin filming his role as the Scarecrow in the upcoming movie version of The Wiz in New York City.

Said his father, “He’s feeling all right now. If he weren’t I certainly wouldn’t have let him go to New York.”

Michael stated that the issues with his lungs involved pleurisy in “The Wiz,” by Mark Bego published in 1983

However, before principal filming began, Michael had a real physical health scare. As he tells it, “I had a lung attack on the beach on the Fourth of July. I couldn’t breathe. They had to rush me to the emergency hospital. The doctor said it was pneumothorax; bubbles on the lungs, and the bubbles burst and you can’t breathe. Mostly slim people have it, the doctor said. He said there was a little bit of pleurisy there too. It reminded me that Buddy Ebsen was supposed to be the Tin Man in the original Wizard of Oz and he broke down sick before the thing.”

And then again in his Moonwalk autobiography in 1988

“The whole Wiz period was a time of stress and anxiety, even though I was enjoying myself. I remember July 4 of that year well, because I was on the beach at my brother Jermaine’s house, about half a block away along the waterfront. I was messing around in the surf, and all of a sudden I couldn’t breathe. No air. Nothing. I asked myself what’s wrong? I tried not to panic, but I ran back to the house to find Jermaine, who took me to the hospital. It was wild. A blood vessel had burst in my lung. It has never reoccurred, although I used to feel little pinches and jerks in there that were probably my imagination. I later learnt that this condition was related to pleurisy. It was suggested by my doctor that I try to take things a little slower, but my schedule would not permit it. Hard work continued to be the name of the game.”

His autopsy report confirmed the problems with his lungs, which were reported as being chronically inflamed with a reduced capacity:

  • Marked respiratory bronchiolitis, histiocytic desquamation, and multifocal chronic interstitial pneumonitis, and
  • Suggestive focal desquamation of respiratory lining with squamous metaplasia

In Dr Conrad Murray’s medical notes for Michael entered into his 2011 trial he makes note of the pleurisy and says that MJ was coughing up blood in March 2007:

Michael Jackson and lupus, discoid, SLE, pleurisy, conrad murray

3/07 (not day given):
“M” — cough, chills, (cut off)
with intermittent specs of blood (cut off)
Phlegm greenish brown
Pleuritic chest pain with cough (cut off)
lower rib cage
chest x-ray positive for right lower lobe pneumonia

One of his long time physicians was a Dr Allan Metzger, a lupus specialist rheumatologist. He treated Michael during his stay in 1995 and even treated Prince during an illness he suffered from in 1999. They were so close that Metzger was the one who videotaped Michael and Debbie’s wedding and was godfather to one of Michael’s kids. On October 1st 2003 they both attended and gave a brief speech together at an Evening of Love, Light and Laughter, a benefit for Lupus LA and Lupus Research at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, California.

Michael Jackson and lupus, Evening of Love light and laughter, Dr Alan Metzger

Michael with Metzger, Metzger’s wife and his son at the 2003 fundraiser.

People have questioned why his diagnosis for Lupus never came out in his autopsy – unfortunately that’s the nature of the disease. It seems an ANA test wasn’t performed  (according to the results available online), but even so, people with lupus don’t always test positive, numerous tests are involved in the diagnosis of this disorder. Those who suffer mainly from discoid lupus also tend not to test positive in an ANA test. Though in that report there are a couple of interesting things noted – the alopecia, he was anemic, the hemorrhages found in his lungs are consistent with the pleurisy and the prescription he had for Prednisone.

On June 16th, 1995 author Randy Taraborrelli claims Michael wanted to bring up his Lupus and Vitiligo in a discussion with Diane Sawyer and specifically the drug “Hydroxychloroquine”

Michael Jackson biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli claims the performer wanted to talk more about the color of his skin during his “PrimeTime Live” interview with Diane Sawyer.

The writer says Jackson told him he now has discoid lupus, a nonfatal form of the disease, which requires him to take a medication called hydroxychloroquine. And, according to Jackson, the drug causes vitiligo loss of pigmentation.

N.Y. skin expert Dr. Howard Sobel tells us, “It is possible for chloroquine to cause hypopigmentation, but whether it’s the cause of his problem is hard to tell you. The chloroquine binds to melanin, which is responsible for the pigment of our skin. If that happens, it’s possible to have a whitish area of skin.”

On wikipedia it states the use of Hydroxychloroquine with lupus:

The adult starting dose is 400 milligrams one to two times daily, for several weeks or months, depending on the reaction. This may be reduced to 200 from 400 milligrams per day for maintenance. With systemic lupus, it is especially useful in relieving skin inflammation, hair loss, oral sores, fatigue and joint pain as well as preventing relapse.

Which is consistent with the symptoms of lupus Michael was trying to treat.

In his autopsy report it was stated that they found the drug Prednisone in his house.

Drug: Prednisone
Prescribed: 4/25/2009, Dr Klein
No. of pills: 10
Pills remaining: 0
Directions: 6 now, 4 tomorrow

Prednisone is one of the most common drugs used in the treatment of lupus. Lupus Canada says of the drug:

In the chapter Treating Lupus With Medications, I talked about Prednisone as being the single most important factor in improving the outlook for lupus patients. It is a very powerful tool in the treatment of lupus, it is usually effective in bringing lupus under control and it saves lives.

Prednisone has side effects, some of which are:

Swelling of the face, often referred to as “moon face” or “chipmunk cheeks”; some patients feel ugly and say that they do not recognize themselves in the mirror. Remember, these changes are reversible.

Weight gain; Prednisone may cause a great increase in appetite. Weight gain can be controlled by a low calorie diet, by exercise and by avoidance of salt. Avoid salty foods and do not add any salt.

Michael also spoke of having changed to a vegetarian diet in the early 80s, this might have also been due to his lupus. Michael’s doctors have said that he had been diagnosed with lupus in 1986, this is a photo of Michael in 1986:

Michael Jackson and lupus, moon face, SLE, discoid

His face became noticeably puffy and he looks like he has the so-called “moon face“, which seems in line with the idea of his being treated for the disease with the steroid Prednisone. He was also said to have had a lupus flare up in 2002 and once again in a photo in 2002 his cheeks are puffy and his face has the same appearance as it did in 1986.

Michael Jackson and lupus, moon face, SLE, discoid

Other side effects:

Stomach problems; to ease the burning, try taking prednisone with food. This problem may require anti-ulcer medication.

Mood changes; sometimes the change is for the better. However, depression may be made worse by prednisone.

Insomnia; patients may have difficulty sleeping at nights.

Shakiness; patients may have feelings of being “hyper: or that “things are running fast inside my head”.

Weakness of the thigh muscles; patients may have difficulty in climbing stairs, getting out of the bath or getting up from a chair or toilet seat.

Increased risk of infections; patients may have more infections including some caused by germs that the body is normally resistant to.

In 2002 Michael filmed the 8 month documentary “Living With Michael Jackson” with Bashir; his ex-wife Lisa Marie has since said that watching that footage, “He was either too speedy or he was sedated. It wasn’t the Michael that I knew,” this could have been due to the Prednisone.

This drug was prescribed two months before his death and he had taken all the prescribed dosage; this is also the same period in time where it seems Dr Conrad Murray first began using propofol to induce sleep in Michael. As you can see one of the side effects of Prednisone is insomnia, so part of the problem with his sleep may have involved the use of this drug. His battle with insomnia is something that he seems to have been suffering with for many years, both his wives Lisa Marie and Debbie Rowe have spoken about it.

Lisa was dating him on and off through 1993-2000, in her Oprah interview in 2010 she said:

Oprah: Was he having trouble sleeping then?
Lisa: He was like a little gnome. I used to tell him he was a gnome running around the room because it was hard for him to sleep. A lot of times I couldn’t sleep either if he wasn’t sleeping. I’d just hear him piddling. It was a bit endearing but then I didn’t mind it. But he did have a hard time sleeping, yes.

And Debbie Rowe who married him from 1996-1999 said back in a Star magazine scoop (she didn’t realize she was being recorded) in 1997:

Debbie: He’ll stay up until 4 am pacing, thinking. Sometimes he’ll come up to me in the middle of the night when I’m asleep and stick things in my nose or my ear and wake me up. Sometimes I wake up and I won’t hear him and I’ll be in a panic. When I realize he’s asleep, I go into his room and climb into bed with him because than we can sleep together.”

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Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline

These pictures and the evidence for Jackson’s vitiligo have been around since the 1980s, yet I know that I’ve never seen them published in any mainstream articles regarding his illness. When discussing his vitiligo they’ll post a picture of him in maybe 1980 and then one from 1991 onwards to show the dramatic change as though he woke up one morning without any pigment. They also never show any photos of him with the patches of color he had left and try to make it seem as though he was now a universal “white” color when in reality he wasn’t. In the 2005 court case even the accuser, Gavin Arvizo, wrongly stated that he believed Jackson was one universal white color.

Michael also suffered from another autoimmune disease, discoid lupus. Suffering from one autoimmune disease increases the chances of also suffering from another. His lupus was skin specific (with some lung and rheumatic pain) and also had an impact on his overall appearance.

Coroner statement confirming the diagnosis:

Michael Jackson, vitiligo, proof, autopsy report, Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline

Autopsy report highlights that even at his death his skin was not evenly pigmented:

“The decedent’s overall skin has patches of light and dark pigmented areas.

There is focal depigmentation of the skin, particularly over the anterior chest and abdomen, face and arms.”

They inspected his skin under a microscope and found a reduced amount of melanocytes (the cells responsible for skin pigment), which is consistent with vitiligo:

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

Joe Jackson says they knew Michael suffered from it at a young age and that it was from his side of the family, 15 July 2009

In an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Chris Connelly, Joe Jackson said his son had vitiligo, and attributed Michael Jackson’s whitened skin to the condition.

“Everybody tryin’ to make a big thing out of it… They say — ‘He try to paint his self white.’ That’s not true. Michael got vitiligo,” Joe Jackson said.

“We saw it comin’ on him… at [an] early age. You know, just a little spot. My aunt had the same thing.”

It looks as though the vitiligo started on Jackson in small spots at the very tips of his fingers before it began to spread, just as it seems to have started with his son Prince.

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

The photo is from an article in “16″ magazine in 1972, when Jackson was 13

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

A photo of Michael and his son Prince showing the same markings on their fingers.

Vitiligo has a genetic component; Prince has two people in his family with the disorder, his father and his great aunt. In some cases it’s been shown to have a genetic link as strong as 40% according to vitiligo researcher and dermatologist, Dr Satish Bhatia.It’s been reported that the factors which contribute to the likelihood of the disease being inherited include other relatives suffering from it, early onset in a sufferer, and the presence of another autoimmune disorder, all of which were present in Jackson’s case.

Stress can also be an aggravating factor in the disease and since Jackson’s death it seems as though Prince’s vitiligo has spread further, though he was showing markings from as early as the age of about 3, and Jackson’s make up artist Karen Faye stated that Prince had been diagnosed with it in 2008.

More photos of Jackson from around 12-15

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus
Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus
Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus
Michael Jackson vitiligo

Around 16 here

michael jackson, vitiligo
Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus
vitiligo photos
Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

On the Triumph tour in 1981: his stage make up runs and you can see the areas of depigmentation on his skin. He was already wearing a lot of make up to cover it. After the Oprah interview in 1993 a lot of people asked – why did Michael not just wear dark make up to cover up his vitiligo? He’d actually already been wearing dark make up to cover his skin for years.

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

Friends of Jackson have said that he began wearing the white glove to cover up the spread of the disorder on his hands, as vitiligo tends to affect the extremities like fingers, hands, feet, armpits, and genitals first.

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

Around 1984

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

The only editing on this photo was lightening the area where his hand had been in the shade to show how uneven his skin was. In private Jackson didn’t wear much make up.

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus
Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus
vitiligo, michael jackson
Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

Someone who visited Hayvenhurt in the mid 80s commented that his nose was darker than the rest of his face and they couldn’t understand why this was. You can also see the vitiligo over his ear.

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

Victory Tour, his hand

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

Victory Tour glove stained with the make up he used to cover it

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

He’s wearing light reflective make up here which makes the areas of his face with less pigment stand out under a camera flash

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus
Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

Bad Tour from 1987-1989, his hands again

vitiligo, michael jackson
Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus
Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

Two stills from a tour video, the first shows two large white patches on his arms and the second shows the large white area below his wrist, link to the footage here.

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus
Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

More from footage, the spotting on his hands is very visible here

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

Bad Tour without make up

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus
Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus
Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus Michael Jackson vitiligo

Wearing full make up at an awards show and for the video for Liberian Girl in 1989. You can see his skin in these photos looks even and dark but in reality it was not, he had lost most of the pigment in his face already.

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

The reason why he bandaged/taped his hand, you can see discoloration around the edges

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

The Way You Make Me Feel set picture

Michael Jackson vitiligo

His hands:

Michael Jackson vitiligo

On the set of Black or White in 1991:

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

In the deposition in front of the Grand Jury in 1994 his doctors stated that he had only begun using creams to even out his skin in 1990, but  as you can see, a year later and his skin is still uneven. Depigmentation and the creams used are not the magical treatment people imagine where you can entirely change your shade with a few simple applications; if it were this easy Michael Jackson would not be the only person on this planet who has managed to achieve this effect.

As one vitiligo sufferer Joyce Frame has said, “I remember hearing for the first time the rumors that he was bleaching himself white; I thought that was crazy. I knew personally how difficult it was to try to use depigmentation as a treatment for Vitiligo so I couldn’t imagine how someone could actually bleach their entire body. I asked my dermatologist at one of my yearly visits in the late eighties if she knew anything about Michael Jackson’s skin color and she told me that it was known by most in the dermatology community that he had Vitiligo.”

Another sufferer, TV presenter Lee Thomas has said, “and that’s another thing about bleaching… if I have to bleach, I have to bleach for the rest of my life. I have to continue to bleach those spots as they come back.” The presenter challenges Thomas, saying that Jackson had been found to have bleaching creams at the time of his death, something which again was stated in the depositions back in 1994 and was not a secret, and Thomas responds, “one of my members in my support group did have [to bleach too.] She bleaches her skin and she has to continue to do it, but she doesn’t do it as much, but I don’t know what that process involves, but I do know that the pigment fights to come back and you have to continue to bleach. Does that mean it’s something you have to put on every day? I don’t know. I’m not a doctor, so I don’t know, but I will say that if you start bleaching the pigment out of your skin it’s a process that never ends. You bleach until you decide not to anymore and let the pigment come in, or until you die.”

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus
Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

Close up of his hands

Michael Jackson vitiligo

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

They Don’t Care About Us in 1996, over his arms and chest.

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus
Michael Jackson vitiligo

The side of his face and his neck

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus
Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus
Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus
Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus
vitiligo, michael jackson
Michael Jackson vitiligo

All over his arms:

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

And then recently photos from around 2008, his wrists

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus
Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

When he had the spider bite in 2002 he had photos taken as evidence and they also revealed how blotchy the skin on his legs was.

Michael Jackson vitiligo timeline, spider bite
Michael Jackson vitiligo timeline, spider bite

There are photos and videos from these time periods where his skin looks even but keep in mind that he wore a lot of heavy water proof make up when he was in public, that one of the traits of vitiligo is spots shrinking and changing shape and position (this can be seen on the markings on his wrists), and that in the 80s he had also tried treatments like PUVA to gain his pigment back, but these treatments had not been successful (something TV presenter Lee Thomas has also experienced, where he stated they were successful momentarily for him, but eventually he needed to have these treatments up to 3 times a week and they just weren’t worth it for the limited effect they had), something that many people aren’t aware about.

This was his make up case backstage of the Victory tour in 1984

Michael Jackson Vitiligo Timeline, proof, lupus

The makeup that you can see in his kit is called Dermablend.

This is a high-pigment makeup created to cover burns, scars and skin discolorations. Many people with vitiligo use this product, it’s sort of a cover stick for the entire face, but because it makes the entire surface of your skin one color, you have to use a few shades to avoid looking mask-like and it is very difficult to achieve a natural look. You also have to provide color for everything else – lips, eye lashes, blush, eyeshadow.

Michael used more and more stylized makeup as a result – a luxury most people don’t have. Why pretend you are not wearing any when you can change your style to incorporate it? As his skin lightened more evenly, he used lighter and lighter shades of the product (which comes in tones for a variety of skin colors but can go to a very very fair as well) to match his current overall pigmentation. It’s such a high intensity use product that many cross-dressers and female impersonators use Dermablend to cover heavy beard shadow, heavy blocked-out eyebrows and other masculine traits not easy to cover with drug store pancake or liquid foundations.

Sandi Hammons, Owner of Premier Pigments, a specialist dermatology make up brand that Jackson also used, slammed reports that he didn’t want to be Black, July 7th 2009

Permanent cosmetic pioneer, Sandi Hammons, and her company, Premier Pigments, the manufacturer of the permanent makeup worn by the late Michael Jackson, are speaking out against widespread assertions that “Michael Jackson didn’t want to be black.”

Arlington, TX (PRWEB Reprinted) July 7, 2009 – Permanent cosmetic pioneer and celebrity permanent makeup artist, Sandi Hammons, and her company, Premier Pigments, the manufacturer of the permanent makeup worn by the late Michael Jackson, are speaking out against widespread assertions that “Michael Jackson didn’t want to be black.”

“That is so far from the truth,” says Hammons. “Anyone making those assertions obviously doesn’t understand the disease Michael suffered from or the treatment options available to him.”

“There are even some medical professionals who still consider the disease to be nothing more than a cosmetic nuisance,” said Hammons, “But the truth is, many people diagnosed with the disease suffer greatly. A deep sense of shame and hopelessness (including depression and suicidal thoughts) along with a preoccupation with appearance and available treatments are really not uncommon. Vitiligo is especially traumatic for darker skinned individuals, as the contrast between pigmented and depigmented skin can be quite drastic.”

Jackson was widely criticized for his use of bleaching medications and chemical peels. “What people don’t understand is that there are few, if any, treatments that are effective, especially for widespread cases like Michael’s.”

There are three common types of treatment for vitiligo: 1. Repigmentation as in the case of PUVA and UV lights (Typically ineffective on widespread cases) 2. Micropigmentation (i.e. cosmetic tattooing – recommended on small areas that accept cosmetic pigment) 3. Depigmentation, as in the case of using bleaching creams to remove smaller pigmented areas (typically recommended for widespread cases similar to Jackson’s).

Vitiligo affects 1% to 2% of the population. It is estimated that over 50 million people suffer from this little known and often misunderstood disease. The precise cause of the disease is complex and not fully understood. There is some evidence suggesting that it is caused by a combination of autoimmune, genetic and environmental factors. “Stress is definitely a contributing factor,” said Hammons. “Changing skin colors add even more stress, particularly if vitiligo develops on visible areas of the body, such as the face, hands, arms, feet, or on the genitals.”

In some cultures there is a stigma attached to having vitiligo. Those affected with the condition are sometimes thought to be evil or diseased and are sometimes shunned by others in the community. People with vitiligo may feel depressed because of this stigma or because their appearance has changed dramatically.

Hammons has great compassion for Jackson and his battle with the disease. “To deal with the psychological impact of this disease is significant; to deal with the very public and cruel opinions of others must have been overwhelming.”

“Trauma drives addiction,” adds Hammons. “In my opinion, those who judged him unknowingly contributed to his preoccupation with appearance, his eventual addiction to cosmetic surgery and prescription drugs, and ultimately his early death. We all need to have more compassion for those who suffer from this baffling and misunderstood disease.”

From the book, The White African American Body by Charles D. Martin:

“For more than 200 years natural philosophers, scientists and showmen have exhibited the bodies of African Americans with white or gradually whitening skin in taverns, dime museums, and circus sideshows. The term White Negro has served to describe individuals born with albinism as well as those who have vitiligo…”

Only just recently people with vitiligo were regarded as “freaks” and were used in the circus as side show attractions, they were called “white negros,” “zebra people,” “leopard people,” “piebalds.” Perhaps it isn’t surprising then that Michael felt such kinship with the life of Joseph Merrick. Around the mid 80s he’d been reported as developing a sudden fascination for old medical textbooks about skin disorders which is also when he developed a kinship for Merrick; it seems likely he understood the circus attraction those with vitiligo had suffered many years earlier, as they were included in those text books as such, as medical curiosities.

This history also reveals the genetic component of the disease, as many of the vitiligo sufferers were families who suffered from the disorder and toured together. It has been said that early onset of the disease increases the likelihood of the disease having a genetic basis, which seems consistent with Michael and his son Prince, and with these other sufferers. Some were even brutally “captured” after tribes of “spotted negroes” had been seen together and it was even believed there may have been an entire “race” of people with vitiligo:

The Spotted Boy was discovered in Caffraria, South Africa, by a party of American Travellers, in the year 1868. There’s nothing know of the parentage of this boy. The Kaffrs, a tribe of negroes, who had possession of him, stated that they had discovered a spotted tribe of negroes in the interior of Africa, and that in pursuit of them they killed several and captured this boy. By some he is supposed to be a freak of nature, born of negro parents; while others think there may be a spotted race of people in the vast unexplored regions of Africa. He is now about twelve years old, large of his age, well proportioned, intelligent, and is mottled all over the body white, black and brown, the white spots being of as delicate a purity as the skin of the fairest Caucasian; this variegation extending to the hair, and even to the iris of the eye. The left eyelash is white, ant the other black. Apart from the ordinary curiosity attaching to such a phenomenon, it is scientifically interesting as an example of nature’s caprice in dermatologied development.

Michael Jackson, freakshow, piebalds, zebra peopleMichael Jackson, freakshow, piebalds, zebra peopleMichael Jackson, freakshow, piebalds, zebra people

Hundreds of years later and it seems this “freak show” component to them still persists.

Michael Jackson vitiligo timeline

Cicely Tyson, a friend of Michael’s since he was a kid, has said that the reason he began to wear the white glove was because of his vitiligo; he started wearing the glove in 1979

Michael Jackson’s single white glove was his trademark — an iconic image for a performer whose career constantly set, then redefined, pop culture trends but it also was an early effort to mask a skin condition that he would struggle with for the rest of his life, say some who were close to him.

Actress Cicely Tyson, a friend of Jackson’s, said the two shared a fashion designer in the 1980s.

“All of a sudden, he said, ‘I’m doing this glove for Michael,’ ” she said. “Michael was beginning to develop the vitiligo and it started on his hand.

“The glove was to cover the vitiligo; that’s how that glove came into being.”

The glove design and reason for it were not just hearsay for Tyson, she said.

“I was there when he was creating it,” she told CNN’s Don Lemon.

Taiwanese fan Mrs Ma on befriending Michael, confirms the white glove story:

Michael had confided to Mrs. Ma things like that his iconic sequined glove,was first used to hide his skin problem, vitiligo. It had first appeared on his hand, and the glove had surprisingly become his signature trademark.

Tom Chiarella, Esquire Magazine, 2009

I never liked the glove, although when I saw his monstrous hand, I got it. And I admired what he’d done to cover it up. It was never clear to me if that hurt or not, but I imagine it did. Think about the beauty of that. Putting sequins on your open wounds. Think about the entire world staring at the one thing that makes you feel most ugly.

Comments { 6 }