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Michael Jackson and Joanelle Romero

Seen in first picture with her daughter Sage; other photos of Sage and Michael on the BoW set

On June 25th 2009, I was packing and moving out of a house we had lived in for 6 years and an acquaintance phoned me and said Michael Jackson is dead, turn on the TV.I dropped the phone, turned on the television and there it all was, I fainted, no one was home with me. I woke and cried and cried and I am still crying. My heart is so broken; you see Michael was a friend and he believed in me. I’ve known Michael since I was 10 years old, we went to school together at Gardner Street school off of Sunset Blvd, we were in the 6th grade together. I was always invited to go to his house to play, he would swing me in this big tree swing and we would speak of our dreams. Michael asked me to go steady on the steps of Gardener Street school. Two weeks before school ended my mother sent me to live with my dad in NM. I never got to say goodbye to Michael.

One week before Michael left this earth, my son and I were shopping at Nordstrom’s, and we run into Jermaine. I asked him to please tell Michael I needed to see him, that I needed to visit, that it was important and I gave him my new numbers. God works in mysterious ways.

In 1991, I launched my production company, it was 2 weeks old when I received a call from Michaels casting office, asking if I had any American Indian dancers because everyone he had been interviewing wasn’t right. I told them “I have the best dancers in town” I really had no one, however I went to many Pow wows and gathered 30 dancers, one of them being my precious daughter Sage. She was 5 then. Michaels casting office had no idea that Michael and I knew each other. To make a long story short. Director John Landis, cast 5 dancers, my daughter – who was the jingle dress dancer, and four other dancers from the native community here in Los Angeles that I brought in that day.

Michael shot 7 hours of photos of Sage while shooting his video and used her image for his painted angels in his Neverland ranch. We had so much fun while filming. Michael, Sage and I watched “Willie Wonka” 3 times while everybody had to wait on set. Michael took Sage and Nancy Reagan to lunch, he had asked if I wanted to go however I declined for obvious reasons. Many stories to remember …..

We had shot the segment of the native dancers in the studio, then Michael read one of my music video scripts and one week later we were on location re-shooting the native segment out-side. Due to Michael’s insight, he added my production company and shared the press in Entertainment Weekly.

Michael became the leading force in making my company known to the world. It is now an award-winning production company in producing American Indian documentaries and independent films. The 1991 “Black or White” music video and song made history. I was able to negotiate for the American Indian dancers to be paid over and above any dancers on any music video ever, due to the fact they were traditionally dressed (the wardrobe did not come from western costume). To date, they are the highest paid dancers in the music video industry. Also, this segment was the first clip of American Indian dancers in a music video without being a Native American music group/artist.

On our opening night of our 2009 Red Nation Film Festival – A Night of Tribute Awards, we honored Michael Jackson for his “Black or White” Music Video – In Loving Memory of Michael Jackson. I have many personal stories about Michael and that I will keep in my heart forever. I am not going to spend my life being a color, I am a Human Being
– God Bless You MJ
Together we can Heal the world make it a better place.
…..We Love You Michael …


Singer Joanelle Romero performs in front of a makeshift memorial at the Michael Jackson family compound on July 6, 2009 in Encino, California. A star-studded musical tribute is scheduled to take place at the Staples Center sports arena in downtown Los Angeles July 6. Mariah Carey, Jennifer Hudson, Justin Timberlake and Stevie Wonder as well as others are expected to perform. Some 750,000 fans are expected to descend on the arena, which holds 20,000. A lottery for which 1.6 million people registered online awarded two tickets for 8,750 entrants.


Link to video

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Joining me tonight in an ISSUES exclusive; I`m thrilled to have someone who says she grew up with Michael Jackson. Joanelle Romero, thank you for being here. These are photos, with you —

JOANELLE ROMERO, MICHAEL JACKSON`S CHILDHOOD FRIEND: Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And who is the cute adorable child in the middle.

ROMERO: That`s my daughter, Sage.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow.

ROMERO: And that`s during the “Black and White” music video. It is a wonderful story, our story, my life with Michael.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. Tell me how you met him.

ROMERO: Ok, I met him in the sixth grade at Gardner Street School.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s here in Los Angeles.

ROMERO: That`s here in Los Angeles.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: They moved from Gary, Indiana all the way to Los Angeles.

ROMERO: Right. And they lived — and they lived on King`s Road. And my brother and I were the only ones allowed up to the house to visit and –

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did you know he was famous?

ROMERO: Well, it was when he had “ABC”.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: He was still famous.

ROMERO: He was 11. I used to protect him in school. The kids were kind of mean to him in school. And I remember sitting on the steps of Gardner Street School. He asked me to go steady. He was like really shy. He had a tremendous light then as he always carried throughout his whole life.

He had a major concern at 11 as well as I. And he used to swing me in this big swing, Jane, at his house. We used to talk about bringing peace to the world. And you know, love and peace and what we`re going to do to save the world. And this is at 11, you know, we were talking about this.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did he seem traumatized at 11? Because he`d already talked about being beaten — in retrospect, he said at that age, he was already being hit his dad with a belt when he made mistakes during rehearsal. Did you hear anything about that?

ROMERO: No. And I`m — but you know when we`re survivors. I have 30 years sober and when we`re survivors –

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Congratulations.

ROMERO: Yes. Thank you.

And when we are survivors and we are told not to talk about these kind of things, you know, we don`t at that age.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: On Saturday, there was a huge Michael Jackson tribute concert in Wales and his children showed up dressed in his old costumes. Check this out from iambicTV (ph) and YouTube. Something to see.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is bringing out some emotion in you. Why?

ROMERO: It is because children were very, very precious to Michael, all children. And the reason why I`m so honored to be here is because Michael`s legacy and philanthropy that he created for his children and to see Blanket and the kids there, I`m so glad that mom — grandma, took them over to Europe to celebrate their father, to celebrate his talent, his magic, his light and to keep them in that instead of in this.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s what I said. I said, Katherine did all of this to distract the children so that they were happy in remembering their father in a positive light as opposed to remembering and hearing about these tremendously personal details. Things like catheters and urine and all these things, the most private person on earth, how upsetting is that? We will be right back in just a moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

L. JACKSON: In the beginning, I just immediately said I don`t know if I really want to do this, to come out of retirement for all these years. But then I said I have to. It is Michael you have to do this for him. I mean he would do it for you. So of course, I did and I enjoyed it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now that`s Latoya at the concert in Wales over the weekend. It was a tribute to Michael Jackson, but there was a lot of division in the family.

Jermaine was not in favor of it. Janet wasn`t in favor of it. They said the whole family should be here at the trial where we are, right here in downtown Los Angeles. The Criminal Courts Building is right behind me.

I`m here with Joanelle Romero who was childhood friend of Michael Jackson`s and reconnected around the “Black and White” video time.

What do you think? Do you think the family should all be here it doing you a united front or should they have gone to Wales and some of them done that concert?

ROMERO: There is a united front with the Jackson family already that is well-established. There has always been a united front and I think is fabulous that his mother took the kids to Europe and celebrating their father`s life and legacy. And that`s where they should be and that`s what a grandma — that`s what grandmas do.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s true.

ROMERO: That`s what grandmas do. And there is a united front, they are all there. The family`s there.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What`s your reaction to all these personal details of Michael Jackson, the urine and the catheters and the syringes and all of these things being revealed about the most private man in the world? What would his reaction have been?

ROMERO: There are no words. The word is unconscionable — am I saying that correct?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes.

ROMERO: It`s unconscionable, what`s going on. There are no English words to define what is happening with the state that we are in with television. This is Michael Jackson. There`s not going to be another Michael Jackson ever, ever. He was the only person on this earth that can drop all races, all nationalities, all — everyone at a drop of a hat. He was the only person on this planet — I know no one on this planet that can do that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And yet, this is what`s happening to him in death?

ROMERO: And it`s — it`s unconscionable. It`s — it`s –

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s like dissecting his life in the most unflattering manner imaginable. How would he have reacted if he could see what`s happening now?

ROMERO: Things have already broken his heart with media. Michael was a — was an incredible human being. He was a human being. He had feelings. He had a heart. He had tenderness. And he was an entertainer, the greatest entertainer that we have ever had, greater than Elvis. I grew up on the sets of Elvis Presley. My mom did the Presley movies. Michael was the greatest entertainer. He was human being.

(CROSSTALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But his family says they want justice and this is what is required in a criminal trial.

ROMERO: Yes. Yes. So we have to do that but it`s still unconscionable and what would he have thought, you know — what I feel –

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What do you feel?

ROMERO: What I feel is that this man should get more than four years.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Four years. I think that`s what a lot of fans are saying, all this for four years? All this for four years? This is justice for Michael, embarrassing him in death with personal details? All for the maximum of four years? And then it could even be less because of prison overcrowding.

We will be right back. Thank you Joanelle.

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