Latoya Jackson has started over. For years, we never quite knew what to make of the fifth sibling of the famous Jackson clan; we cast her as either a recluse, a sex goddess or the black sheep in the famous family.
The truth? She was living in a private hell. Jackson, 56, wrote what is now a best-selling account of her life with former husband and manager Jack Gordon. Her second memoir, Starting Over, is now in paperback, and she says that writing about the years of abuse she endured at the hands of Gordon has proved itself to be therapeutic.
Jackson talks with EBONY.com about the book, bullying and why even after Dr. Conrad Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, she and her family are still fighting on behalf of her late pop-star brother Michael Jackson.
EBONY: You look amazing on the cover of your new paperback. Is this because you’re at a much better place today?
Latoya Jackson: Thank you very much. Yes, it’s just getting all the toxic energy and the cancer out of your life and you feel free and vibrant and that’s what that picture represents.
EBONY: What gave you the courage to do that? You are very forthcoming in the book.
LJ: It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. (My writing partner and I) have been writing it for a while. And then of course the tragedy happened with my brother and we continue to keep writing it, and basically this is what you guys are getting from us. I hope that no one should be able to go through this, and if you’re going through it, you can do something about it. People were like ‘you’re LaToya Jackson, how could that possibly happen?’ But that can happen to anybody in any walk of life and that’s what’s so interesting about abuse, is that it has no … prejudices; it affects every person in every walk of life. We have to realize that when someone takes away your self worth and your self esteem, what do you have? They take everything away from you.
EBONY: Was this therapy for you?
LJ: It was very cathartic … I didn’t leave anything out. I covered everything I have every gone through and why I went through it.
EBONY: Was there any hesitation before you sat down to write this book? You put it all out there and didn’t exclude much.
I was embarrassed letting people know that I was treated this way—embarrassed to let people know that I was locked in closets and doors were closed on me, and just the beatings I endured.
LJ: It was. You’re putting your life out there to the world. From the beginning of the book, I was embarrassed letting people know that I was treated this way—embarrassed to let people know that I was locked in closets and doors were closed on me, and just the beatings I endured. I want women to look at this and say, ‘Well gee, if she can talk about her life. If she’s gone through this then I shouldn’t be afraid and ashamed to talk about mine.’
EBONY: You talk about your close relationship with your brother Michael and that he predicted some of the things that you went through. Was he a backbone for you during this time?
LJ: Actually he would tell me that this was going to take place, and that I had to be careful because he said ‘you’re going to end up dead; he’s gonna kill you.’ At the time, I couldn’t tell him, ‘that’s what he’s telling me about you!’ I just couldn’t say that because I didn’t want to hurt Michael, because he was so adamant about my protection and I was so afraid.
EBONY: So what was the light bulb moment for you? What got you out of that situation?
LJ: I tried so desperately to get out so many times, but I wasn’t allowed to because I wasn’t allowed to use phones, I wasn’t allowed to have friends. The only time I saw the world was when I was on television or in concert and I’d go directly back to the car, back to the hotel, back to the airplane and back and forth. He didn’t allow me to have any kind of contact with anybody whatsoever. So the strength that I got came when one of the workers. I kept asking him, begging for a Bible, because I wasn’t allowed to look at television or read books. I kept begging for a Bible, and they wouldn’t give me a Bible. Eventually, (one of the workers) finally went and got a Bible for me. And he laughed about it. He goes, ‘I went to the Kingdom Hall and got you a Bible and I want you to know that I was totally intoxicated when I went.’ I kept that Bible in my hand, and I would take a shower with it in my hand. I would sleep with the Bible because that was giving me strength. I kept praying