La Toya Jackson

LaToya Jackson, the middle child of the internationally famous Jackson family, is gearing up for season two of her OWN reality show Life with La Toya. The 58-year-old singer, dancer and business owner sat down with EBONY at the Trump Hotel in Manhattan to talk about her show, her new fiancé and her future in music.

One major story line for season two of Jackson’s show is the super surprise proposal she receives from her business partner, Jeffre Philips. Technically, the two had never even gone a date before he popped the question. They had been close friends and business associates for almost two decades. The second season will show the proposal, but as something of a spoiler, Jackson recently announced her engagement by wearing her 17.5 carat engagement ring.  It is a sight to behold in real life. Philips might have to purchase a right hand ring of similar weight just to counter balance Jackson’s hands.

“He’s so great. Every woman should have someone like Jeffre. He’s so kind and sweet and very protective of me.  Even when we’re somewhere that we go all the time like the Polo Lounge (though we don’t go there anymore because of the owner), he’s making sure I’m okay and walking me to the restroom and that kind of thing,” said Jackson of her new love.

When asked if it feels strange to toggle between talking to her business partner and her fiancé, the star had a very clear answer. “It’s always clear to me. He will have this look in his eyes and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, he really does love me!’”

“That look has been there the whole time, you’re just now noticing,” said Phillips. 

The proposal took place in August of 2013, but the couple has been silent about it, partly for the sake of the show. Jackson’s parents knew about it, but other family members did not. Jackson officially made the proposal announcement on Good Morning America in early June, and that is when the family found out about it. Her nephew, “little” Randy sent Jackson a congratulatory text during EBONY’s interview with her.

The road to romantic fulfillment was a long one for Jackson and was on full display on her reality show, where she showcased a therapy session dealing with her intimacy issues. “I thought it was important to show me in my therapy session because even though that’s a very personal thing, if it helps someone else take that step to find help, then it’s all worth it,” said Jackson.  The filmed therapy session for season two was not her first time seeking professional help, but it was her first time consulting a professional on this particular topic.

“I was very closed off and not letting men into my life. I was in an abusive relationship at one time and I was expecting men to be controlling and all of those negative things, so I would just push them away and not let them in. After season 1, I definitely knew that something needed to change, so going to therapy was me trying to do something different for myself,” confided Jackson.

Jackson is not new to reality television. She has been on Celebrity Apprentice and Big Brother, but this is her first reality show that is about her personal life. “I grew up around cameras, so that’s something I’m kind of used to and it’s true that once you’re in front of the cameras all the time filming, you forget that the cameras are there. But, I’m just being myself. My mother told me that it’s good for me to let people know who I really am,” said Jackson.

As far as “reality television,” we are all well aware now that much of what we see on so-called reality shows is a carefully vetted story arc and Life with LaToya is not much different. “Jeffre and I are executive producers, so we do have say on certain things. One thing I will not allow is for my nieces and nephews to be filmed. They are not on the show at all, but other than that, it’s pretty much just my life,” said Jackson.

“La Toya’s parents are more involved this season. They saw the first season and realized that nobody was being exploited and so they are much more open in this new season. You get to see how the family works. They talk to La Toya pretty much the same on and off camera,” said Phillips.  

Parenthood is another possible adventure for the newly betrothed couple.  “I go back and forth sometimes about children, but then over the weekend I saw my brother Jackie’s four-month old twins and that got me all excited again,” said Jackson, who has considered adoption.

“Music is my second love, career-wise,” confided Jackson.  “My first love is business.” Jackson’s business with Phillips is called Ja-Tail Enterprises, LLC.  The L.A. based company puts together business and entertainment deals. The company produced an award-winning documentary, Dancing in Jaffa,  a film that shows Israeli and Palestinian children uniting through their love of ballroom dancing.

But Jackson also has a single out right now with RuPaul called “Feel Like Dancing.”  The multi-talented Jackson also has a single of her own called “Feels Like Love,” though she has no plans to release a full album.

The second season of Life with LaToya will document Jackson’s not so smooth return to dancing and singing. “On the show you’ll see me perform my single at a nightclub and of course everything that could go wrong went wrong. The mic wasn’t working, the lighting wasn’t working, it was just awful—especially for someone like me who likes to have everything done a certain way. But it feels good to be on stage again performing,” said Jackson.

Life with Latoya airs on Saturdays at 10 pm on OWN. 

Demetria Irwin is a New York City-based (Detroit born) freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter at @Love_Is_Dope and connect with her on Facebook.