Prince Michael Jackson can't sing or dance. How he's still following in his father's footsteps
By Gerrick D. Kennedy
When your father’s name is Michael Jackson, people have expectations.
The children of celebrities inevitably provoke curiosity, but the
Jackson children have been the objects of unparalleled public scrutiny
since before they were born. The speculation over how they were
conceived. The controversy of an overly excited Michael showing off his
youngest to adoring fans by dangling him over a balcony. The fascination
with the flamboyant masks their father used to keep them anonymous, the
media frenzy that occurred whenever they showed their faces.
The concern that bordered on ownership so many felt when their father
died in 2009 and then 12-year-old Prince Michael’s embrace of his
grief-stricken sister Paris, then 11, at the funeral was broadcast to
31.1 million people in the U.S.
Even now, many people have certain expectations about the Jacksons and their future.
And Prince Michael Jackson does not seem at all concerned about any of them.
Providing a rare tour of his father’s Encino compound Hayvenhurst, he
is, at 19, a young man prepared to set his own course, one that honors
his father but does not imitate him.
“Everyone thinks I’m going to do music and dance,” he says, laughing
wryly because, as he is the first to admit, he cannot do either.
Jackson is interested in producing entertainment but from behind the
scenes. Earlier this year he produced his first music video, for Omer
"O-Bee" Bhatti’s “Automatic,” and used it to launch King's Son
Productions, the name a wink toward his father’s 1980s coronation as the
King of Pop. Another video, for the Sco Triplets, soon followed.
Music is a big part of my life. It shaped who I am because of my family, but I’ve always wanted to go into production.
— Prince Michael Jackson
“Music is a big part of my life,” Jackson says. “It shaped who I am
because of my family, but I’ve always wanted to go into production. My
dad would ask me what I wanted to do and my answer was always producing
He speaks of his father with the easy fondness of many sons, just as he
moves past iconic imagery and celebrity photos that adorn Hayvenhurst’s
walls as if they were simply pictures of his family.
Which, of course, they are, just another sign of the extraordinary life
that was Jackson’s normal for so many years, a contradiction he is quick
“To me, these are family photos. It’s like, ‘Oh, that’s a picture of my
dad and my godmother,’” Jackson says, pointing to an image of his father
with Elizabeth Taylor.
And that’s the biggest expectation buster of them all. The most striking
thing about spending time with Prince Michael Jackson is how much he
reveals himself as a typical 19-year-old.
Infectiously charismatic and witty, with a handsome round face and dark
eyes, he gets most animated when discussing his collegiate studies or
weekend plans with his younger brother and their cousins (movies and
video games were on the list).
Despite pursuing a career in entertainment, he prefers to keep a low
profile. He stays away from gossip blogs and keeps social media at arm’s
length, though he’s “getting out there more now with the company.”
The only outward reminder that his life isn’t typical comes during an
earlier meeting when he declines to sit on the patio of a favorite sushi
restaurant in order to evade paparazzi stalking Sunset Strip hot spots.
At times it’s tough to reconcile this easygoing young man with the
flashy eccentricities that defined his family for so many years.
Yet on this sweltering summer afternoon in the Valley, Jackson is, in
many ways, just a young man launching a business and retracing his
He’s standing inside the Encino compound that’s been in the family for
nearly a quarter century. The two-acre estate named for the street it’s
on has served as inspiration for Jackson. Though the main house is
under renovation, his younger sister Paris, now 18, lives in the
guesthouse and Jackson visits often.
His late father’s imprint is all over it.
Michael lived here in the mid-’80s until he moved west to Santa Barbara
County to his Neverland ranch in 1988. Hayvenhurst was a sanctuary away
from fame that enveloped his life, the vastness of which becomes
apparent the moment Jackson steps into the museum-like lounge Michael
installed on the second level of a wing he added to the grounds.
A shrine to all the Jacksons had achieved by the early ’80s, the room
is wallpapered with fame; hundreds of portraits are neatly collaged over
its walls and ceilings.
Michael Joseph "Prince" Jackson, oldest son of Michael Jackson, is becoming an entrepreneur.
I think people appreciate it a lot more than I do. To me, these are family photos.
— Prince Michael Jackson
There’s Michael, posing with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, shooting
“Captain EO,” out with Brooke *******, embracing Diana Ross, being
presented with a plaque by Jane Fonda, passing for 11 on his first
Rolling Stone cover (he was actually 13) and myriad performance shots.
In every picture a dazzling smile is plastered across his face.
It’s an all-consuming display of superstardom, yet the young Jackson is unaffected.
“I think people appreciate it a lot more than I do. To me, these are family photos.”
The past is omnipresent in Jackson’s life. His father intended it that
way. A marble plaque beckons at the entry of Hayvenhurst’s photo room, a
place that stands as an ode to yesteryear.
“Hopefully this journey into the past, in picturesque form, will be a
stimulant to create a brighter successful tomorrow,” it reads.
The past can be a complicated place, especially for the Jackson children and even more particularly for the eldest.
Jackson doesn’t operate with the bravado you often encounter in
celebrity children raised with a level of privilege, fame and wealth nor
does he seem naive — particularly when it comes to how he plans on
navigating an industry his father spent years warning him about.
“Trust no one,” Michael once cautioned.
“It sounds bad, but … a lot of people are motivated by themselves,”
Jackson says. “He said don’t trust someone just because it sounds like a
good idea — do your research. There are a lot of people who want to
interact with [me and my siblings] just because of who we are.”
Hayvenhurst is a “sacred place” for Jackson, he says, and not just for
the rich family history. This is where he and his siblings came to live
to be raised by their grandmother after their father’s death.
“It was beneficial. There was 16 people here,” Jackson said, rapidly
listing cousins and relatives who occupied the estate after Michael’s
death. “It took you away from the grief. We’d wake up in the middle of
the night, make quesadillas and talk.”
Originally purchased by patriarch Joe at the height of the Jackson 5's
stardom in 1971, Hayvenhurst was Michael’s earliest attempt to create
his own Neverland. In the early ’80s, before his solo career reached
stratospheric heights, he bought it from his father and spent two years
renovating it. Greeting visitors at the end of the long driveway is a
wooden placard that reads, “Those who reach touch the stars”
A 32-seat movie theater and a Japanese koi pond were added, along with a
two-story wing separate from the main 10,476-square-foot mock-Tudor
mansion that looks like a small Disney castle with its fairy-tale
turrets and clock tower.
Bubbles the chimpanzee and other exotic animals called this place home,
and songs for Michael’s groundbreaking albums — “Off the Wall” and
“Thriller” — were recorded here, at a home studio hidden in a corner of
As Jackson walks the grounds, he points out places where he and his cousins would shoot their own action films for fun.
In the house, he also points out the grand wood-paneled library that
served as a shooting location. “This room usually meant you were in
trouble,” he says, recounting the stern lectures he’d receive from his
Michael left his estate, which has reportedly grossed nearly $2 billion
since his death, to his mother and his kids, with 20% earmarked for
And it was here that, as the world mourned pop’s biggest fallen star
12-year-old Jackson had to process the loss and grapple with the
blemishes of his father’s fame.
“After he died, we got bombarded with [everything],” Jackson says
bluntly. “Everything” included scandals his father faced, including
numerous allegations of child molestation, an acquittal of child sexual
abuse and mountains of sensational stories about his changing appearance
and eccentric behavior dating to the ’80s.
After being obsessively shielded from the media circus that enveloped
Michael’s life, his children now faced all the allegations and tabloid
fodder that often overshadowed their father’s celebrity.
“I told them, ‘I know you’re going to hear things around and whatever,
but realize these are people trying to tear down your dad’s legacy,’”
said cousin Taj Jackson. (Taj’s brother, TJ, was named co-guardian of
Jackson and his siblings in 2012.)