Michael Jackson is arguably the most well know celebrity figure in the world today. Michael Joseph Jackson was born in August 1958, in Gary, Indiana. Jackson has spent almost his entire life as a public performer. He was a member of the Jackson Five at the age of four, soon becoming the group’s lead vocalist and front man. Onstage, he modeled his dance moves and vocal styling on James Brown, and portrayed an absolute self-confidence on stage that belied his shy, private personality. Throughout his life the media has dissected his personality and projected his image on a worldwide screen.
The progression of his image has been a fascinating phenomenon, and his current taboo image is still looked at through the eyes of the media microscope. Jason Cowley says, “his face is no longer a face but a canvas on which is etched an image of endlessly elusive self-perfection. One of the most notable characteristics of Michael Jackson is his appearance. It seems, as his appearance changes, so too does his image. Being one of the most photographed and news worthy celebrities has a great impact on his image and his chameleon-like appearance.
After Jackson emerged, in the Seventies, from the largely successful pop group The Jackson Five, he became a talented solo superstar. His first solo album, Off The Wall was a complete success. Then he was a young, handsome fresh-face with an Afro. He was a sex symbol to the ladies and perhaps the best dancer in the world of pop music at that time. The warning signs of a fast changing image and appearance were slowly emerging through the smoke. Jackson began speaking in various interviews about his admiration for the beauty of singing sensation and diva Diana Ross.
He reportedly desired to look like her (Brown, 54). When he re-emerged in the Eighties with the smash album Thriller, the most successful in pop history, his appearance had changed significantly. His nose was more sculpted, his cheekbones were higher and his lips thinner. No one could deny the fact that Michael had plastic surgery after the release of the video for the number one single “Billy Jean. ” He looked more attractive, and there was a new, strutting sexual energy about him. He would never look so good again (Saunders, 3).
Michael Jackson’s image took a drastic change as his appearance was surgically altered. It has been quoted by some, that he had reached the beginning of his own end. He was about to enter the long duration of his “Wacko Jacko” phase in which he would spend most of his time in the company of children at his multi-million dollar Neverland mansion. Michael would lose himself in his own created fantasy world. When he did reappear in the public eye it was to promote one of his records or to film a television commercial for Pepsi Cola.
His image would slowly change from the young heartthrob Jackson we came to know and love to the mysterious secluded world- renowned superstar that we often questioned. Not only did his public perception and image change but with all of that his appearance took a drastic change again. His nose was thinner than before, his eyelids were tattooed and the most dramatic change was his skin color (Johnson, 45). Michael has always insisted that the changes in his skin color are the result of a rare dermatological disease and not that of a cosmetic surgery.
That could be true, but what cannot be denied is that long ago, his face became his own canvas on which to create an idealized self-image. He was creating an image of self-perfection (Saunders, 4). In time he began to look like no one else in the world. African American’s argued that as his fame grew he became more detached from his African American roots and adopted the image and appearance of the white male. This could be blamed on the media and the perception that an African American male could not achieve the level of success that he had. At Michael’s Neverland paradise, he created a getaway from the overbearing public eye.
Neverland was a secluded and secure environment far from businessmen, attorneys, managers, music-television VIPs and even members of his immediate family. The public began to wonder why he chooses to be away from everything. Choreographer Vince Patterson said, “When you have people that, from the time you’re a little kid, want you, they want pieces of you, like your clothes and hair- you’re going to get nervous around people. ” (Goldberg, 32) At Neverland, protected by armed guards that patrol the grounds around the clock, Michael doesn’t have to be around people, and he never has to grow up.
This fascination with child-like things and children in general lead to public and media speculation about his sexual preferences. It was about this time when it was suspected that Mike had sexual encounters with children, and his image as a person slowly began to separate from his image as a performer. As a performer he began to be referred as the King of Pop. Fox, BET, and MTV got the rights to premiere his new video “Black or White”, and the deal was if you want to get the rights to play the video, you have to refer to him as the King of Pop.
With his image as a performer rapidly expanding it made sense. Bruce is the “Boss”, Elvis is the” King”, and Prince is whatever he wants you to call him on the given day. Somehow Wacko Jacko, as the British tabloids have called him, just didn’t cut it. If the world won’t crown him king, then he would do it himself (Goldberg, 35). In the days immediately following the premiere of “Black or White,” in newspapers large and small all over the world many people read about the controversy of the video.
Everyone talked about the last for minutes, in which he simulates masturbation, smashes a car’s windows, and throws a garbage can through a storefront window. Jackson’s people immediately denied any suggestion that he planned the controversy. It is not far-fetched to imagine that the media-savvy Jackson, a star for more than twenty years might have done it to get his fans excited. On the other hand, if he did not plan to create a controversy, it simply means that, yes, he was quite detached from reality, as many believe.
As a person, Michael’s image began to become more and more strange and unknown. The Michael Jackson we know of today, has an even lighter skin tone, doesn’t want to breathe our air, but is still the greatest and most respected performer in history. With the release of his new album Invincible, Michael is now trying to construct an image of a person/performer that will not crumble from the hammering of the media. Even though as he grows older he continues to look more and more strange he still wants to tell the public and his fans that he is Invincible.
The media does an excellent job of helping to construct and image of a celebrity. It is because of this in my opinion, that Michael is as strange and secluded as he is. His appearance (face) can be seen as a mask. His image has attracted and maintained the kind of cultural fascination that makes him more like a movie star than a modern R&B artist. Lusted said, “The sexual and racial ambiguity of his image can be seen as pointing to a range of questions about images of sex and race in popular culture and popular music.
If we regard his face, not as the manifestation of personality traits but as a surface of artistic and social inscription, the ambiguities of Jackson’s image call into question received ideas about what black male performers in popular music should look like. ” There is one thing we know for certain about the real Michael Jackson, he is an extraordinarily talented man with a gift for creating music that people all over the world. He has a love for helping children, and is involved in many charities. His musical talent, more than anything though, accounts for more than his twenty years of stardom.