- Jul 25, 2011
THE EVOLUTION OF A POP ROYAL
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Welcome to the issue! A note from LVR Magazine’s Editor-In-Chief, Kate Davidson Hudson
PHOTOGRAPHED BY GILLES BENSIMON/ STYLED BY MICHAELA DOSAMANTES/ WRITTEN BY ROXANNE ROBINSONBeing Paris Jackson can’t be easy. Celebrity offspring status challenges most.
In Jackson’s case, one of her parents was the most famous person on the planet. Adding to
that navigation was Michael Jackson’s untimely death when she was just 11 years old. Even the most cynical muster empathy for the popstar’s only female child, who has shared her struggles with drug and alcohol abuse, suicide attempts, eating disorders, coming out and attending an abusive behavior-correction boarding school. Despite these challenges, today, Jackson is thriving in her career as a talented Alternative folk singer-songwriter, model and actress, marking two years sober. Now at almost 24 years old, Paris Jackson has learned to wear her family legacy proudly as she evolves into her own person with an enlightened sense of passion, perspective and purpose.
Paris is the most obvious of the late singer’s children to inherit Michael’s talent. She began writing songs and playing the guitar at age 13. At 20, she met her ex-bandmate and ex-boyfriend Gabriel Glenn. Together, they formed The Soundflowers, an experience documented alongside their relationship on Unfiltered: Paris Jackson and Gabriel Glenn, a series airing on Facebook.
These days, though, Jackson is pursuing a solo career. Working with the Manchester Orchestra, a band she idolizes, her first album, Wilted, made its debut in November 2020. It was met with mixed reviews and followed by a subsequent EP.
“The album debuted at number-one on the Alternative charts, which was exciting, but I don’t do it for the charts. The talented MGK [Machine Gun Kelly] took over the slot,” Jackson says via a Zoom interview for her LVR Magazine cover story. She adds that she kept the indie-folk EP debut under wraps until the day before. “I like to keep things a secret.”
That said, the album was deeply personal and shared glimpses of previous struggles and heartbreak. One thing it wasn’t: as upbeat or pop as the Jackson family musical heritage might suggest.
“I love pop music, but I don’t like pop music,” explains Jackson but counts the music her father exposed her to — classical, R&B, Soul, anything heard on KF101 and Michael’s own, of course — as influences forming her musical repertoire. “I make acoustic folk singer-songwriter music and now delve into grunge. You don’t dance to sad folk music; mosh pit, maybe. Rock bands get on stage and get the fuck off. I recently saw The Strokes at the Forum, and they literally don’t move. My favorite band, Manchester Orchestra, holds the guitar to play and gets off stage. I’m seeing them again this weekend. It’s a little harder to move with a heavy electric guitar.”
Jackson is known for her love of Eighties metal bands like Mötley Crüe and Metallica. The closest she has gotten to pop is the recent “Low Key in Love” single she collaborated on with The Struts, whose lead singer Luke Spiller, according to Jackson and others, moves like Mick Jagger and sounds like Freddie Mercury. (You could also toss a hint of Marc Bolan of T. Rex and Joan Jett in for good measure.) She saw Mötley Crüe three times as a teen, and at the last show in 2015, The Struts opened for the iconic rock band.
“The second they took the stage, I was like, ‘who the fuck are these guys?’ I’d never seen anything like this, but I imagine this was what my favorite bands were like in their prime,” she recalls, adding a “pardon my French” for the F-bombs. Eventually, Spiller and Jackson became good pals through the wonders of social media and the LA social scene a la Chateau Marmont and Good Times at Davey Wayne’s.
“Luke was like ‘Let’s work together,’ and I said ‘Yes, please.’” The result is a charming duet-ditty using today’s vernacular with a catchy tune. During the pandemic, the song came to fruition, which meant studio recording sessions over Zoom. “It was a really interesting experience to be able to say we did that digitally through the worldwide web. Same for the video, which was shot on two separate parts of the planet,” she reveals.
The multi-hyphenate singer also forged a style sensibility separate from her father’s tendency toward crystal bling, military jackets, black leather and tap shoes. “I have had the same style since high school: a combination of Sixties, Seventies and Nineties. I love a good bellbottom, Earth tones, Doc Martens, ripped leggings, and band T-shirts for day-to-day. It’s boho grunge.” The pandemic wasn’t a wardrobe fail for her, either. “I wear PJs and sweats most of the time. I love being comfortable.”
One pair of pajamas is particularly comforting. “I have a pair of my dad’s PJs and a bracelet that he wore the entire time I knew him. I have it in a safe place,” she says. She also points out her collection of earlobe piercings, a total of seven, paying homage to her father’s lucky number and her life number. “It’s more about the number of piercings than what is on them, but there is a sunburst, feather and dragon,” she notes of the earrings, while showing off a new nose piercing.
The part-time model also muses she even wears PJs out to dinner, as in a silk lace slip dress. “I love dressing up with friends. I went to dinner on Valentine’s Day with a few people, including my friend Mike, who I was photographed with. He and I have been going on these little fake dates for the last six years. I wore it with knee-high cowboy boots and a nice jacket.”
When she does dress up, Jackson doesn’t play. Her prized fashion possession is a McQueen gown circa 2007. “I’ve worn [Sarah Burton’s] McQueen on the Red Carpet, but nothing when he was here and present; that was way before I got into the fashion game.” She wore the original black lacey number in the video “Let Down,” a single from Wilted, but kept it out of harm’s way. “I wore a custom white dress for the blood scene. I would not risk getting any fake blood on a piece of art like that.”
She had the modeling gig of a lifetime in 2020 when she was cast in the haute couture runway show that Jean Paul Gaultier designed for his namesake Maison. “That was incredible, and I definitely got an adrenaline rush from that. I cried when they said, ‘We will see you tomorrow’ after the casting. ‘Does that mean I am walking for you guys?’ I asked, and screamed when they confirmed,” she recalls. “I’ve been told ‘no’ before at castings … which is cool. There was a sense of earning it; there are requisites. They aren’t going to pick anyone who can’t walk, or pick you just because you are pretty or have a cool name attached to you.”I have a pair of my dad’s PJs and a bracelet that he wore the entire time I knew him. I have it in a safe place.
Her runway and modeling escapades have come closest to the teenage dress-up ritual of prom, which she notoriously skipped to attend a Metallica concert. Rather than revel in those teenage tropes, Jackson couldn’t wait to get out and doubled up on classes to graduate ASAP. Until 7th grade, she was homeschooled with her siblings, and the most “normal” experience she had was a private school she attended for the next three grades.
I’ve been told ‘no’ before at castings … which is cool. There was a sense of earning it; there are requisites. They aren’t going to pick anyone who can’t walk, or pick you just because you are pretty or have a cool name attached to you.
By the end, she was at a behavior modification school, an experience she has said did as much harm as good. “I’m sure you’ve heard about those, as Paris Hilton shed some light on them recently. I went there just shy of two years. It was an unconventional high school experience — you could design your schedule. I never really loved school,” she admits.
She was able to vicariously experience a more typical high school for roles in the movie Sex Appeal, where she played a rebellious teen, Danica McCollum. The character favored metal rock band attire and combat boots. “I related to her,” she says.
Less so her character on Hulu’s American Horror Stories, Maya, whom Jackson has said horrified her with her vindictive mean-girl behavior. She didn’t think about the roles as trips back in time. “I was excited to have a job, so I just shut up and did the gig.” Jackson’s manners and humility reveal an upbringing with acute attention to the same.
The experience at the boarding school in Utah has her pondering the concept of vetting. “There are a lot of things at play in those schools. They can shut down and reopen under a different name to avoid lawsuits, and it depends on how state laws work. If a kid decides to call their parents and say, ‘Please get me out of here,’ that center will likely hang up the phone and call the parents back to say ‘Don’t listen to them, they are manipulating you, doing everything they can to get out of here.’ Who are you going to listen to, a troubled teen or clinical professional?” she says, quickly advising parents to do more research before sending children there.
“There should be a better vetting process [in everything]: before you medicate — or something even more dangerous, like selling a gun — you should vet them. It’s important in all kinds of situations. It could be as simple as a job, or as complicated as medicine or a weapon,” she continues. “Psychiatrists hand out addictive medication like candy without really vetting the patient. There is no harm in vetting.”
There are a lot of things at play in those schools. They can shut down and reopen under a different name to avoid lawsuits, and it depends on how state laws work. If a kid decides to call their parents and say, ‘Please get me out of here,’ that center will likely hang up the phone and call the parents back to say ‘Don’t listen to them, they are manipulating you, doing everything they can to get out of here.’ Who are you going to listen to, a troubled teen or clinical professional?
Jackson’s passion to advocate for those in need is palpable, ostensibly based on her past struggles combined with an ingrained sense of duty to help others. She is an ambassador for the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and the Heal Los Angeles Foundation.Psychiatrists hand out addictive medication like candy without really vetting the patient. There is no harm in vetting.
“I try to be of service in any little way that I can. Sometimes it looks like activism by going to a protest, or if my ambassadorship means a donation,” she says. “It also means buying someone a meal, giving someone a ride home, or calling someone in need. I try to be supportive to touch on different degrees of service, not just on a grander scale. The personal stuff is more day-to-day. For the bigger things, I do have a platform — and it seems pointless not to use it for something so important.”
That considerable platform includes 3.9 million followers on Instagram. It’s the opposite of a pop feed. Hers is mystical, spiritual, referencing the dark arts like cosmic pentagrams, or exploring sacred geometry thrown in with some sage advice. Jackson’s posts range from performing Wiccan rituals with friends on the beach, communing with nature in the desert, or dancing in a candlelit room in a fringed scarf to Santana’s “Black Magic Woman” to provoke her critics. She is more Jethro Tull than Jackson 5.
Her spiritual views manifest through the feed and have evolved like other aspects of her persona. “I think spirituality is an individual thing; for me, at the end of the day, it’s my prayer,” she explains. She believes spirituality can be anything you want it to be.
“I do other things for fun, like I practice the craft. I have philosophies I’ve been told are Buddhist. For example, I believe the meaning of life is suffering, which is a Buddhist belief. I like educating myself and picking what works for me, which is the path of least harm. As long as you aren’t hurting anyone, you can do whatever the fuck you want.”
She may not put hard-core belief into the power of her craft ceremonies, but she is keenly aware of the power of her posts. “For me, because my platform is so big, with the click of a button I can do some monumental things, activism-wise. At the same time, there are these societal pressures young kids go through because there are many different ideas of perfection. You can take anything and turn it into something good, or turn it into something bad,” she asserts, drawing a parallel to the evolution of gunpowder, which was first used as a pyrotechnic.
Her brother, Prince, has said she is the most like Michael. Being a musician is obvious; so is her openness, gentleness and acceptance of others. Likewise, she manifests her thoughts and feelings via her body. Jackson has an incredible amount of body art — now topping 80 images — which began at age 18. It evolves organically, she says. Most pay tribute to the people and things she loves: family and musical acts rank high.
I try to be of service in any little way that I can. Sometimes it looks like activism by going to a protest, or if my ambassadorship means a donation,” she says. “It also means buying someone a meal, giving someone a ride home, or calling someone in need. I try to be supportive to touch on different degrees of service, not just on a grander scale. The personal stuff is more day-to-day. For the bigger things, I do have a platform — and it seems pointless not to use it for something so important.
Sometimes she puts a lot of thought into it, but sometimes it’s impulsive. “My Frightened Rabbit tattoo says ‘Forever 36’ because the lead singer passed in 2018 [at age 36]. I got that on his birthday, randomly, out of the blue. The koi fish and dragon, I had wanted since I was 16.” Another is the image of her father taken from the Dangerous album. A tattoo as an homage to her late father seems a given. But discussing her parents is mainly off-limits. Her brothers are another story. Being raised at Neverland as a Jackson formed some tight bonds. She counts three brothers: Prince, 25; Bigi, aka Blanket, 20, and Omer Bhatti, 36, who is the son of a nanny hired to care for Prince and Paris as siblings. She doesn’t play favorites.
“I was just talking about this yesterday with one of my closest friends. It’s a lot like, well maybe this is a poor example, it’s like the album I released a year-and-a-half ago. I don’t have a favorite track because they are all my babies. But for different reasons. I try not to compare my loves. I love all three of my brothers equally, but in different ways.”
Indeed, videos of the siblings display a deep affection void of significant quarrels. She relates that recently, they all went to see MJ: The Musical on Broadway, about which, she says (relatively upbeat), “I loved it.” The day following her interview and photo shoot with LVR, she planned to take Bigi to see a reshowing of The Godfather on its 50th anniversary in Los Angeles. Prince lives nearby, and the two frequently get together for dinner or a movie, while Bhatti lives in Norway and tends to come home for the holidays.
It’s a job, I show up and do what I have to do. Sometimes I love the garments, and sometimes it’s stuff I wouldn’t wear. I trust the people who do it. I’m not a professional stylist.
She keeps her music and fashion separate and strives to be the consummate professional, especially when it comes to punctuality (although brother Prince may have a different take, as she went AWOL at least once during filming on the set of Unfiltered: Paris Jackson and Gabriel Glenn).
“It’s a matter of respect. I respect and value other people’s time. It’s the golden rule to treat others the way you want to be treated. It’s just polite.” When it comes to modeling, it’s an occupation. “My music is my passion, it’s who I am inside, and the air I breathe, so that is going to be from me and my heart. I don’t like to mix. I don’t cross those worlds.”
With a tour coming up and a determination to continue her most recent sobriety, which began during the lockdown, this Miss Jackson is heading swiftly into the next phase of her evolution.It’s a matter of respect. I respect and value other people’s time. It’s the golden rule to treat others the way you want to be treated. It’s just polite.
TALENT: PARIS JACKSON @ IMG. PRODUCER & MARKET EDITOR: JACLYN BLOOMFIELD. ASSISTANT PRODUCTION & FASHION EDITOR: LUISA SOTO. STYLIST ASSISTANT: DAN VICTORIA GLEASON. PHOTOGRAPHER ASSISTANT: JAY MIMS. HAIR STYLIST: JERROD ROBERTS @ THE WALL GROUP. MAKEUP ARTISTS: JOSE CORELLA @ THE WALL GROUP.