When stories began to circulate last week that 20 year-old Paris Jackson, the late Michael Jackson's only daughter, had attempted suicide, many feared it was a re-run of the events of summer 2013.
Back then, aged just 15, and in the throes of depression and drug addiction, she attempted to take her own life. Before that, she has since admitted, she had already made "multiple" suicide attempts. "It was just once that it became public."
This time, however, despite leaked audio of a 911 emergency call dispatching an ambulance to her Los Angeles home last Saturday, Paris claims it's a very different picture. She took to social media to refute allegations that the controversial HBO documentary about her father, Leaving Neverland, had served as a 'trigger' for another suicide attempt. "F--- you you f------ liars,' she wrote, in reply to a Tweet by gossip website TMZ. "Lies lies lies omg and more lies."
Along with Jackson's two sons – Michael Jr, known as Prince, 22, and the somewhat confusingly named Prince Michael II, 17, known, since his infancy as Blanket – Paris is heir to her father's mammoth fortune, estimated to be over $2 billion. She appears, however, to be the only one of the three to have also taken on the mantle of the enormous celebrity they were bequeathed. She's become a model, an actress, a musician and appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone.
Her brothers, by contrast, seem to be more comfortable keeping a low profile – Prince with his Harley Davidsons and his dogs, and Blanket, who now goes by the name of Bigi, in his final year at the exclusive Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, LA.
"Blanket is as shy and timid as his father," according to a friend of the Jackson family. "He's very insular – he goes to school, but he doesn't have a wide circle of friends."
"Prince is more of an extrovert," says the family friend. "He goes out, he has friends, he's a little more open than his brother," adds the LA source. "They've always had a very tight sibling bond between the three of them, but they don't spend a lot of time with the wider Jackson family – they've always been kind of a law unto themselves."
Which is hardly surprising, given the junior Jacksons have been commanding headlines since before they were born; their conceptions, alone, the subject of countless column inches around the world.
Jackson first met the mother of his eldest two children, Debbie Rowe, when she was working as a nurse for his dermatologist in the 1980s. According to her, after his brief marriage to Lisa Marie Presley ended, in 1996, Jackson, then 38, was devastated at the thought of not becoming a father.
"He said 'I really want to be a dad,' and I said 'So be a dad,'" she revealed in a 2003 interview. '"He looked at me puzzled. I said, 'Let me do this. I want to do this. You've been so good to me. Please let me do this: You need to be a dad.' I nagged him into it, if you will."
When the couple married in Sydney in November 1996, during Jackson's Australian tour, Rowe was already six months pregnant; Prince was born in February 1997, and Paris 14 months later, in April 1998. Jackson claimed, in the Martin Bashir documentary Living with Michael Jackson, that both of his older children were "natural conceptions", but Rowe later contradicted him, claiming she'd never had sex with Jackson. "I went to the 'office', which is what we called the medical clinic," she said. "They impregnated me. It's just like I impregnate my mares for breeding. I was his thoroughbred."
In 1999, the couple divorced, with Rowe receiving an $8 million settlement and a house in Beverly Hills, but giving up all custody of the children, even going so far as to have her parental rights legally terminated in 2001. Elizabeth Taylor and Macaulay Culkin were appointed godparents to both children.
Jackson's youngest child, Blanket, was born in February 2002, via a surrogate who has never been identified. At just nine months old, the child made news around the world when his father dangled him off the balcony of the Adlon Hotel in Berlin, his face obscured with a towel.
The early years of the three childrens' lives were spent at Neverland, Jackson's sprawling ranch outside Santa Barbara, where they were home-schooled. And beyond the protected confines of the ranch, Jackson took bizarre steps to protect his children's identity, covering their faces with elaborate masks or sheets whenever they appeared in public.
After Jackson's death in 2009, their grandmother, Katherine, was made co-guardian (along with TJ Jackson, Michael's nephew) of Prince, then 12, Paris, 11, and Blanket, 7, moving them into the Jackson family's two-acre compound, known as 'the Hayvenhurst House', in Encino, LA, where a collection of cousins and other relatives also lived. "It was beneficial. There was [sic] 16 people here," said Prince in 2016. "It took you away from the grief. We'd wake up in the middle of the night, make quesadillas and talk."
Two years later, in 2011, Katherine and the children moved into a $10 million gated estate in upmarket Calabasas. After their years of home schooling, all three were enrolled at the Buckley School, a small, $34,000-a-year private school whose alumni include Paris Hilton, and where their classmates included the children of Warren Beatty and Annette Bening. Prince dabbled in theatre, taking acting classes, learning sound design, building sets and working as a stagehand, while Paris became a cheerleader. Blanket, still a student there, is keen on martial arts and an avid gamer.
At the age of 13, Paris re-established contact with her estranged mother, Rowe, and the pair became close; Paris sought refuge at her mother's horse ranch in remote Palmdale after her suicide attempt in 2013. Rowe and Prince, however, have never formed such a relationship. "I'm very lucky to have two mother figures in my life, my grandmother and my cousin Frances," he has said. "As for my birth mother, she's always been more of a friend, and that works for us."
After high school, Prince studied film at Loyola Marymount University, and produced several music videos, and, though he generally prefers to be behind the camera, has served as a guest correspondent on the show Entertainment Tonight and made a cameo on the reboot of the teen soap 90210. He recently bought a property of his own in Rancho Palos Verdes, a clifftop community north of Los Angeles, where he is devoted to his troupe of dogs, and rides his collection of motorbikes along the Pacific coast.
With Paris having moved out of the Calabasas compound at 18, into her father's former music studio in the Hayvenhurst house, only Blanket remains at the seven-bedroom family home with his security officers. Katherine, now 88, resigned her guardianship of him two years ago and, according to local sources, is often absent.
In spite of being heirs to a colossal fortune, the Jackson trio is "not in charge of their father's money at all," according to the LA insider. "It's distributed by the lawyers who run the estate, and they only get enough to sustain them – they don't get unlimited funds just put into their accounts. When Paris had her drug habit, she wasn't getting very much put in at all," he adds.
The siblings are now reportedly considering filing a legal case against Wade Robson and James Safechuck – the two men who made allegations of sexual abuse against their father in Leaving Neverland – for fraud, emotional distress, slander and misrepresentation, potentially opening another headline-grabbing chapter in their short but bizarre lives.
"You could say my whole life has been unconventional," recognised Prince a couple of years ago. "It's all I've ever known."
WHERE TO GET HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:
• 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP) (available 24/7)
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