I am obsessed with Michael Jackson’s face. Wait a minute…scratch that. I’m not obsessed with his visage insofar as I am morbidly fascinated by it. Oddly, my awe stems from a certain identification with him.
Since the King of Pop’s tragic demise my love for him reignited itself. As a tiny tot for Christ I thought Michael Jackson was the greatest thing in the history of all things: past, present, and future. However, with the subsequent allegations of molestation and drastic physical transformations I–like many others–lost that love and adoration for him. Michael ceased being the ultra cool brotha in “Thriller” and became the strikingly pale, astoundingly eccentric, andrognyne that both beguiled and repulsed onlookers. The uniqueness and originality that sent him rocketing to the stars would ultimately send him crashing back to earth. The colossal talent that dominated the music scene in the 1980′s was completely overlooked throughout the 1990′s (and subsequently the rest of his life). Mike became better known for his alleged perverse eccentricities and not his bodily kinesthetic/musical genius.
By this point I had thrown in the proverbial towel. I did not know this Michael. His life was as foreign as his new face and bleached skin color…
Yet, as cliche’ as it may sound, death always puts your priorities into perspective. The sad irony is (and I don’t mean this lightly) that death was the best career move for Mike. When Michael Jackson died so did all of his eccentricities, personality quirks, and every other bizarre idiosyncrasies that made him unrelatable to the fans who once cherished him. Instead our obsession with his personal life has shifted back to the complete reverence for his magnificent body of work (and that is as it should be).
Now, I love Michael Jackson again… just as I did as a child. Moreover, as I’ve stated previously, lately I find myself enthralled by him. Now that the veil of secrecy that shrouded him for so much of his life has been removed I feel a certain kinship with him. In his ever evolving facial aesthetic (which went from stunningly beautiful to shockingly grotesque), I see my face–my own story of beauty–in his.
A few nights ago I was watching Michael’s final concert DVD ‘This Is It’ and was moved(to tears at some point). I was transfixed by his face. Many people thought Michael wanted to be caucasian; however, for whatever reason, I could only liken him to an ethereal little pixie (complete with pointy ears. I wonder did he have his ears altered to look like that?) prepared to cast a wonderful spell on those fortunate enough to sit in the O2 arena.
Whenever I see the Michael Jackson of old (with his beautiful African features) juxtaposed against his final incarnation I am always astounded. This beautiful man who once epitomized black pulchritude and pride had, over the years, systematically removed every vestige of the motherland from his face. It often left me wondering what he was thinking about as he endured procedure after procedure. I wonder what his brothers and sisters thought about his appearance that seemed forever in a state of flux? Moreover, I wonder how Katherine must have felt about her child, born of her womb, removing every semblance of HER own unique traits passed down through the generations? More importantly, why did Michael choose to adopt white children (and try to pass them off as black)? Was it born out of hating his blackness (if he hated being black then why did he continue to proudly represented blackness)? Or was it the numerous insults that Michael endured from his father and brothers about his “big nose (the one feature of his body that was literally crucified by repeat surgeries)?”
Like Michael I knew what it was like to be that “adorable little kid” that everybody loved. When you are a small child you get used to everyone calling you “cute,” “adorable,” “precious,” and the like. You ultimately take it for granted that you are never going to grow up and people will always love you because you are so little and so cute.
As a small boy my mother was all about appearances. She dressed me in every cute little outfit imaginable. Growing up I always felt like a little doll. Every weekend she purchased me little outfits and had my picture taken (at least once a month. I have so many baby pictures it is almost nauseating). Of course, every Sunday, the gargantuan breasted ladies in church would literally grab me and nearly smother me to death in their E cup bosoms. “Oooh he so handsome!” and all that (coupled with numerous bags of candy).
Again, as a kid, all of this is lost on you because you think, “It’s just the way it is.” No one really thinks about being an adult as a child (until someone asks “What do you want to be when you grow up?”). Then, almost overnight, you turn into an adolescent and are forced to navigate the winding pathway between childhood and adulthood, sans cute chubby cheeks. The short cherubic little body becomes lanky and awkward with features too big for your face and pimples to match. Your feet look too big for your body and you last resort at looking normal is to hide beneath baggy clothes in an effort to conceal your shockingly emaciated frame (but those big clothes only serve to exacerbate it). The “awe he’s soooo cute” suddenly become “Ew he ugly” or “what happened to you?”
After childhood I came to think the definition of ”ugly” was synonymous with me. Everyone, including my family members, told me how ugly they thought I was. It got to the point where I started to believe it. I developed this repulsive obsession with my appearance. There would literally be days that I would not go out if my: nose, eyes, skin, or hair did not look or “feel” right. Sometimes, I would turn the lights out in the bathroom just to avoid looking at myself in the mirror. I could give you a laundry list of flaws that I percieved about myself. As far as I was concerned the elephant man was not nearly as hideous as me. According to my skewed perception my: head was too big for my body; I was too thin; my eyes were too big; my nose was to big (I begged my mother to let me have a nose job); my voice was horrible; and just overall hideous. It got to the point where I could not take compliments, ever. If someone told me I was: handsome, smart, or funny I’d quickly dismiss it as a lie. To this day it is difficult me to accept flattery because, sometimes, in the back of my mind those feelings and emotions are always there. I won’t even lie and say that sometimes I’m still insecure about myself on certain days.
Yet, in spite of all that at least I had a childhood, unlike Michael. Whereas I could retreat into my perpetual state of anonymous teen angst Michael went through puberty before the collective eyes of millions. He endured the worst ridicule simply because he was in the public eye. His fans could pick him apart all they wanted to. He could never escape it. If he wasn’t out his face was sure to be on the cover of Tiger Beat.
What I’m getting at is…
I no longer fault Michael for why he became obsessed with his face. Unlike him my face did not decide my future. His made his living. As Michael transformed I couldn’t help but envy him(at that time). He could change what he thought was not right anytime he wished and however he liked. I had to be told, as a young teen who thought he was horrendous, “You will eventually grow into who you are.” That was enough to send me fleeing to my room in tears (because when you’re a teen you don’t look to the future. All you care about is the present).
Eventually, I did grow into my body. Like an oversized suit hanging on my small frame I eventually changed to fit into my lanky arms and oversized features. Basically a couple of pounds, a few years, and some additional height leveled off the traumatizing effects of adolescence. Like I’ve stated before I still have some insecurities about my appearance; but, overwhelmingly, I am really learning to love the skin that I’m in. It took a very long time but I’m thankful that I came to the conclusion on my own terms.
In retrospect I was fortunate to not be in Michael’s position. Instead of pinning my hopes on the miracle elixir known as cosmetic surgery I grew and developed as a person. I learned that–at the risk of invoking yet another cliche’–true beauty really comes from within. Bettering myself as a person and showing kindness and compassion to others are what made me feel better about myself, not the slice and dice of a surgeon’s scalpel…
Michael and I took different paths to reach our goal. Therefore, in spite of his cosmetic changes I embrace Michael in totality. The face he chose may have been an anomaly to us; but it was the face that Michael ultimately settled on. It was the face that he was finally happy with him. So in spite of it’s affront to my Afrocentrism it was his canvas to do with as he pleased.
With that said as“This Is It” progressed Michael’s face ceased to take center stage in my mind’s eye. No matter what stage of cosmetic evolution his face was in Michael was still beautiful to me. He was: smart, funny, sweet, and in tune with the feelings of all of those around him. Michael Jackson was truly a warm spirit filled with love and compassion. No amount of cosmetic surgery could make him anymore beautiful than he already was. Moreover, his beauty was in his art…art which he gave to the world so selflessly.