The Michael Jackson Interview: Oprah Reflects
Sixteen years after that memorable special, and just a few months after Michael's untimely death, Oprah opens up about what she really thought of the candid discussion.
During their interview, Michael spoke to Oprah about missing out on a normal childhood. "I remember going to the recording studio, and there was a park across the street, and I'd see all the children playing and I would cry. It would make me sad that I would have to go to work instead," he said. "People wonder why I always have children around. It's because I find the thing that I never had through them. Disneyland, amusement parks, arcade games—I adore all that stuff because when I was little, it was always work, work, work."
Looking back, Oprah says she realized in that moment that she had a fondness for Michael. "He's very likable there, and I can tell you I really, really liked him," she says. "After this interview, I thought I could be his friend, because I felt that he was really honest."
When Oprah asked Michael why Joe beat him, Michael wasn't entirely sure. "I don't know if I was his golden child or whatever it was. Some may call it a strict disciplinarian or whatever, but he was very strict. He was very hard. Just a look would scare you," Michael said. "There's been times when he'd come to see me, and I would get sick. I'd start to regurgitate."
Joe Jackson has repeatedly denied any allegations that he beat Michael.
Oprah says she was surprised that Michael was so candid in his revelations about his father. "Even in saying it, [Michael tried] to temper it by saying, 'Please, don't be mad at me, Joseph.' So obviously you know that he still carried that fear and pain," she says. "Look in his eyes when he starts to talk about his father. His eyes shift."
In one of the most memorable moments of Oprah's interview, Michael told her he had a skin disorder that destroyed the pigmentation of his skin. The disease, called vitiligo, was in his family, Michael said. "It is something I cannot help. When people make up stories that I don't want to be who I am, it hurts me," he said. "It's a problem for me. I can't control it. But what about all the millions of people who sit in the sun to become darker, to become other than what they are. Nobody says nothing about that."
Michael told Oprah that he used makeup to control blotchiness, but that he had never purposely bleached his skin.
This was one of Michael's most defensive moments of the interview, Oprah says. "You can see he got a little testy there about the skin issue. I think in 1993 nobody understood what it was. Nobody knew anything about vitiligo," she says. "I could see that that was one of the areas that was very sensitive to him, obviously."
Michael did admit to having a nose job, but said most of the cosmetic surgery rumors were false. "I have never had my cheekbones done, never had my eyes done, never had my lips done," he said.
Regarding his appearance at the time, Michael said he wasn't pleased. "I try not to look in the mirror," he said. "I'm never happy with what I see."
Michael never answered. "I'm a gentleman," he said. "That's something that's private, that shouldn't be spoken about openly. You can call me old-fashioned if you want, but to me that's very personal."
Oprah says she hadn't been sure how, or if, she was going to ask Michael about sex, but she knew it was something audiences wanted to know. "There was this sort of mystery about him. At the same time he's holding his crotch and wants to rock with us all night, we don't know who he's rocking with. That's what you really want to know," she says.
"We all remember when we first saw the Motown 25 special and Michael Jackson moonwalked. There are seminal moments in our life, and that's one of them," Oprah says. "So to be able to see him do that live and experience it, that was a little 'thriller' for me."
"To give in the best way I can through song and through dance and through music," Michael said. "I believe that all art has as its ultimate goal the union between the material and the spiritual, the spiritual and the divine. I believe that that's the reason for the very existence of art, and I feel I was chosen as an instrument to give music and love and harmony to the world."
In the closing moments of the special, Oprah asked Michael what he wanted to be most known for. Though Michael thought she was asking what he wanted to be remembered for, Oprah quickly corrected him. She, like Michael's fans, never imagined he would be gone so soon. "Obviously, if I had known that we'd be sitting here talking about the memory of Michael Jackson, I would have let him finish what he wanted to be remembered for," she says. "What I remember about Michael the most is that he was a person who was passionate about life. He was really passionate about his work … and [passionate about] his desire to try to be a good force in the world."