Both Oprah and Michael Jackson were allegedly sexually abused as a child, but Oprah led millions of abuse survivors to recovery, while Jackson may have dealt with his issues more destructively.
By 1986, Oprah was the #1 talk show in America, and by 1993, Michael Jackson wanted to jump on the Oprah bandwagon, so she interviewed him live from Neverland around the World. Even back then, Oprah sensed there was something strange about Michael’s sexuality.
“Are you a virgin?” she asked him.
“I’m a gentleman,” he replied.
She was also cleverly suspicious of his childlike persona.
“A child did not build on this,” she told him, pointing to his huge empire.
She also had no choice but to ask him if he bleached his skin, given the shocking change in color the public was obsessing about.
There’s no such thing as skin bleaching, Jackson insisted.
Actually there is, Oprah informed him. She recalled seeing commercials for it growing up. Jackson claimed his lighter skin was caused by a skin disease he had no control over.
Oprah seemed skeptical, perhaps because she understood what a big deal skin colour was among African Americans of their era. When she was a little girl, and was sent to live with her unwed mother in Milwaukee, the landlady was a very light skinned African American. She adored Oprah’s light skinned half-sister, while Oprah was stuck sleeping on the porch because she was dark skinned. It was never something that was said, but even as a child, Oprah intuitively understood.
Oprah was far too shrewd to call Jackson a liar to his face, so she found a more passive aggressive way of venting. When Elizabeth Taylor came out and took Jackson’s seat, Oprah let Jackson stand. So while Oprah and Taylor chatted like two A list celebs, Jackson was left standing like a second class citizen in his own home. He could have humorously ask for a chair, but instead he just stood there looking stupid.
For Oprah it was the ultimate alpha power play. It was as if she were saying “I’m the top star in this country now, so you’re gona stand until I allow you to sit”. Jackson lacked the social IQ to adapt to this unexpected aggression.
Oprah and Jackson would continue to talk after the interview. He begged her to have his friend Deepak Choprah on her show. “If she marries me she could be Oprah Choprah,” Deepak joked.
But when sexual abuse allegations came against Jackson, Oprah decided to keep her distance. When Jackson died in 2009, the vast majority of Americans decided he was innocent and returned to celebrating his music, and Jackson fans were expecting Oprah to comment within hours like every other celeb. But Oprah waited months. It was reminiscent of the Queen not commenting on the death of Princess Di.
Tonight part 1 of HBO’s shocking documentary about the alleged sexual abuse, Leaving Neverland, airs on HBO (airing later this week in the UK). Jackson fans and his estate are going absolutely ballistic, even suing HBO for $100 million. In the decade since Jackson’s death, his image had been whitewashed and he had become a wildly popular brand again, and this documentary threatens everything.
With all the controversy and anger the film has unleashed, you would think Oprah would keep her distance, but instead she’s diving right in, hosting a special on HBO and her OWN network that airs after part 2 of the documentary where she interviews Jackson’s alleged victims and film maker Dan Reed in-front of an audience of sexual abuse survivors.
Oprah predicts she’ll suffer a huge backlash for doing this, but feels compelled to do it anyways, because the film explains what Oprah had tried to explain to the World for decades on her syndicated talk show: sexual abuse is sexual seduction. It’s not about the physical damage it does, it’s about the shame, the cover-up, the secrets you must carry. It’s about who you must become to cope with it. In Oprah’s case, she became a promiscuous teen who was pregnant by the age of 14.
Sexually abused by a series of men from age 9 to 14, Oprah knows all too well what it’s like to be molested, and what it’s like not to be believed. She knows all too well how abusers charm, seduce and groom the victims. She once recalled how a cousin’s boyfriend took an obsessive interest in her when she was just a kid, telling everyone how Oprah was smarter than everyone. The family turned a blind eye as he would follow her around like a lost puppy dog.
There’s a scene in Leaving Neverland where the mother of one of Jackson’s accusers says she did the moonwalk when Jackson died.
The audience of sexual abuse survivors roared with approval.