La Toya Jackson
La Toya Jackson is the fifth of the famous Jackson siblings. A beloved international superstar in her own right and also a bestselling author. She earned public respect and affection for her triumph over her abusive relationship.
She is very candid about her difficult marriage in her novel, Starting Over. She also shares heartfelt stories about her brother, Michael Jackson as well as her journey as a member of America's most renowned family and finally being able to start over.
La Toya has been seen on many television programs including Celebrity Apprentice. She will be returning this March to the new season of All-Star Celebrity Apprentice. In April, her new reality show, Life With La Toya will air on Oprah Winfrey's OWN Network.
Books2Mention Magazine presents our exclusive interview with La Toya Jackson.
B2M: Welcome La Toya to Books2Mention Magazine.
I want to first thank you for giving us the opportunity to feature you at B2M.
Congratulations on the success of your book, Starting Over. It is an empowering read that is raw and filled with emotion.
LA TOYA: Oh, thank you, I appreciate that very much.
B2M: Please tell our readers what Starting Over is about.
LA TOYA: I want the world to know that no matter what you go through in life, no matter what your situations or obstacles are in life, it's never ever too late to start over. It doesn't really matter how old you are or how many times you start over. That's what life is about. Always making a new. Starting Over and embellishing yourself. Reinventing yourself and making things work for you. That's what you have to do. And if you have to start over 1,000 times, then do it. That's what you have to do. By all means do it.
B2M: I agree with you.
It must have been difficult opening up and sharing so much about your life. How did you overcome any fears you may have had in order to tell your story?
LA TOYA: Well I have to be very honest and frank with you. I did not want to open up. I was so afraid because it's my life. It's my family life. It's my name and I wasn't sure if this is what I wanted or not. But at the same time, I wanted to tell my story. In order to tell my story, I had to open the gates to my life, and that's what I did. Because I said, "you are opening the gates to your life, and it's going to help a lot of people out there when they read this. They will realize that they are in the same situation that you've been in, and you got out of it and they too can get out of the situation."
As a member of one of America's most famous families, the Jackson's, Do you believe that your upbringing played apart in your vulnerability to being exploited?
LA TOYA: Absolutely, are you kidding...ha-ha, absolutely. I think it was definitely my upbringing. When I met this individual, I became very analytical. And the first thing that I wanted to know was, what made him do the things that he did. In order for me to get that, and ask that question, was to go back into his childhood. So going back into the childhood is basically the foundation of who you are today. It's your representation for tomorrow. So, absolutely that was my foundation. My foundation was that I grew up in a family that was known to the world, where we were completely sheltered. We were sheltered because we were in show business. Not only because we were in show business, but in another way because we were Jehovah Witnesses. And Jehovah Witness don't associate with a lot of other people. They like to associate with only Jehovah Witnesses and at that time you were told to only associate with people that were Jehovah Witnesses. That too sheltered me from the world. This lead me not to know anything about the outside world, or anything about real people. And the con artist and things that people would do to you. All these devastating things, I was so naive to it. I was like a kid that didn't know that it was such corruptness out there in this form.
B2M: Yes, I can understand that.
The safety of your family was something that was leveraged over you to keep you tied to the marriage. How afraid were you that Jack Gordon would carry out his threats?
LA TOYA: I was terrified. And that's why I did everything he asked me to do. And said what he told me to say, because I knew when he told me, that he would kill my brother, and kill me. I knew that he was capable of doing it. I only knew that from what I had witnessed in the past during that time when I was with him. I knew that it was a possibility. So, I had to play my cards right at the same time.
B2M: When did you first realize that his true intentions were not in your best interest?
LA TOYA: Oh I knew that when he took my passport away. I thought that was very strange and weird. At the same time I thought maybe he's doing that so I don't lose it. You try to see the good parts of it, maybe. The control factor side of it was, when the phone would ring and I would automatically reach for it. And he would take my arm and twist my hand. And say, "you don't answer phones, do you understand me." Then that's when I realized that this is really getting over-bearing and controlling. And it doesn't make any sense. It's all about what he can connive and manipulate. Why would you hold me ransom against my own family, my brothers, my parents, because you want something out of this. And I have to go along with his game.
B2M: So those were the first warning signs?
LA TOYA: The first warning signs were basically that. Another sign was that he wouldn't talk in front of me while on the phone or anything like that. He would always go in the room and of course lock the door, things of that nature. I thought, why is he treating me this way? I've done nothing. He 's manipulating, he's taken everything from me. Every single thing, and I had no control, it was like a little kid in a candy store. I had no control over my finances are anything. He controlled everything. I never saw anything. That's when I really knew this is ridiculous. How can I get out of this predicament? Which of course I couldn't.
B2M: There came a time in your marriage where you were able to muster the strength to fight back and take charge of your life. Please tell us about that.
LA TOYA: That was near the very end.The last stage. Basically, I just couldn't bare it anymore. He had taken me through so much. He had humiliated me. Told me that he was going to make me the most hated person in the world. He had done everything he could possibly do to me. He made me do Playboy and all these things and videos, the whole bit. And what he was going to do, he said, "now you are going to do pornography. You are going to have sex with three guys." And he went on and on. "I'm getting billions for it." Then he says I'm done with you. I said you know, he has promised to kill me. He's gong to kill me anyway. So, I said this time, he's just going to have to kill me. That's when I started asking anybody, workers, everybody, I would say, "please can you get me a bible. Please can you just go to the Kingdom Hall find a bible for me." I was praying to God. But I needed more strength I felt. I never gave up. I finally got the bible and I kept it in my hand. I would take showers with it. I would not let that bible go. And it was one of those situations where eventually I got enough strength. He got in the shower one day and I looked at the phone because you know when you are in a hotel the red light comes on when someone is on it. I said, okay I'm going to make my move. That's when I called, I picked up my phonebook and I went to the J's and I called the first J and I got the strength and said. "give me my passport." I knew I couldn't go anywhere without my passport, not even the airport. I said, "I want my passport." He said, "you are not getting it." He beat me that night and he said, "you are not getting it." So, I picked up the phone and I said. "you promised to kill me, you are going to kill me, you are just going to have to kill me." "I'm calling the cops if you don't give me my passport." And he threw it at me, and he beat me. But I got it.
B2M: So your faith is what allowed you the strength to be able to stand up to him?
LA TOYA: Absolutely, and I will always say that it was my faith in God and constantly praying. He gave me that strength eventually to do what I had to do. To talk back and say, "no I want my passport now." Because I would never have picked up the phone and said that I'm going to call the police.
B2M: Right, you were to afraid to do that.
LA TOYA: Because I knew I was in the hotel and at one point I didn't care, I said I am not doing this. So I fought.
B2M: What do you think is the most important message readers can take away from reading Starting Over?
LA TOYA: I think it is very important for every reader who reads this book to let them know that you can not ever allow anyone to manipulate and control you. Do not allow people to control you. That control factor, first of all is a sign of insecurity on their behalf. That control factor is abuse, right away. Why do they need to control you? They need to control you and isolate you from your family or whoever, your friends, your loved ones. Because they are doing something that is not kosher. And once you know that, you better run as fast as you can.
B2M: This year will mark the fourth anniversary of your brother, Michael Jacksons's death. The world will never forget the indelible mark he made through his amazing talent, music, and philanthropy.
In Starting Over you talked about you special relationship with Michael. Can you share with our readers a favorite memory of him?
LA TOYA: There's so many memories of him. I love capturing mentally in my head, his smile. His smile just brought so much joy to your face and to your heart, such warmth. Because you know what that smile meant. It meant I'm in love with the world. I'm in love with peace. I'm in love with life. And that smile meant everything. It was just so wonderful. I love thinking about it, when I don't see it. It makes me smile to see him smile. But there are such great memories. Like all the practical jokes he use to play on me constantly. Because I was like the perfect person to play it on, I was always afraid, I was picky and afraid of little things like bugs and things like that. So he would put bugs and all kinds of things on my phone and in my bed and watch me scream. He would just do things like that. He would get the biggest joy out of that.
B2M: I'm sure you have many great memories of him. And you are absolutely right, he had a very beautiful smile.
Shortly after his death you stated that you felt there were many involved in what transpired. Now after the trial and conviction of Dr. Conrad Murray, do you still feel there are others that should be held accountable?
LA TOYA: Absolutely, I certainly do. Dr. Murray was not alone. I will always hold on and believe what I felt and of course it's been documented that he definitely was the fall guy. There were other people that are a part of it. And yes of course, I think that justice should be served to everyone who participated in this.
B2M: Yes, I agree with you.
How are Michael's children and the rest of the family doing now, that some time has past?
LA TOYA: You know time is said to heal all wounds and loss. Michaels's kids are resilient. They have bounced back. They are just wonderful kids. They are enjoying life, they are having fun. And of course their father is no longer here, but you have down days, meaning myself, but if they can take it and endure it, then I have to do the same. I have to be strong for them. They are coping very well.
B2M: They are giving you strength to be able to move forward?
LA TOYA: Yes, you are right, absolutely. There were moments where I couldn't listen to his music, or watch him on TV. I would turn it because I would be so sadden by it. But the kids would go, "I loved that song. I think that is so great. Don't you think daddy was cute here." With them saying that you say, "yes he does." "Hello, get strong for these kids." They can see their dad. So, you should be able to do the same. So, they gave me strength when it came to that. Because I would just break down and say, "oh, he's not here." You know, I can't let them see me that way.
B2M: What can we expect from you next?
LA TOYA: We have some shows that are being developed. That are basically being contracted as we speak, actually. You will be seeing a lot of me. I will probably be doing shows in Europe. It was requested, so I did the tribute concert for Michael. And when I did it I hadn't performed in over twenty years. When I did it, I just loved it. I said, "gee, I really miss this." Because I didn't want to do it. I thought I was done with show business. Meaning as far as entertaining is concerned. But I love it. So I've been getting lots and lots of request to do shows over in Europe. So, I am considering that. So, maybe you will see that as well.
B2M: Do you think that you will be writing some more books?
LA TOYA: Yes, definitely. I would loved to write a self-help book. I think it is important and I love to write things that will inspire and help people. That is really important to me. It's important that my books put women and men of course in a situation where they can look at this and read this book and say, you know, what can I get out of this book? How can I better myself? How can I change my life? How can I follow these tips or follow what she's gone through and say okay, I will not allow this to happen to me anymore. I am not going to endure this abuse any longer. I hope they can take something away from that.
B2M: La Toya we commend you for displaying the courage to reveal your traumatic ordeal with the hope of inspiring women to overcome abuse and conquer their fears.
LA TOYA: Thanks so much. It was great speaking with you.
B2M: Thanks for interviewing with Books2Mention Magazine. Please be sure to come back again and keep readers informed about all of your future endeavors.
Much Success To You!
The Staff @ Books2Mention Magazine
To learn more about La Toya Jackson, please visit her website at: www.LaToyaOnline.com. You can also follow La Toya on Twitter: @LaToyaJackson
Books by La Toya Jackson include: