The King of Pop will live on forever. The gravity-defying moonwalk, the sequined glove, the cropped pants, and black loafers – Michael defined my generation. I can document my life by his music. When the news broke of his sudden death, I (like the rest of the world) was stunned, shocked and saddened – now a week later, I still can't believe Michael Jackson is gone!
When I returned home from work on June 25, I told my 14-year-old daughter about his death. …To which she replied, "Why are you upset about him? Isn't he the creepy guy who slept with young boys?"
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My daughter's reaction shocked me! She had no appreciation or understanding of Michael's musical legacy. Obviously, this generation isn't growing-up on Michael. Most tweens today are familiar with his dance moves and mega-hits like "Billie Jean" or "Thriller," but for the most part Michael's 'Wacko Jacko' reputation eclipsed his immense talent, or, seemingly so to my daughter.
While, I am not here to debate Michael's addiction to painkillers, his questionable relationship with children, or his gasp-worthy plastic surgery, I do believe there are many life lessons we as parents can pass on to our children about Michael's complicated and seemingly very lonely life.
For starters, let's try and get our kids to stop and listen to the music. Michael is, in my opinion, the greatest entertainer our generation has ever seen! He set off a global phenomenon that is rarely seen and quite possibly will never be seen again. His music, his dancing, and his outright sheer genius as a performer, is something to celebrate and be inspired by. For a moment, try and forget all the craziness in his later years and let his music get passed on to the next generation, and hopefully, set into motion a new crop of young artists. As Michael once said, "I always wanted to do music that influences and inspires each generation."
On a deeper level, there's much to learn from Michael's tragic life, which brings to the forefront the age-old lesson — money and fame don't buy happiness. Just like iconic superstars Elvis and Marilyn Monroe before him, worldwide adulation and oodles of money were ultimately tied to his downfall. I always felt sorry for Michael. The strange outfits and odd behavior always seemed to me like a cry for help.
As an entertainment producer at Access Hollywood, I got the opportunity to meet Michael and yes, I must admit his appearance was off-putting, and his frail frame and timid voice all made him very sad and not at all like the superstar personality you would expect! It's easy to judge others by their appearance, yet it's important to remind our children just because somebody doesn't look like us or dresses odd, this doesn't give them a free pass to prejudice another.
In Michael's own words, "People can always have judgment about anything you do. So it doesn't bother me. Everything can be strange to someone." The masks, the whitening skin, the multiple nose jobs — while only Michael will truly know what motivated him to change his appearance, it's not right to make snap judgments on Michael or any person for that matter, based solely on their look – a lesson all children should be taught – especially if we want to live in a loving world.
I always try to tell my daughter the most important things in life are the simple: love, family, and happiness. You can't help but wonder if the King of Pop was a very sensitive man, who struggled most of his life with feeling true love and happiness. He grew-up in an allegedly abusive home, and often revealed during interviews the pain and betrayal caused by those around him. In his later years, Michael lived isolated and the only people who he seemed to spend time with and truly enjoy were his three children. And, by all accounts, Michael was a doting dad and his children were well mannered and kind. Watching home videos of Michael on a morning show recently with his two youngest kids dancing, singing, and spending time together gave me the chills – it all seemed so loving and normal… Something Michael seemingly cherished and perhaps never got during his childhood or at the height of his fame.
Being part of a loving family and having close friends is an awesome gift, and at the end of the day, it's the only thing that truly matters. Yes, Michael had fame and fortune beyond most of our wildest dreams, but did he really ever have the supportive family and friends? In the end, Michael seemed to finally obtain the unconditional love he so desperately wanted from his three children. Sad!
But, as I tell my daughter, everyday there's no greatest source of happiness than love! So, tell your children to cherish the people in their lives. It is a blessing to be able to go home and give that special someone – who you know has your back no matter what – a hug and tell them, 'I love you,' and know they truly love you back simply for being who you are!
Hopefully Michael finally got to feel that love in his greatest role — as Dad.
Terri MacLeod is a senior producer at Access Hollywood. She is also the author of the recently released girl power guide, "113 Things To Do By 13." …And above all, she is a mom!
Related Content from AccessHollywood.com:
PLAY IT NOW: Michael Jackson's 'This Is It' Rehearsals Footage! (July 2, 2009)
PLAY IT NOW: Jermaine Jackson Talks Michael Jackson's Passing On 'Today' (July 2, 2009)