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Michael Jackson's Son Reveals Why His Dad Really Lightened His Skin

Prince Jackson addressed the controversy in a rare interview.

Even though he had been in the public eye since he was a young boy, Michael Jackson was still a mysterious figure during his adult life, thanks in part to his appearance. For one thing, the singer's skin became noticeably lighter during his lifetime. Many theories developed as to why Jackson may have purposely altered his skin tone, including some believing that he wanted to look like a white person. However, the star himself and now his son have said that there was an actual skin condition that was impacting his self-image and confidence.

In a rare, new interview, Michael's 26-year-old son, Prince Jackson, opened up about why his father chose to further lighten his skin and how he struggled with his diagnosis. Read on to learn more.

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Michael denied being ashamed to be Black.

In a 1993 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Michael talked about the changing appearance of his skin.

"I have a skin disorder that destroys the pigmentation of the skin. It's something I cannot help. When people make up stories that I don't want to be who I am, it hurts me," he said. Michael was also asked about a rumor that he wanted a white child to play him in a Pepsi commercial. He denied this and said, "I'm a Black American. I am proud to be a Black American. I am proud of my race. I am proud of who I am. I have a lot of pride and dignity."

Of his skin disorder, he continued, "It's a problem for me. I can't control it … Let's reverse it. What about all the millions of people who sit out in the sun to become darker, to become other than what they are? Nobody says nothing about that." He also said that he wasn't aware of such a thing as "skin bleaching."

Michael had vitiligo.

Michael Jackson outside of a courthouse in Santa Maria, California in 2002
Joe Seer / Shutterstock

After the interview with Winfrey, The New York Times reported that Michael's dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein confirmed that Michael had vitiligo. "Mr. Jackson has requested that I make this statement," Klein told the Associated Press. "It is not contagious and is a result of the loss of pigment producing cells of the skin."

According to the National Institutes of Health, "Vitiligo is a chronic (long-lasting) autoimmune disorder that causes patches of skin to lose pigment or color. This happens when melanocytes—skin cells that make pigment—are attacked and destroyed, causing the skin to turn a milky-white color."

Following Michael's death, Reuters reported that his autopsy confirmed that he had the disorder.

RELATED: Michael Jackson Said That Prince Was "Mean and Nasty" to Him.

Prince said that Michael talked to him about his condition.

Prince Jackson at the Kiehl's LifeRide for Amfar 10th Anniversary Party in 2019
DFree / Shutterstock

As reported by Complex, Prince was recently a guest on Mike Tyson's podcast Hotboxin' with Mike Tyson. During the show, Tyson said of Michael, "Everybody thought he was changing his skin because he wanted to be white, he was changing it because he wanted to glow … He wanted to be a light." Tyson said that Michael told him that.

Prince responded, "When I was younger, he was always explaining to me, speaking about that. He had a skin condition called vitiligo … I think it was even in the autopsy report. I think the cause of it, it's up for speculation, but it's either vitiligo or some form of lupus that contributed to the vitiligo."

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He said that his father was insecure about it.

Michael Jackson in Los Angeles circa 1990
Vicki L. Miller / Shutterstock

Prince went on to explain that his father was self-conscious about how he looked.

"He had a lot of insecurity around kind of looking blotchy in his appearance," Prince said. "So, he wanted to see if he could smooth out his appearance to help with his security on his, I guess, physical appearance." Referencing what Tyson had said earlier, he added, "I think the 'glowing' may have probably also had something to do with it 'cause he was visionary in the way that he thought, right?"

Prince did not share exactly what Michael did to lighten his skin. CNN reported in 2009 that there are various treatments for vitiligo that have varying levels of effectiveness. The report noted that it is rarer to attempt to lighten the darker portions of the skin than to attempt to restore pigment to the affected areas.

Cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Min-Wei Christine Lee told CNN of a powerful lightening medication called Benoquin, "It's important to understand that this product actually removes pigment (not just lightens), which is more like being an albino. Caucasian skin still has pigment even though it's 'white'—skin treated with Benoquin has no pigment."

Prince said he's still learning about his dad.

Prince Jackson and Paris Jackson at "MJ" The Michael Jackson Musical opening night in 2022
lev radin / Shutterstock

Prince, who Michael welcomed with Debbie Rowe, was 12 years old when Michael died. Prince has a younger sister, Paris Jackson, 25, and a younger brother, Bigi Jackson, 21.

Prince told Tyson that he is still finding out more about his father today. "He was very interesting," Prince said. "Personally, I'm doing a lot of research on him and just learning a lot about his history. And there's so much to cover."

Prince previously shared what it was like being raised by the King of Pop. "I think human beings are very resilient. So, a lot of people expect that answer to be very extravagant or different," he told Good Morning Britain in 2021. "But that's how I was raised and that's kind of all I knew, so that was really normal for me."

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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