Michael Jackson's children have often been fodder for rumor, gossip and speculation -- so much so that Jackson tried to shield them from prying paparazzi by having them wear masks.
On Thursday, Debbie Rowe, Jackson's ex-wife and mother of his two oldest children, took the stand in the Jackson family's wrongful death suit, and offered brief insights into their lives.
Asked about her relationship with 16-year-old Prince, who attends a private high school in the San Fernando Valley, she shrugged.
"We don't hate each other, if that's what you mean," she said. "I'm closer to my daughter."
Rowe said she and Paris, 15, began seeing each other at the end of March. She said they talked on the phone and texted frequently and that Paris stayed with her on weekends.
Rowe, who raises quarter horses in Palmdale, sobbed as she explained how Jackson’s death has affected Paris, referring to a June 5 suicide attempt that sent her to the hospital.
“I almost lost my daughter,” Rowe said. “She is devastated. She tried to kill herself.… She doesn’t feel like she has a life anymore.”
The judge ordered a short break so the sobbing Rowe could compose herself.
While Rowe testified during her day and a half on the stand about Jackson's use of drugs to alleviate pain from medical procedures, her testimony also humanized a well-known eccentric.
The jury seemed to hang on every word of Rowe's testimony, which included details about Jackson's illnesses -- and his feelings about his skin condition.
“He’s very shy. For him to have all this going on and to be in public, it was really really difficult for him,” she said.
The singer was embarrassed of his skin conditions, she said, and compared himself to the Elephant Man.
Jackson’s vitiligo — where skin loses pigment in patches — “would come and go,” Rowe said, but grew progressively worse. He made a decision to “depigment” his skin because he couldn’t find decent makeup, she said.
“Everybody says he bleached himself, which he didn’t,” she said.
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