• Pop icon Michael Jackson’s lifelong aspiration was to be a father.
  • His dream was realized through his union with Debbie Rowe, a nurse who bore two of his children.
  • In the wake of Jackson’s untimely demise, Rowe faced a tumultuous struggle.
  • She was thrust into the limelight as she fought for their children’s guardianship.

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Michael Jackson on February 7, 1984 in New York City | Source: Getty Images

Michael Jackson on February 7, 1984 in New York City | Source: Getty Images

Michael Jackson the “King of Pop” was more than just a music legend. His influence extended beyond music to dance and fashion, making him a global icon. But beyond his extraordinary career, Jackson longed to have children.

Michael Jackson performs onstage, circa 1986 | Source: Getty Images

Michael Jackson performs onstage, circa 1986 | Source: Getty Images

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In an interview, Lisa Marie Presley, Jackson’s first wife, revealed that Jackson had expressed this desire during their marriage. However, Presley was hesitant about the idea. She had told him, “I just don’t think it’s a good idea right now.”

Michael Jackson and Lisa-Marie Presley on September 7, 1995 | Source: Getty Images

Michael Jackson and Lisa-Marie Presley on September 7, 1995 | Source: Getty Images

According to Presley, Debbie Rowe, a nurse with a crush on Jackson, offered to bear his children. Jackson seemed to use this as leverage to convince Presley, but she stood her ground, foreseeing a potential custody battle nightmare.

Michael Jackson performing at Wembley Stadium in London on July 30, 1992 | Source: Getty Images

Michael Jackson performing at Wembley Stadium in London on July 30, 1992 | Source: Getty Images

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In the end, Jackson’s deep-seated desire was realized with the help of Rowe. Rowe first crossed paths with Jackson over four decades ago. At the time, she was a nursing assistant in the office of Dr. Arnold Klein, a Beverly Hills dermatologist. Their initial interaction was simple, yet impactful.

Debbie Rowe on July 1, 1997 in Sheffield, England | Source: Getty Images

Debbie Rowe on July 1, 1997 in Sheffield, England | Source: Getty Images

Rowe greeted Jackson and complimented his unique talent. She recalled telling him, “You know what? Nobody does what you do better, and nobody does what I do better. Let’s get this over with.” This sparked a friendship that developed almost instantly.

Debbie Rowe and Michael Jackson on December 17, 1998 in Los Angeles | Source: Getty Images

Debbie Rowe and Michael Jackson on December 17, 1998 in Los Angeles | Source: Getty Images

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Before this serendipitous meeting, Rowe led a relatively ordinary life. She was a native of Washington state and the daughter of an Air Force serviceman. Her brush with fame was limited to her time on the Hollywood High swim team. However, her life took a dramatic turn when she started receiving invitations from Jackson, one of the biggest stars in the world.

Debbie Rowe and Michael Jackson in 1997 in Paris, France | Source: Getty Images

Debbie Rowe and Michael Jackson in 1997 in Paris, France | Source: Getty Images

Michael Jackson and Debbie Rowe on April 28, 1996 | Source: Getty Images

Michael Jackson and Debbie Rowe on April 28, 1996 | Source: Getty Images

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They would sneak out for video nights, evading security and sometimes getting caught. Rowe likened these experiences to scenes from a Beatles film. In 1996, Jackson’s 20-month-long marriage to Presley ended. In November of the same year, he and Rowe tied the knot in Australia.

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Their union resulted in two children, Prince Michael Jackson, and Paris Katherine Jackson. However, by October 1999, Rowe decided to end their marriage, attributing the split to irreconcilable differences. The couple had been separated since July 15, according to the petition filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court.

The divorce petition also stated that the couple had reached a confidential settlement agreement regarding property and debts. Jackson’s representative promptly issued a statement. He expressed the couple’s wish for respect from the public. They chose not to comment further or fuel speculation about their decision.

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Part of it read, “Michael and Debbie remain friends.” He added that the couple had “mutually agreed to end their marriage.” In a 2003 interview, Rowe painted Jackson as a loving father to whom she was happy to turn over her children.

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This was consistent with many of her statements in the first few years after her amicable divorce from Jackson. Nonetheless, consistent reports suggested that Jackson and Rowe spent most of their time living separately. It was also reported that Rowe had little involvement in their children’s upbringing.

Amid the circulation of these reports, Jackson had told a London newspaper, “I love my wife, and we have a happy marriage.” Not long after her interview, Rowe would start a lawsuit against Jackson. On July 3, 2006, she returned to the Los Angeles Superior Court. She was seeking a significant sum from the singer.

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She requested an immediate payment of $195,000 and an additional $50,000 for living expenses. This was to fund a child custody case against Jackson. Despite her past praises for him as a remarkable father, she claimed he had ceased the promised payments in 2003. The dispute concluded in 2006.

The settlement details, including payments to Rowe and visitation rights, were never disclosed to the public. A few years later, Rowe found herself in another legal dispute. This time, she sued Rebecca White, a Florida woman. She accused White of defamation, invasion of privacy, and causing emotional distress.

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White had publicly claimed that Rowe’s potential claims on her children were financially motivated. She also alleged possession of emails from Rowe suggesting that Rowe did not genuinely want custody of the kids. Rowe’s lawsuit refuted these claims, stating the emails were counterfeit.

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The lawsuit confirmed the existence of emails between Rowe and White before Jackson’s passing. These correspondences covered various subjects, including potential visits, weather updates, and Ms. White’s home-buying efforts.

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However, the lawsuit emphasized that Jackson, his children, and other family members were not mentioned. Furthermore, the document explicitly stated that following Jackson’s death on June 25, 2009, Rowe ceased all email communication with White.

Following Jackson’s passing, a custody agreement was established. Rowe did not pursue custody of the children. Instead, Jackson’s mother, Katherine Jackson, was appointed the permanent guardian, in line with Jackson’s 2002 will. The matter was resolved without a public custody dispute.

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Prince Michael and Katherine Jackson at the world premiere of "Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil" on June 29, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada | Source: Getty Images

Prince Michael and Katherine Jackson at the world premiere of “Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil” on June 29, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada | Source: Getty Images

Katherine Jackson attends The Michael Jackson Tribute Festival of the Arts on August 28, 2014 in Gary, Indiana | Source: Getty Images

Katherine Jackson attends The Michael Jackson Tribute Festival of the Arts on August 28, 2014 in Gary, Indiana | Source: Getty Images

Lawyers had spent weeks crafting a mutually agreeable arrangement. Under this agreement, Katherine would raise Jackson’s children. Rowe was granted visitation rights to her children, supervised by a child psychologist. The agreement did not involve any financial transactions.

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Janet, Paris, Prince Michael II, La Toya, Jackie, and Prince Michael Jackson at the Michael Jackson memorial service on July 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images

Janet, Paris, Prince Michael II, La Toya, Jackie, and Prince Michael Jackson at the Michael Jackson memorial service on July 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images

Jackson was the sole parent to his three children. He and Rowe had a relationship rooted in friendship. Rowe had given birth to his two oldest children as a “gift.” His third child, Prince Michael II, known as Blanket, was born to a surrogate. The identity of the mother was never disclosed.

Prince Michael, Blanket, and Paris Jackson at the Michael Forever Tribute Concert on October 8, 2011 in Cardiff, Wales | Source: Getty Images

Prince Michael, Blanket, and Paris Jackson at the Michael Forever Tribute Concert on October 8, 2011 in Cardiff, Wales | Source: Getty Images

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Rowe had shown interest in raising not just her two children, but also Blanket. However, in Jackson’s will, he wished for his mother to care for all his children. If she was unable to do so, he wanted his friend and singer Diana Ross to step in.

A section of Michael Jackson's 2002 will as seen on July 1, 2009 | Source: Getty Images

A section of Michael Jackson’s 2002 will as seen on July 1, 2009 | Source: Getty Images

Days after Jackson’s death, rumors circulated questioning Rowe’s biological connection to Prince and Paris. Multiple sources claimed that all three of Jackson’s children were conceived in vitro, using a sperm donor, and that Rowe’s eggs were not used. Some even suggested that Rowe was a paid surrogate.

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Further rumors pointed to Jackson’s dermatologist, who was also Rowe’s former boss, as the biological father. A source close to Jackson stated, “He is the dad,” adding that he and Debbie had signed an agreement to never reveal the truth. Rowe’s lawyer responded to these rumors, stating that the majority of the speculation in the media was untrue.

Debbie Rowe seen on August 15, 2013 in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images

Debbie Rowe seen on August 15, 2013 in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images

Dr. Klein’s representative, Richard L. Charnley, also refuted the claims. He confirmed that Klein knew about the media reports linking him to Jackson. However, due to patient confidentiality and compliance with federal HIPAA regulations, Klein wouldn’t comment on any reports or allegations.

Debbie Rowe seen on August 15, 2013 in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images

Debbie Rowe seen on August 15, 2013 in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images

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In July 2016, Rowe was diagnosed with breast cancer. This revelation came unexpectedly during a routine ultrasound. The technician asked her where she was experiencing problems, to which she responded negatively. Her doctor later apologized for the abruptness of the diagnosis.

The journey that followed was as challenging as her doctor had warned. Before the lumpectomy could be performed, Rowe had to undergo a series of biopsies, tests, ultrasounds, and blood work. Throughout this ordeal, Rowe’s daughter, Paris, remained her steadfast support.

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Rowe described her daughter, Paris, as her rock, stating that she’d been with her the whole time. She mentioned that Paris was there for her from the first phone call. Paris had reached out within 30 seconds of finding out about her diagnosis. Rowe acknowledged that every day is a struggle, but Paris’ support gave her a reason to get up every morning.

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They even took a photo together in the hospital, a picture Rowe said meant “everything” to her. Rowe expressed her deep love for Paris, saying, “I can’t tell you how much I love her.” She recalled how they would go for sushi, talk about music, and text frequently.

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Today, Rowe’s daughter, Paris, is all grown up. She has made her mark in the entertainment industry as a singer, musician, model, and actress. Paris, who just turned 26, has spoken warmly of her relationship with Rowe. In an interview with Willow Smith in 2021, she disclosed that Rowe entered her life when she was 15 in 2013, and their bond has since strengthened.

Paris shared the joy of discovering her mother’s interests and musical preferences, and how strikingly similar they were. She described the experience of having her mother as a friend as “cool” and “very chill.” On the other hand, Rowe announced her engagement to Marc Schaffel, a music producer and a trusted friend of Jackson, in 2014.

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He presented Rowe with a gorgeous 3.55-carat diamond sparkler, which she proudly displayed in a Facebook post. Interestingly, Jackson had a close professional relationship with Schaffel, collaborating on several projects and acknowledging him as an executive producer on the song “What More Can I Give.”

Debbie Rowe seen on April 28, 2005 in Santa Maria, California | Source: Getty Images

Debbie Rowe seen on April 28, 2005 in Santa Maria, California | Source: Getty Images

Debbie Rowe has been through many challenges. She has endured public scrutiny, legal issues, and personal battles. Despite the rumors and speculation that followed Jackson’s death, Rowe has remained steadfast in her commitment to her children.

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