HONOURING outré Commes des Garçons designer Rei Kawakubo, the May 1 Met Gala was supposed to be a tribute to the avant-garde.
Katy Perry showed up in a scarlet veil. Rihanna wore riotous piles of cutout floral circles. Jaden Smith walked the carpet with a fistful of his recently shorn dreadlocks as his “date.”
But the show was stolen by a 19-year-old in a demure black tea-length dress, when Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris, ascended the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art amid a lightning storm of paparazzi flashes, The New York Post reports.
Tongues wagged about her being the guest of her gown’s designer, Calvin Klein creative director Raf Simons, alongside longtime Calvin muses Julianne Moore and Gwyneth Paltrow.
A week later, the style world was shocked when The New York Post reported that Paris had landed a massive seven-figure deal with the New York fashion house.
“I don’t think she was on anyone’s radar fashionwise until recently,” says a fashion-industry veteran who noted that only months ago any brand could have lured Jackson to an event for the bargain-basement price of a few thousand dollars — or even free clothes.
But, seemingly out of nowhere, she has landed the covers of magazines CR Fashion Book (headed by former French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld) in March and Harper’s Bazaar in April.
And three days before the Met Gala, it was announced that Paris had snagged a role alongside Charlize Theron in a still-untitled film.
This is not the C-list territory where you find so many celebrity spawn.
“There is an excitement about her and there is something intriguing about her,” said a casting agent who noted the quality of the jobs Paris has landed.
And while the new actress and model’s last name may have gotten her foot in the door, she’s doing it with no help from her late father’s extended family, sources said.
“Paris has realised a lot of what her dad experienced with his family — bitterness, jealousy, manipulation, even hate,” a Paris confidante told The New York Post.
A Jackson family source confirmed: “She’s not leaning on the family at all for advice. She sees people not willing to work hard, not willing to take things to the next level … Laziness and reliance on the family name.”
And Paris is, they said, determined to make it on her own. But is this young woman, who was so recently a little girl lost, worth — and ready for — such huge, high-profile gigs right now?
The one person she is turning to for advice is her 20-year-old brother Michael Joseph Jackson Jr., aka Prince.
“Prince, believe it or not, has been the single individual who has been guiding his sister,” the Paris confidante said. “For a time, Paris wanted to honour her father by becoming a singer.”
The family source added that the kids’ aunt La Toya Jackson pushed Paris toward music for a while but provided little in the way of support or connections.
“La Toya gave lip service, but never delivered,” the source said.
Instead, Prince stepped in and talked his sister out of it.
“Prince told her that [their father’s former wife and the daughter of Elvis Presley] Lisa Marie Presley wanted to do the same but failed at it, and he didn’t want [Paris] to fail at it,” said the confidante. “He told her that folks would be comparing her to Michael — and you can’t compare anyone favourably to Michael. He told her that she could not only be a model, but a supermodel.”
After working for a spell at E!, Prince — who is studying film and television production at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles — has cultivated an influential group of friends, including Arnold Stiefel, who manages Rod Stewart and helped steer the careers of Bette Midler and Guns N’ Roses.
In October, Paris signed to Stiefel Entertainment, and they brokered a meeting with powerhouse modelling agency IMG, which has made stars of Bella and Gigi Hadid.
“The moment she signed with IMG [in March], that was a game changer,” said the fashion insider. “IMG are my least favourite people to deal with for negotiations. They are the toughest.”
And Paris is being represented by the toughest of the toughest: IMG president Ivan Bart himself.
“Prince insists that top-notch folks handle his sister,” the Paris confidante said. “It had to be the boss.”
The Calvin Klein deal — which, at seven figures, the fashion source said, likely locks Paris down for three to five years — means she will be following in the footsteps of
Brooke Shields, Kate Moss and Mark Wahlberg, all of whose careers were launched by the label.
“From a brand DNA perspective, it makes sense. It’s very Calvin to be provocative and be first” the fashion insider added. “Paris has been kind of an outsider. And wow, did she come out with a bang.”
Up until the start of 2017, headlines related to Paris weren’t of the kind most young models and actors would want.
Paris, Prince and their younger brother Bigi (formerly known as “Blanket”), now 15, were raised largely in seclusion by their father, who tended to take them out in public with their faces covered by masks or scarfs. Although his intentions were to shield them, it only made the curious public more hungry to see them once Michael died in 2009 from acute intoxication brought on by powerful sedatives.
Custody of the three children went to their paternal grandmother, Katherine Jackson. But as Katherine’s health reportedly began to fail in 2012 and the singer’s siblings fought over his will and control of his massive estate, guardianship over the children was expanded to include T.J. Jackson, the youngest son of Michael’s brother Tito.
The tumult continued in 2014, when Paris and Prince’s biological mother, Debbie Rowe, made a custody bid for her daughter, only to drop it a year later. Having reportedly tried to take her own life, Paris was sent to a therapeutic school in Utah. After her 18th birthday, she moved out of her grandmother’s house and into Hayvenhurst, the Jackson’s family’s old estate in Encino, California, where she lives on her own.
“I’m a completely different person,” Paris told Rolling Stone in January. “I was going through a lot of, like, teen angst. And I was also dealing with my depression and my anxiety without any help.”
As part of her metamorphosis from little girl lost to “It” girl, she’s also ditched her nearly nine-years-older boyfriend, Michael Snoddy.
“Letting her boyfriend shack up with her at Hayvenhurst was a mistake, but she grew up quick and got rid of him and his baggage and realised she wasn’t going to be tied down,” said the family source.
And she’s very much out from under her relatives’ thumbs.
“She hasn’t asked the family for support or their OK [with her career],” the Jackson source added. “Not even T.J., and
she hasn’t spoken much with Katherine,” who is reportedly living in London with daughter Janet.
In addition to Prince, sources said that Paris has been confiding in her godfather, actor Macaulay Culkin, as well as Rowe.
“Debbie has been fighting [breast] cancer, and because Paris has been there helping her it’s helped Paris to grow up and … see just how precious life really is,” said the Paris confidante.
So can Paris hack it, given the enormity of the deals she’s inked?
Famed fashion editor Roitfeld told The Post that she certainly thinks so.
“I was intrigued by her,” she said, having first met Paris on her magazine’s cover shoot by iconic photographer Mario Sorrenti. “I found her to be very laid back, confident and extremely eager to take part in the shoot and creative process.”
Roitfeld, who was also instrumental early in Gigi Hadid’s career, escorted Paris to a few fashion shows in the city for which she was named. She also proved to be a sort of fairy godmother for the teen’s acting career when she enlisted Oscar-nominated director Lee Daniels to interview Paris for CR. Daniels was so impressed he signed the cover girl up for a multi-episode guest stint on his Fox TV show Star.
Now, the casting director said, it’s up to Paris, who has been taking acting lessons for years, to keep it going.
“I truly believe the name will open doors on the movie front, but I don’t think she will get gigs just based on the name. In order to make those next steps, she has to prove herself.”
The Paris confidante said her dream is to play pop legend Madonna — who last year revealed to Late Late Show host James Corden that she’d made out with Michael Jackson, her date to the 1991 Academy Awards. (With her platinum blond crop and thick eyebrows, Paris in Harper’s Bazaar looked uncannily like Papa Don’t Preach-era Madonna.)
The Jackson source said the family is concerned “about how quick this is happening [for Paris] — the big deal, the busy life. [They] think she could lose control if a magazine shoot goes bad or a film flops.”
But, the source added, “Prince will step in if he thinks she’s headed in the wrong direction.”
No matter what, Paris will be there for Bigi, whom The New York Post recently reported is living virtually alone — save for hired help — in the Calabasas, California, manse all three of
Michael’s children used to call home.
“She’s not about to leave Bigi behind,” said the family source. “He’ll be present at shoots and screenings. Prince, Paris and Bigi realise they’ve got to stick together.”
Those close to Paris predict she’ll make the Jackson name great again.
“Paris isn’t someone you can keep down and out. Yes, we all know about the … suicide [attempts] and the sexual abuse. [Paris told Rolling Stone that, at age 14, she was abused by a stranger.] But I remember one day she stood up and said, ‘I’m not going to be a victim all of my life … this isn’t what Dad would have wanted. He’d tell me to overlook even the most painful of situations and not just work through them, but break through them.’ ”
During a recent trip to Neverland, the sprawling ranch where Michael’s children were raised, the confidante said Paris strolled the mostly empty rooms for the first time in a while.
“She said she never felt more inspired and that her brother was right. She was going to do show business the way she wants to do show business. On her own terms.”
This story originally appeared in The New York Post and has been republished here with permission.
Originally published as Paris Jackson’s rise to Hollywood ‘It’ girl