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Jackson's love-hate relationship with the camera

world Updated: Jun 26, 2009 14:36 IST
Highlight Story

Some superstars love the cameras. Some hate them. But few have ever provided them as many memorable images as Michael Jackson.

It started with his images as a precocious black pre-teen, wearing orange dungarees and an Afro, dancing and singing with the composure of an industry superstar.

A few years later he had further developed his look. He took to wearing one glove, and period military jackets covered in sequins and precious stones.

But even more than his unique costumes Jackson defined his style with his singular way of dancing. Best known for inventing the moonwalk, he also changed the way pop stars moved with his angular, fast-paced choreography, and superbly produced videos.

His physical looks prompted intense speculation throughout his life. He had his first plastic surgery operation after breaking his nose while practicing a dance routine in 1979. He complained about difficulty breathing and had many more operations, resulting in a strange facial appearance in which his nose seemed to have collapsed.

Jackson's skin tone also considerably lightened over the years. Jackson put this down to a skin disease known as Vitilgo, but many observers also suspected that he purposely tried to change his skin tone.

Michael Jackson's video for "Thriller" with his iconic red leather jacket was actually a mini musical that made history and forced MTV to start showing music by black musicians.

It was the impact of "Thriller" that was to have Jackson's greatest cultural significance.

"His influence was more than the sum of his talents," says Chery Paris, a former professor of cultural history in the University of California.

"His music paved the way for hip hop, his presence helped African-Americans into the mainstream. But it was his sheer star quality and presence that made him the first global black megastar and made pop music a global phenomenon. People of all ages everywhere around the world were fascinated by him," Paris said.

Yet in later years these images were overshadowed but ever more bizarre photos as Jackson began to appear increasingly frail. He was rarely seen in public without a face mask - whether for protection from germs or to hide his disfigured face.

On one of his rare appearances for fans he caused controversy while in Berlin for a private visit, dangling his squirming baby over a hospital balcony, raising serious questions about his judgement.

At his arraignment for child molestation in California in 2004, he jumped on a car to wave energetically to thousands of adoring fans - but then appeared frail thoughout the trial.

One time he even turned up late for court in his pyjamas. He faced a maximum 20 years in jail, but was ultimately acquitted. Yet as he tried to escape from the unwanted glare of the world's cameras, it was clear that he remained in the prison of his own personality and fame.