I admit it: La Toya has always been one of my favorite Jacksons ever since we first met at a mutual friend's wedding many years ago (and I've known her entire family).
So it makes me mad when people don't get how fantastically warm, witty and hilarious she is. But finally fans are now getting a big taste of all of that though by reading her new tell-all autobiography, Starting Over, and listening to her new album (of the same name).
I just caught up with Toya in NYC to discuss her new projects, some longheld misconceptions about her and how her legendary bro Michael's kids are doing.
UsMagazine.com: Why did you want to write the book?
La Toya Jackson: This book was written for people who have endured abuse. Women cannot allow men to rob their self-esteem and self-worth. I want them to know that they can use their voice to make a change. When women saw my 20/20 episode they wanted to hear the rest of my story. That is when I put pen to paper and just said, 'I need to do something about this.'
Us: How long did it take you to write the book?
LJ: I started writing the book in February 2008 and finished 2 months ago. I put it on the back burner because I didn’t want people to think, 'oh she is putting the book out because people are talking about Janet's Super Bowl incident and Michael's court appearance.' Unfortunately Michael passed so I waited until everything was straightened out. The company wanted me to incorporate Michael and I realized he is a part of my life and he just passed so people are going to think I was selfish if I didn't include him.
Us: What do you think is the biggest misconception that you hope the book clears up?
LJ: People think I am crazy. I tell myself, 'I know who I am and as long as God knows who I am, that is all that matters. God knows that I am a good person. I don't care what other people think. That is what kept me sane because if I thought about what others think about me, I would crush, cry, and die.
Us: Are you jealous of Michael and Janet's success?
LJ: Absolutely not. I am proud of my siblings for making a tremendous mark in history and weaving their way to the top. I never wanted a musical career, it was my father who said, 'no you are going to do this.' I studied business law in school and he kicked me out and said, 'no you are going to be like everybody else.'
Us: Do you feel bad when lies get printed about the family?
LJ: I do but that is the way the business works and you have to brush it off. It is like water moving on a ducks back, you just keep moving forward.
Us: What do you think are the most powerful messages in your album?
LJ: The album is about the pain I endured while with Gordon. My family would wonder, 'who is making her do Playboy?' Who is making her say these things? He would threaten to kill Michael and I if I didn't say the things he wanted. I was submissive because he would beat me and control me and lock me in closets. I had the opportunity to start over again but my brother did not have that opportunity and that is what hurts more than anything else. The angel came out after I was free.
Us: Have you ever thought of finding a boyfriend?
LJ: Growing up as a Jehovah Witness, I was taught that you don't date unless you have marriage in mind. I still have the values but I am not associated with any organized religion. I have my faith with God and I am spiritual. I have a best friend by the name of Jeffre Phillips who I simply adore. He is a wonderful person. We click very well and we are best friends. We think alike which is great.
Us: Do you feel like you were burned from marriage after Jack?
LJ: When I left him, I thought I don't ever want to see another man for the rest of my life. In my mind it wasn't my fault but if it happens again it's my fault because I could've learned from my mistakes. There has never been a real interest to remarry because of the pain I endured. I overlook that and try not to care about things of that nature.
Us: Was that the same case for Michael?
LJ: It wasn't that he was hurt but he had no interest. His career came first.
Us: What do you think is going to end up happening with Michael's estate?
LJ: My brother told me he did not want Sony and John Branca involved in his life. These people came into my brother's life a week prior to his death. If you follow the money trail and the people handling everything, you will know what happened to my brother. Our family has nothing to do with this estate.
Us: How has the mourning process been?
LJ: It is difficult because I want justice for my brother and I want his children to have everything he left them. It is unfair that the people he had eradicated from his life are the people who came back and are controlling his estate.
Us: How have the children reconnected with the family?
LJ: Before they were traveling so we would see them when we visited Neverland. They are resilient. They lost their father and they really didn't have a mother that they knew. It is nice to be with them. I speak to them all the time and we text back and forth. I want them to be wherever Michael wanted them to be. I want them to be the best at whatever they chose to be.
Us: What are the children like?
LJ: Prince is exceptionally smart and loves excelling. He is at the age where he listens to all types of music. Paris is brilliant too. She is taller than I am and boy they grow fast. Blanket is simply adorable.
Us: How are Paris and Prince adjusting to school?
LJ: Blanket wants whatever his father wanted for him and dad wanted him to be home schooled so he is going to keep it that way. I see a major difference in Paris and Prince since they've been going to school. They are open to conversation. They are learning about the world, and they know a lot more than I do. When you keep kids secluded and confined and they are smart but at the end of the day, it is the real world you have to deal with.
Us: How are the children enjoying their freedom?
LJ: Michael did not want them to be exposed to the world because he felt that the world was corrupted. When they speak to me I just listen and go, 'oh really what makes you think that?' I never bring a subject up that is too personal because I want them to feel comfortable. They are going to the movies and doing all the things their dad restricted them from doing. Before they could only watch the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon when it was allotted to them once or twice a week for an hour. He spent time telling them, 'what book did you read today? Read another book.'
Us: What happens when they hear something about their dad?
LJ: They love listening to his music. I would cry and beg them to turn it off, because the memory is there. When working on songs he would ask me, 'LaToya, how should I sing this?' I would go, 'change it to falsetto or sing it this way or you should wear a suit with white socks and pull your pants up.' People didn't know and if I told them they would never believe it. The songs touch me now more than ever.
Us: Have you ever wanted kids yourself?
LJ: When I was 16-years-old I used to tell people, 'I am going to adopt because there are kids in the world that need help and I can provide for them.' Then I got trapped in this silly relationship that I couldn't get out of and who would want children during that? I would still love to adopt children. There are kids out there who need love and I can give them that nurture and care.
Us: Do you have any future plans?
LJ: I have to complete the last full album. I want music out of my system and I want to focus on business. I love to sing behind the scenes. I have perfume coming out called Simply La Toya in addition to a purse line. We have this product called ASAP (Auto Spa Amazing Products), which allows you to wash your car seven times without using water. Your car looks like you just drove it out of the car wash. I named my Celebrity Apprentice team after the product.