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La Toya Jackson Learns Life’s Lessons
More confident Jackson discusses her past, her family and her new album
06.13.05

By Paul E. Pratt

It’s been a long time since La Toya Jackson has had a hit single on the charts - almost 25 years, in fact! Avid club-goers, though, know the voice behind recent dancefloor hits “Just Wanna Dance” and “Free the World” were indeed La Toya - and she is back in rare form!

While La Toya is not a total stranger to chart success, for most of her life in the public eye, she has left music to her brother Michael and baby sister Janet. It was a penchant for controversy that made La Toya most famous - some might even argue “infamous.” Of course, infamy and an underdog are two things gays simply love, and it’s been no different for La Toya.

Gays love bad girls, and La Toya fit the bill! She stripped to her birthday suit for Playboy and dished the dirt on the Jackson clan in best-selling autobiography LaToya: Growing Up in the Jackson Family. While those in the mainstream recoiled at news of a Jackson starring in a burlesque show at Paris’ notorious “Moulin Rouge,” one can imagine a rousing “You Go, Girl!” from the gay community.

And now she’s back! During an appearance on Larry King Live last fall, LaToya announced plans for a new studio album, her first record in a decade. A January 2005 appearance on the news program 20/20 uncovered details of LaToya’s separation from her former manager/husband, who she claims was manipulative, controlling, abusive, often made decisions about her career against her will.

In an exclusive interview with GayWired’s Paul E. Pratt, LaToya talks about the support of her gay fans, breaking free of bad relationships, coming to terms with her tumultuous past, her brother’s current struggles and pride in her aptly titled new CD, Startin’ Over.

Why all the release delays for Startin’ Over?

It has been delayed quite a bit, hasn’t it? We wanted a proper deal. We wanted it to be fair. Finally, we got this deal which is very fair with Universal/Bungalo. We’re happy about it.

The first two singles have done very well for you.

They’ve been basically for the clubs, and they’ve done very well. I’m very excited about that.

What made you decide to focus more on the club industry?

I’ve always liked that market, always, the clubs. They have been so supportive of me. Years ago, I remember being at a meeting and my record label said, “Did you know 99-percent of your audience are gay?” I was really excited about that.

You released club hit “Just Wanna Dance” under your nickname, “Toy,” to avoid negative associations people have about you and your family name. How do you feel gay audiences see you?

I don’t have a clue. People are very gentle when you see them out. I really don’t know what their true perception is. They’re very lovely. From what I gather, people just love the fact that I’m very open and speak what I feel.

“Just Wanna Dance” talks about going to a club and having people not know whether you’re a man or woman. What inspired those lyrics?

Those lyrics were inspired from my going to clubs and dressing as a guy. You know how you look at a certain person and go, “Is that a guy or a girl?” They couldn’t decide. There were people in the club who said, “That looks like a tiny Michael Jackson.” I had the goatee, the whole bit.

What made you want to do that?

Well, I did it on two occasions. Once I had to go to a club I didn’t feel I should have been in. The second time I said, “You know, let me go and have fun and just enjoy myself.” That’s what I did. It was a day when I just wanted to get away from everything, and I just wanted to dance and nothing else.

In the song’s lyrics, you mention kissing a woman on the neck and dancing chest to chest. Have you had sexual interaction with a woman?

Have I had sexual interaction with a female? It’s a question I prefer not to answer.

That hints toward some kind of dark secret. Do you keep secrets?

It’s just something I prefer not to answer right now.

Let me ask this: Do you find other women attractive?

I think all women are beautiful and attractive - very precious. I think everyone on this earth is beautiful. You can find beauty in everything. I try to look at life that way.

What are your feelings about gay marriage?

It is so difficult in the world for people to find love, true love. When people are in love, I don’t see anything wrong with it in the world. If they choose to live their lives and get married, why should we interfere? A lot of people don’t agree with me, but that’s how I feel.

You have faced a number of complications with your relationships. My understanding is Startin’ Over reflects a lot of those changes. How are things different for you today?

Things are quite different today than they were in the past. When I first started, I had absolutely no experience whatsoever. From growth, being around a certain individual, and letting someone have that power and control over me, taught me a great deal about people, a great deal about life, about what you should do and what not to do and take your own position on life. That’s what Startin’ Over is about, because that’s what I decided to do.

Do you feel people connect with you based on your past of having been in an abusive, controlling relationship?

Yes, I do. It’s interesting, because I was going to say “a lot of women,” but there is something about this subject we shy away from and don’t want to speak on. I get a lot of gay guys who come up to me and spill their beans, pour their heart out and tell me how they have been abused and things of that nature. It touches me emotionally. I feel so bad because I lived that life. I understand why people are the way they are, why some of us are so submissive, because you live your lives in slight fear. I think too often it’s too little said.

You have had a reputation as one of the more rebellious members in your family. To what do you attribute that trait?

That’s quite interesting. I didn’t know that. No, I’m just kidding. “Rebellious.” No, I’ve never looked at myself that way. Never. It might have appeared that way, but, no, that’s not me at all. Yes, I did Playboy, and it was something forbidden in my family... I would never do that again. It’s not me. I am where I am now because of what happened in my past.

What are your thoughts on the whole incident with Janet?

With Jan, I truly feel that it was an accident. I think it’s totally unfair Jan [sic] took the rap for it. I also think that it was totally blown out of proportion. You have to think about this, too: Jan didn’t expose her breast. Justin did it. (Laughs.)

You have been very outspoken in support of your brother, Michael, who is going through a very rough time. How is that impacting your family as a whole?

I really believe he’s going to be vindicated, and he knows that. It’s been very taxing on everybody, but it’s just part of life one goes through. Whenever someone goes through something like this, you have to be there, you have to be supportive, make sure everyone is ok. And he’s going to be fine. He’s going to be just fine. And my mother... it’s just so much on her. We’re going to get through this trying time.

What excites you most about Startin’ Over?
It’s coming from my heart, and it’s revealing to you, the people, what I feel. To me, this is my best work because of what I put into it. I’ve surrounded myself with great people. I’ve learned how to go after what I want and be me. I didn’t know how to do that before.

What would you like your fans, in particular your gay fans, to know about La Toya Jackson?

I would like them to know that I love them very much. I appreciate everything they have done, because they have really supported me. I want to thank them for being themselves and very open. It helps me grow, too. I want to say that it’s because of my fans, in particular my gay fans, because they tend to be a little more outspoken about their feelings, that I have gotten the inspiration to do this. It’s because of them that I’m Startin’ Over.

For more information about La Toya Jackson and her upcoming album Startin’ Over, visit: www.LaToyaOnline.com

© 2005 Paul E. Pratt, All Rights Reserved

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