As the most famous musical progeny on the planet, Paris Jackson is following in her father Michael’s footsteps with an album of deeply personal songs. Lifelong family friend Kathy Hilton speaks to her about healing, her inner hippie and making “honest” music
Words by STEPHANIE RAFANELLI Photography by DANIELLE LEVITT Fashion Direction by MARYAM MALAKPOUR
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Paris Jackson doesn’t like labels. If she had to pick, she’d prefer to describe herself as a “musician” and “activist.” More than words, though, she wears herself on her skin: her intense 22 years of life inscribed in over 50 tattoos all over her body, for those curious enough to read past her last name. Today, she sits on the floor between ethereal white drapes, all blue eyes and cheekbones, like an intricate human sketchbook. A bright sunflower on her forearm speaks to sunny times; seven chakras from her sternum to her navel, to healing; and reportedly nine tattoos dedicated to her beloved father, Michael Jackson — whom she lost when she was 11. “Queen of my heart” is scribbled on the side of her left wrist in his handwriting.
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Jackson — a singer-songwriter whose bohemian spirit is reminiscent of Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin and Joan Baez — might be most at ease seated on the floor barefoot with her acoustic guitar. But in her public life she is known for taking a stand. In the last few years she has spoken out to her 3.6 million Instagram followers in support of her “fellow LGBTQ+” community, climate action, Native American rights and her friend Paris Hilton, for breaking the code of silence around abuse in her 2020 YouTube Originals documentary This Is Paris. Jackson is a true 21st-century woman: publicly baring her body hair, her scars and her soul, being searingly honest about her mental health struggles as a 15-year-old and her spiritual path to recovery.
“Happy experiences inspire me. Traumatic experiences inspire me”
This outspokenness is all the more impressive given that she grew up in the cloistered world of Neverland Ranch (recently sold to supermarket billionaire Ron Burkle) with her brothers Prince (now 24; like Jackson, the child of Debbie Rowe) and Bigi (now 18, perhaps better known by his childhood nickname, “Blanket”), their privacy and identities fiercely guarded until they stood blinking in the spotlights at their father’s 2009 memorial concert at the Staples Center, which drew an estimated 2.5 billion viewers. Since moving out of her grandmother’s Calabasas home at 18, Jackson has made a cautious debut, dipping her toe back into the spotlight once again as the face of Calvin Klein, making guest TV appearances and performing around L.A. with her then boyfriend and bandmate from the Soundflowers. But it was the release of her haunting solo album Wilted last November, detailing the renewed wave of grief of their breakup, that singled Jackson out as an authentic talent: a melancholic artist unafraid to carve her own off-kilter space in the world.
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Few could be prouder of her than Kathy Hilton, mother of the other Paris and proxy mama to this one. The “friend of” cast member on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills was a close friend of Michael Jackson — they met at school in the 1970s. A fellow night owl, Hilton, 61, interviewed the L.A.-based Jackson via Zoom with C Magazine one evening, talking sound baths, Greta Thunberg, horror and the uplifting power of “disturbing art.”
Paris Jackson: What’s up, mama?
Kathy Hilton: Not much, little mama. I’m having a little wine. What’s going on?
PJ: I’m just drinking sparkling water. But I have two vapes. I have issues with nicotine.
KH: What time is it there?
PJ: It’s early, like 9:30 p.m. I go to sleep around 6:30 a.m. I think maybe it’s because my heart belongs in Europe. I live permanently on European time.
KH: I’m the same way.
PJ: I even have the Union Jack [tattooed] on my lower back. All of my best friends are in the UK, so [nighttime here is when I talk to them]. My music taste is British. Radiohead is my number one, and so are the Beatles.
C Magazine: So how do you ladies know each other?
KH: I’ve known Paris since she was born. She was the most beautiful little baby. And we had the opportunity to spend time together in New York, when Paris [and Michael were] living at the Waldorf Astoria for about six months. And also [when they lived in] Bel Air. She’s always been such a smart young woman, way beyond her years. And I’m just so proud of the independent woman that she’s become, being able to make music but stay in her own lane.
C: When was the last time you saw each other?<