*Sorry. They say truth can be hard on the ears. But face it, some things you’ve just got to live with. So I’ve got one bit of advice for the Michael Jackson fans who continue to throw shade at Shana Mangatal, the beautiful woman who had a decades long friendship and romance with the King of Pop, and seven years after his passing turned her diaries into a book titled, Michael and Me.
Get over yourself.
Hear me out, will ya? When I was first approached by veteran publicist Lynn Jeter, to review ‘Michael and Me,’ I had the same apprehension as many of you. Afterall, how easy would it be for some twit to fabricate a story about a romance with the world’s biggest star…after he died and couldn’t refute it!
I was prepared to not like it, or HER, at all (and would later tell her this)! The invitation to review the book came with a package that included several reviews that had already been written. But I trashed them without even looking (still haven’t!) as any writer worth his or her salt relies on her own thoughts and this writer didn’t need help from anyone.
So I read and reviewed the book. And if you haven’t already, you can read that review here. But afterwards I felt I had to interview Shana Mangatal. I felt a connection with her. Not only because many of the things in her book checked out against my own personal knowledge, the history of the times, etc., but because we both shared a rare, yet similar relationship with larger-than-life men.
I, with another celebrity…icon.
I purposely chose to write about my interview with Shana on ThisNthat, a blog site that would allow me, as a writer, the freedom I don’t have while writing a review; or writing on a site such as EURweb.
One thing Shana and I understood from the onset of that interview is, with all due respect, these kinds of stories will not be believed by many. Innately, people just don’t believe things like this can happen. There probably isn’t a tween girl alive that hasn’t dreamt about meeting their celebrity crush, and even marrying him. Shoot, these things don’t really happen, right?
Wrong. Especially if you live in a place like Los Angeles.
Just because you don’t think these things can happen doesn’t mean they can’t. Michael Jackson was…is…the most famous person in the world. This is undeniable. So naturally the mind won’t allow you to believe that he could possibly have a relationship with someone who is not famous.
But after reading the book, and the details that support the recollections in it — compared with my own background information on many of the people, places and things inside, it’s not hard to believe at all that there was a relationship AND a romance.
Yet and still I knew that you, the readers, and MJ fans, would want me to go deeper. Details right? So here is. Part 1 of my nearly two-hour telephone interview with Shana Mangatal.
I found Shana to be a lovely, warm and transparent woman. Not someone hungry for attention. She is poised, intelligent and sensitive. We talked easily on the phone; many times talking over each other in the excitement of the moment. But it was not hard at all to hear her genuine respect, love and admiration for Michael and the protective stance she takes towards his legacy.
During my research prior to the review, I saw photos of Shana with many of the world’s most recognized celebrities and learned that she has built a career in music management. So pictures such as these are not out of the ordinary for many of us working in the entertainment industry.
Please also remember that when you live in a metropolis such as Los Angeles, many, and I do mean many of its “regular people” work behind the scenes in the entertainment industry and OFTEN for, with, or near celebrities.
Shana, not unlike me, is no exception.
What IS the exception is that she had an intimate relationship with a man whose public persona defies the possibility.
The interview starts now.
How do you think Michael would respond to the book?
I think now, because of how his legacy is coming out, people are still [stops] …it seems to get worse every year. And for me to come out and say hey, he wasn’t like that. He was a human being. He was a man because it seems that as the years go on he’s turning into, not even a human being. Just a caricature, you know? Not who he really was, so I do think he would appreciate that I have the strength and the courage to come out and defend his honor, and defend him as a human being…I felt him guiding me throughout the whole entire process of writing it. I could feel him saying ‘just keep going. Keep doing it.’
“He used to tell me that, there’s a part in the book that talks about Ola Ray and Tatiana [Thumbtzen]. He was literally upset that they hadn’t taken advantage of their time with him and his videos. He felt like he’d given them the perfect opportunity. Those were his exact words: ‘I gave those girls the perfect opportunity to make something of themselves and look what they did with it: Nothing.’”
And so I kept hearing that in my mind as well. I was thinking OK, the universe put me in Michael’s life for a reason and I have an opportunity here to help clear his name. Help people understand who he actually was, because no one seems to be doing that or able to do that and I just felt it was what I was meant to do.”
Why now, 7 years after his passing?
“It actually took that long for me to have the emotional strength to go back into that world.”
Writer’s sidebar: Please believe that this is true when you are a part of this world. I kid you not. It can be very emotionally draining.
Shana chuckles slightly as she says, ‘I believe I had post traumatic stress disorder because when he passed away I couldn’t watch his videos, I couldn’t listen to his music, I couldn’t even see pictures of him. And I certainly didn’t want to think of any of my time or memories with him. Even the happiest moments made me sad just to think about because I knew what the outcome was. Him passing away. So it really took me this long to go back into that life and that world.”
We share memories about the day Michael died and what we were doing and what we couldn’t do.
“Because it’s difficult. It takes you right back to that moment. And my book is from my diary. Diaries. Like 20 years. So it literally took me back to when I was 17. And 23. You know, when you’re reading your own words from 20 years ago, it’s kind of powerful. You become that person again.
How would you address the skeptics, the fans who are throwing shade and claim you are being dishonest?
It’s hard. I can’t read them because I get really upset. Because I’m sensitive. I’m not one of the people who can just read things and laugh it off, then come back with a quick, nasty comment to the person. I’m not like that. I really take these things to heart. Because I put my heart and soul into the book and this is my life we’re talking about; it’s not somebody else’s life that I wrote about. It’s my life. Things that I’ve experienced, so to have people say things like, ‘oh you’re lying’ or ‘you’re this or that’ it’s hurtful and you want to just scream out to each and every one of them.
And the thing that is even more upsetting is that most of the people saying that haven’t even read the book. And I can tell that just by the things that they’re saying and I tell them ‘if you just read the book you will see that’s not the case. You will see what happened and that I’m pretty open with everything, the good and the bad; on both sides. I’m not trying to paint this fantasy romance that was all wine and roses.’
Shana admits if it was a fictional book she would’ve made it a lot different.
I would’ve made it a lot juicier with a better ending. It wouldn’t have been this crazy madness that actually was what it was. And I made the conscious effort to just write it exactly as it happened. I didn’t want to sugarcoat things, I didn’t want to qualify things or you know, twist it into something that it wasn’t. I just put it all out there for people to judge on their own.
Shana says that’s exactly how she felt in the moment of her reality. Even she was confused at times. It appears Jackson would send mixed messages. Shana admits she would be expecting things to turn out one way – but ultimately, something totally different would come into play.
When you were writing in your diary did it ever dawn on you that one day you’d be writing a book?
As I was writing these amazing things that was happening to me at the time I would think, ‘Man, one day this would make an amazing book!’ Yeah, I did think that and I was hoping that one day it could be turned into a book. But I never thought Michael would pass away so soon, you know? So I was thinking, ‘When I’m 80 I can turn it into a book maybe (giggles).’
Shana reveals this is why it was only recently that she could even go back and read her diary notes.
She admits, “I just wasn’t prepared.”
Michael was always presented as this extremely shy guy. Often we would see him placing his hands up to his mouth when he spoke. And that timid little voice, OMG. I couldn’t help but ask…
Do you think Michael’s “shyness” was an act?
Shana’s pause here makes me think she is actually considering that it was. She starts her answer hesitantly, then goes the other way.
I don’t think it was an act. In certain situations he certainly was uncomfortable or embarrassed. Because you know, everyone would be staring at him, and he was very self conscious of his looks and his face. That’s what made him appear to be shy, but in real life he was not a shy person. That was not his character. That wasn’t his personality. He was actually an extrovert. He loved attention. He loved people watching him and he loved having all eyes on him when he was in ‘Michael Jackson Mode.’
Shana reveals that Jackson, in real life, when NOT in ‘MJ mode’ was the kind of guy who was upbeat, talkative, joked around a lot and laughed all the time.
He would talk a mile a minute sometimes and you wouldn’t be able to get a word in edgewise. You know, he was a talker; which is the opposite of his image. People think he was soft-spoken and quiet. No, he talked all the time.
She says Michael was more of a people-person. He loved meeting new people and talking to everyone. “So I would not call him shy at all!” she laughs as if remembering a special moment.
We speak briefly about the 2005 trial and MJ’s behavior during this time. I mention to Shana how, during the long days of the trial, a comment I had heard from someone witnessing the trial up close was how at times MJ appeared to be sleeping with his eyes open at the defendant’s table. Shana mentions how embarrassed MJ was during this time, in addition to being heavily medicated.
I think [during] that whole trial he was really embarrassed. It was hard for him to look people in the eye because his whole life was being laid out in public, you know? What they had found at Neverland and all this stuff. That was horrific for him. And he was heavily medicated, I mean, who wouldn’t be? And that’s probably why he was asleep while he was awake. I don’t know how he even survived that. But literally that is what killed him. That was the beginning of the end.
I share with her that I was actually at the trial on the day Michael decided to jump up on the SUV to greet his fans. I was close enough to see the thought to do so enter his head, and I recall one of his bodyguards attempting to stop him saying, ‘Nah man. Don’t do it,” but to no avail.
I know we didn’t have access to ‘selfies’ and such during the time you were with Michael, but I did find myself wondering why there weren’t more pictures of you with Michael in the book. There is only one photo. The cover shot. And you don’t have to be a brainiac to see it was just a photo michael took with ‘a fan.’
I know. And that’s one of the things the fans attacked me about. He would always say ‘no pictures’ and I knew how he was. And the thing with me is that I wasn’t a fan during those times, I was actually working with him so I knew how he felt about pictures. And I also could’ve been fired because I had done the wrong thing. So I was always cognizant of my place and his feelings about things. He would wear a surgeon’s mask out in public because he didn’t want to be photographed. And I knew that about him.
And you’re right, back then it wasn’t like we could just whip out a cell phone and take a picture. And if I’m alone with him, it’s not like I’m going to whip out a Kodak camera and take a picture, she laughs.
Shana says pictures were taken of them while on the set of MJ’s film, Ghost, but they were taken by the singer’s personal photographer and they are now in the possession of his estate.
Ok, it’s time this writer came clean.
I share with Shana why I understand her excitement when MJ first laid eyes on her and, as she describes in the book, pointed to her in the first row at his concert at Madison Square Garden as he sang the lyric, she likes the way I stare. I told her I could practically hear her squeal and we both giggle like schoolgirls as I recall the story of how I first met my own idol, Sly Stone.
I tell her how I, too, was at a concert in Madison Square Garden, in nose-bleed seats; and worked my way down to the stage. THE STAGE, do you hear me? I get onstage and actually start dancing to the music with Sly. Now, in all fairness, other fans (who were seated much closer) had been invited up on stage so it wasn’t like I just appeared up there out of nowhere.
But these things happen. And if you are a fan living on the outskirts of a small town, you may find it hard to believe. That wasn’t the end of my Sly Stone “meeting.” In fact, it was just the beginning.
Keep it locked. Part II coming soon.
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