Deborah Jeanne Rowe is the former wife of pop icon, Michael Jackson. Following a bitter split from her first husband, she met Jackson while working for his dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein. Rowe, who had been an ardent fan of the singer even before they formally met, attended to him during his visits to Dr. Klein and a friendship soon developed between them. She would later volunteer to bear Jackson’s child after his marriage with Lisa Marie Presley fell apart. Soon, she became pregnant and three months before the birth of their son, they got married. They eventually had a daughter as well. They divorced in 1999 and she gave up all her custodial rights, effectively making Jackson the sole parent of their two children. In the ensuing years, she emerged as one of the staunchest supporters of the pop star, even during the period when he was accused of child molestation. After Jackson’s death, she gained supervised visitation rights to see her children.
Childhood & Early Life
Debbie Rowe was born on December 6, 1958, in Spokane, Washington, United States, to Gordon Rowe and Barbara Chilcutt. A few weeks before she turned two, her father divorced her mother. Debbie was then raised by her mother, maternal grandmother, and aunts. She has a half-sister named Loretta Scarlett Rowe through her father.
She studied at ‘Hollywood High School,’ graduating in 1977. Her first husband, Richard Edelman, was a science teacher at ‘Hollywood High,’ and Rowe had developed a crush on him.
Since childhood, she was reserved, alienated, and lonely. This effectively hindered her psychological growth. Well into her 20s, she had not attained emotional and sexual maturity. Following the completion of her education, she immediately began working as a medical assistant for the Los Angeles-based dermatologist, Dr Arnold Klein. In 1982, she married Edelman, but it was a tremulous union, mainly due to financial reasons. The marriage eventually fell apart in 1988 when the couple was forced to file for bankruptcy. Shortly after this, Rowe divorced Edelman.
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Marriage to Michael Jackson
Rowe met Jackson at Klein’s office, which he used to visit for his vitiligo treatment. He was diagnosed in 1986 and the disease would considerably affect his physical appearance for the rest of his life. Jackson, whose marriage with Lisa Marie Presley was deteriorating, found a kindred spirit in Rowe. She supported him and gave him the necessary answers that he wanted about his medical condition. Initially, Jackson kept his friendship with Rowe a secret from Presley, but she eventually found out about their bonding. However, she did not think much of it as she thought Rowe was not glamorous enough to gain Jackson’s attention.
With Presley already having voiced her refusal to have children, Rowe offered to bear Jackson a child. After his separation from Presley, Rowe was artificially inseminated with his sperm. However, she ended up suffering a miscarriage. Throughout the ordeal, Jackson was by her side, providing her comfort. During the ‘HIStory World Tour’ in October 1996, and months after his divorce from Presley was finalized, it was announced that Rowe was pregnant with Jackson’s child.
When she heard the news, Jackson’s mother, Katherine, implored him to marry Rowe, so that his child would not be born out of wedlock. Jackson agreed and the wedding took place on November 13, 1996. Their first child, Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr. (also known as Prince Michael), was born on February 13, 1997. A year later, on April 3, 1998, she gave birth to their daughter, Paris Jackson.
Divorce & Later Life
After learning that Debbie Rowe would not be able to bear more children, the couple decided to divorce. Michael assumed the full responsibility of their two children. Despite the repeated denial from both parties that the marriage was strictly an economic relationship, it was later revealed that Jackson’s payment to Rowe had reached millions of dollars. He also bought her a $1.3 million home in Beverly Hills in 1997. Rowe completely gave up her custodial rights during their divorce proceedings, which was finalized on October 8, 1999. She terminated her parental rights to the two children in 2001.
After Jackson was accused of child molestation in 2004, Rowe went back to the court to get that order reversed; ostensibly, she feared that the children would be mistreated in Jackson’s absence. Regarding the child molestation charges, she came out in full support of her former husband. In 2005, she sold her Beverly Hills house and moved to Palmdale where she started to breed horses.
On June 25, 2009, Jackson died of acute propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication. Following rumors that Rowe was not the biological mother of his first two children, she released multiple statements through her attorney, denying the reports. She filed a successful lawsuit against a source who had handed over private e-mails to the entertainment news program ‘Extra,’ winning $27,000 in damages. She and Katherine reached a settlement in August 2009 that gave her rights to visit her children.
In 2014, Rowe announced her engagement to music producer and former videographer Marc Schaffel. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016.