Wild Facts About Debbie Rowe, Michael Jackson's Ex-Wife
You don't marry the King of Pop without getting some attention from the paparazzi. Debbie Rowe, the ex-wife of the late Michael Jackson, was all anyone could talk about in the mid-90s. The couple's relationship was plastered on the cover of every tabloid, but what was she really like?
Now in her 60s, the Debbie Rowe isn't quite what she was made out to be. The facts about her real backstory might surprise you.
Debbie Rowe Grew up in Spokane, Washington, and Now Lives In Palmdale, California
Debbie Rowe wasn't born into fame or fortune. She had a humble upbringing in Spokane, Washington.
Her father, Gordon Rowe, divorced her mother just a few weeks before Debbie turned 2. After that, she was raised by the women of her family: her mother, maternal grandmother and a few aunts.
Today, Rowe lives in Palmdale, about 70 miles north of Los Angeles, in a 1,748-square-foot home she purchased for $439,000 in November 2004.
She Was Married Once Before Her Relationship With Michael Jackson
Rowe was no stranger to wedding bells when she tied the knot with Michael Jackson. She was first wed to a man named Richard Edelman in 1982.
Little is known about his background, but Rowe converted to Judaism for him and later said that she felt "trapped" in their relationship.
Their marriage lasted six years before they got divorced and parted ways in 1988.
She Met Michael Jackson While Working as a Dermatology Assistant
Debbie Rowe actually knew Michael Jackson before she married Edelman. She met Michael while she was working as an assistant in a dermatology office owned by Dr. Arnold Klein.
During the course of his vitiligo treatment, the two struck up a close friendship.
Lisa Marie Presley, Michael's First Wife, Didn't See Debbie Rowe as a Threat
Initially, Michael Jackson kept his friendship with Rowe on the down low. When his then-wife Lisa Marie Presley learned of the friendship, she wasn't worried about it. She considered Rowe to be far too plain and low-class to be a threat to her marriage.
Jackson and Rowe, however, bonded over long talks about their unhappy relationships. Presley was unsure about having kids with Jackson given the tenuous nature of their marriage, but Jackson wanted one desperately.
The tension was enough to bring their marriage down, allowing Rowe and Jackson to proceed with a relationship that surprised everyone.
Debbie Rowe and Michael Jackson Planned to Have Kids Early On
Fundamentally, Jackson and Rowe were friends. Whether or not they became more than that is up for debate.
She stated that she was always a fan of his, but it's hard to discern if the two were ever in a conventional relationship.
Rowe knew how badly Jackson wanted to have kids, however, so she offered to carry his children.
Debbie Rowe’s Relationship With Michael Was Considered a Scandal
Just a month into Michael Jackson's world tour in September 1996, it was revealed to the world that Rowe was pregnant with Jackson's child. The couple weren't yet married, and his divorce from Presley had only been finalized a few months prior.
Rowe wasn't a fan of the media attention, and it's no wonder. The majority of the press coverage was negative, portraying their relationship as a financial arrangement. Other sources suggested the baby she was carrying wasn't biologically his.
She claimed that their kids were conceived via artificial insemination in a medical setting and that they had never been intimate.
Rowe Didn't Originally Plan on Marrying Michael
The unconventional relationship was a breeding ground for rumors, and may have contributed to the pair's eventual choice to get married. The bigger contributing factor was the outrage of Michael Jackson's mother, Katherine.
She was a devout Jehovah's Witness who believed it was wrong for Jackson to have an "illegitimate" child. She also accused him of taking after his father, who had broken his vows and had a child with another woman during their marriage. There was little love lost between Jackson and his father, so he felt compelled to change his arrangement with Rowe.
Originally, they had planned for Rowe to act as a surrogate. After his mother voiced her concerns, Jackson spontaneously invited Rowe to Australia and announced that he would like to marry her the very next day. As much as the tabloids tried to make Rowe look like the "bad guy," the situation was far more complicated than the public realized.
Jackson and Rowe married on Nov. 13, 1996, at the Sheraton on the Park Hotel in Sydney, Australia. The night before the wedding, Jackson called Lisa Marie Presley, who gave him and Rowe her blessing.
In front of 15 friends, the pair exchanged vows at the hotel. An 8-year-old boy named Anthony, Jackson's nephew, served as the best man.
She Never Lived With Michael Jackson, but He Did Buy Her a House
It was often insinuated that their marriage was nothing but a sham, and that the relationship between Jackson and Rowe was purely an economic arrangement — that Jackson agreed to take care of her financially in exchange for surrogacy.
This type of arrangement isn't unheard of at all, but it's much harder to navigate when you're one of the biggest stars of the music industry.
Jackson claimed that the accusations were false. It later came to light that he did, in fact, give Rowe millions of dollars as "gifts" throughout the years, along with a monthly payment of $1.5 million.
In 1997, he also bought her a home worth $1.3 million.
Debbie Rowe’s Relationship With Her Kids Was Unconventional
Given the nature of Rowe's relationship with Jackson, she was hesitant to connect with either of her kids when they were born. Michael Joseph Jackson Jr., who was born on Feb. 13, 1997, and goest by "Prince," was raised by a team of 12 nannies and nurses at Jackson's Neverland Ranch for the first few months of his life. Rowe rarely saw him, aside from appearing for a few photoshoots.
The relationship was distant and awkward, yet they had a second child, a girl, just a year later. Paris Katherine Jackson was born on April 3, 1998.
In a 2003 television documentary, "The Michael Jackson Interview: The Footage You Were Never Meant to See," Rowe made an effort to explain her relationship with her children.
"My kids don’t call me Mom because I don’t want them to," she said. "They’re Michael’s children. It’s not that they are not my children, but I had them because I wanted him to be a father. People make remarks, 'I can’t believe she left her children.' Left them? I left my children? I did not leave my children. My children are with their father, where they are supposed to be."
Debbie Rowe Battled Cancer in 2016
Out of the limelight, Debbie Rowe was just as human as anyone else. In 2016, she announced that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a fierce struggle, but in some sense, it was also a blessing. Her diagnoses inspired her daughter, Paris Jackson, to reach out to her offering support.
The pair had been estranged for some time, but throughout the course of Rowe's treatment, they reconnected. Rowe is now delighted by their relationship, and Paris celebrated her mom's last chemotherapy appointment publicly on Instagram.
In regards to her cancer battle, Rowe shared some words of wisdom.
"Chemo does its best to make you lose your femininity," she said. "You lose your hair, you lose your eyelashes, you lose your eyebrows. And what a lot of people don't realize is, that when I take this [wig] off, I'm still me. I'm still feminine, I'm still a woman, and above all, I'm still human."
Debbie Rowe's Net Worth Is Around $25 Million
Cancer battle aside, Debbie Rowe doesn't have to worry about much. Not financially, at least. When it became clear to her that her relationship with Michael wasn't nearly as simple as they had planned, she asked for a divorce. The divorce was finalized on Oct. 8, 1999, just a year and a half after Paris was born.
The couple demanded privacy and declined to share any of the details of their split. We do know, however, that Rowe was granted a $10 million settlement, while Jackson was granted full custody of their kids.
Today, Debbie Rowe's net worth is estimated at a stunning $25 million.