LATOYA YVONNE JACKSON (born May 29, 1956) is an American singer-songwriter, musician, author, television personality, actress, businesswoman, philanthropist, activist and former model. Born on her sister Rebbie's 6th birthday on May 29, 1956, in Gary, Indiana, La Toya Jackson is the fifth of ten children born to Joseph and Katherine Jackson and the middle female child between Rebbie and Janet. Growing up, La Toya was a shy homebody. After her mother became a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses in 1965, La Toya, along with the rest of her siblings followed. She would spend some of her time (alongside her mother) preaching door-to-door. By 1972, at sixteen, La Toya joined her brothers in the spotlight with a tap dancing routine when her father arranged for them to perform shows in Las Vegas, among other cities. La Toya Jackson aspired to be an attorney specializing in business law. She attended college for a short time before her father insisted that she pursue a career in show business like the rest of the family.
In 1976 and 1977, La Toya and her sisters Rebbie and Janet appeared in all twelve episodes of The Jacksons—a CBS-TV variety program, with their brothers Jackie, Tito, Marlon, Michael, and Randy. Along with their brothers (minus Jermaine), La Toya and her sisters sang, danced and performed skits. In 1980, La Toya Jackson released her self-titled debut album. In order to distinguish herself from her famous brothers, The Jacksons, La Toya only wanted her first name on the album. "I begged just to have it 'La Toya'. But my father said, 'It's your last name. You got to use it.' But I wanted to see what I could do as an individual.". The first single "If You Feel the Funk", became a modest hit, climbing into the Top 40 of the US R&B chart. Her second single, "Night Time Lover", was produced by younger brother Michael, who provided backing vocals. In turn, she provided the opening scream on her brothers', The Jacksons, 1980 hit, "This Place Hotel" as well as backing vocals on brother Michael's 1984 solo hit "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)". 1984 saw the release of Jackson's critically acclaimed album Heart Don't Lie. Jackson scored her biggest Billboard Hot 100 hit with the titular track "Heart Don't Lie", which peaked at number 56. In 1984 La Toya Jackson capitalized on her rising popularity by licensing her name to a fashion line; "David Laurenz for La Toya.". According to her three year contract with the suede and leather-maker La Toya Jackson agreed to only wear David Laurenz items during her public appearances. Apparel in the collection included Jackson's signature leather headbands. She also starred in adverts for Nikon cameras and the following year she become the spokesmodel for cosmetics firm Mahogany Image and launched her own eponymous fragrance, La Toya.
In 1985 La Toya Jackson participated on the single "We Are the World", an appeal for famine relief in Ethiopia. That same year Jackson featured in anti-drug music video "Stop the Madness".
In 1987, Jack Gordon was hired to co-manage La Toya by her father, Joseph. He later took over her management completely. Under Gordon's management, Jackson's public image became increasingly sexier. Around this time La Toya Jackson was disfellowshipped by the Jehovah's Witnesses. Defying her father, La Toya made a stormy exit from the family's Encino compound to take up residence in New York City.
In late 1988, Jackson released the album La Toya, which featured the singles, "You're Gonna Get Rocked!" and "(Ain't Nobody Loves You) Like I Do". The album also included a track titled "Just Say No", which was written for the Reagan administration's anti-drug campaign. The album is notable for being the first one Jackson released after changing her management.
In March 1989, La Toya Jackson posed topless for Playboy magazine. Jackson saw the pictorial as a declaration of independence from her conservative upbringing and "to show my parents they couldn't dictate to me any more—that I control my life." The cover and layout was one of the most successful issues in Playboy's history, turning Jackson into an overnight sex symbol. At its time of release, it sold over 8 million copies, going on to become the best selling issue of the magazine ever. She posed again in Playboy in November 1991 to promote her autobiography and subsequently acted in a 1994 video for the magazine, becoming one of the first celebrities to have a Playboy video released. She later said that she initially refused to pose for the second spread and for the video, however, Gordon beat her into submission. In 1989, La Toya Jackson began recording her sixth album Bad Girl. That year Jackson also staged a live pay-per-view concert, A Sizzling Spectacular, from Bally's theatre in Reno. Jackson's set list included songs from La Toya and Bad Girl.
On September 5, 1989, after her Sizzling Spectacular concert in Nevada, Gordon forcibly married La Toya Jackson, claiming it was for her own protection against kidnapping by her family. La Toya Jackson states that this was both unplanned and against her wishes. According to Jackson; "I told him, 'No way, Jack! I can't marry you. You know what marriage means to me. I've never been in love; I don't even date.... It's not right. I don't love you. I don't have feelings for you.'" Jackson tried to run out of the chapel three times but bodyguard Antonio Rossi grabbed her saying, "There's some things you have to do. Six months into the marriage, Jackson asked Gordon for an annulment when in Rome, Italy. In response, Gordon repeatedly bashed her head against the corner of the hotel room table saying that he would never let her go. Paparazzi subsequently photographed La Toya Jackson with black eyes, which Gordon claimed was caused by an intruder. From this point forward, La Toya lost all contact with her family and wrote an autobiography, La Toya: Growing Up in the Jackson Family, which accused her father of physical abuse. For roughly the next decade Gordon controlled Jackson with threats, lies, and routine violence. According to La Toya Jackson, "When he hit me, the first time I was in shock, I just recalled my ear ringing, just ringing so hard." Gordon confiscated Jackson's passport, transferred her bank accounts into his name, hired bodyguards to watch La Toya constantly and banned her from speaking to or seeing her family, monitoring her every phone call.
In 1990 La Toya Jackson participated in the Sanremo Music Festival, entering "You and Me" an English-language version of "Verso l'ignoto" by siblings Marcella and Gianni Bella. While "You and Me" did not win Best Song, it entered Italy's hit parade, peaking at number twenty-eight. That year La Toya Jackson signed on with German-based BCM Records and released the single "Why Don't You Want My Love?". She recorded other material with BCM, but the label went bankrupt and album plans were scrapped.
In 1992 La Toya Jackson signed a contract with the Moulin Rouge in Paris to star in her own revue, Formidable. She was to perform two shows a night, six nights a week. La Toya Jackson was the highest paid performer in the cabaret's history earning a reported $5 million. Though Formidable was successful, selling out on most nights, La Toya departed half-way into her year-long contract owing the nightclub $550,000 in damages.
In 1993 in their New York home, Gordon beat Jackson repeatedly with a heavy brass dining room chair, leaving Jackson with black eyes, swollen lip and chin "the size of a clenched fist," cuts requiring 12 mouth stitches and contusions on her face, arms, legs and back. Jackson lost consciousness during the beating, leading Gordon to believe she was dead. She recalled, "He called his friends and said, 'She's dead. I killed her,' because I was lying in a puddle of blood and I was out." Gordon was arrested but then released, claiming he beat Jackson in self defense.
In December 1993 Gordon hastily arranged a press conference in Tel Aviv, where he had La Toya Jackson read a statement claiming to believe the sensational sex abuse allegation against her younger brother Michael might be true. This was an abrupt reversal of her previous defense of Michael against the charges. Gordon claimed La Toya had proof which she was prepared to disclose for a fee of $500,000. A bidding war between US and UK tabloids began, but fell through when they realized that her revelations were not what she had claimed them to be. According to La Toya, Gordon threatened to have siblings Michael and Janet killed if she didn't follow his orders.
When La Toya Jackson became aware that Gordon was planning to feature her in a pornographic film she decided she'd had enough. She phoned brother Randy who flew to New York to help her escape while Gordon was out. Only days later, La Toya filed for divorce from Las Vegas and sued Gordon in civil court for years of abuse under the Violence Against Women Act.
La Toya Jackson ended her estrangement with the entire Jackson family and returned home to Hayvenhurst. La Toya forgave her parents for her stifled upbringing reasoning, "I've come to realize that as we get older, we grow and learn a lot more. And I think that my father and my mother, they raised children the best way they know how." According to La Toya, Michael knew that she was forced to attack him in the press against her will and he did not blame her. "He never held any of that against me, I remember when I'd got away from this total hell I'd been through where I'd been beaten, abused, controlled and forced to say those terrible things about Michael, which I didn't for a moment believe, he held out his arms and just hugged me. I was crying saying: 'I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry.' He just held me tight and said: 'I am your brother, I always knew it wasn't you saying those words." La Toya Jackson's last single of the 1990s was "Don't Break My Heart."
After separating from Gordon, La Toya cloistered herself in her home and lived alone for the first time—the first six months she stated she never actually left her house due to being terrified of Gordon seeing her. Weary after her years of public scorn, she didn't know what to do with her life and was afraid to perform again. She struggled to rebuild her confidence but was plagued with self doubt, explaining, "I got to the point, [...] where—well, you know in the media they say things like, 'Oh, she can't sing. She has no talent. She can't dance.' I started believing that, and I was thinking, 'Oh my God'. And I started thinking, 'Oh gee, how could this happen to me?' How could I start believing this?". After this time she started to perform in Europe and South America occasionally to start making money to pay off the huge debts which Gordon had accumulated in her name while they were married. In the wake of the September 11 attacks La Toya Jackson was moved to compose "Free the World". She performed the song for friends to a positive reception. This spurred on La Toya to write more songs, ending up with a full album, Startin' Over.
After Jack Gordon's death in 2005, La Toya Jackson was free to speak more openly about the control he exerted over her life. She sent a security expert to eyewitness that Gordon had not faked his death a second time. In 2005 she appeared on ABC News to recant her previous allegations and defend brother Michael against new charges of child abuse. VH1 described La Toya Jackson as a role model having weathered various successes and setbacks. The perception of La toya Jackson as an underdog and her support for LGBT rights has led her to be declared a gay icon. In 2010, La Toya launched Dream Cream, a hand cream for German cosmetics firm Alessandro International, and named Teddy Riley head of Ja-Tail Record's music division. She was a guest judge on the 17th season of America's Next Top Model. La Toya Jackson's second memoir, Starting Over, was released in the United States on June 21, 2011 through Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. An EP, also called Starting Over,was released the same day via digital outlets. A new single will be released a month later followed by La Toya Jackson's final full-length album in the last quarter of 2011.