Life With La Toya

The illustrious La Toya Jackson talks about her new reality series Life With La Toya, surviving domestic abuse, and the first time she ever watched a drag queen impersonate her.



Photo: OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network
Photo: OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network

As a member of one of the most famous families in the history of entertainment, La Toya Jackson appeared to be living the Hollywood dream. It was only after she escaped the reach of her former manager and ex-husband, Jack Gordon, that we learned she had actually been living a nightmare.

In her 2011 memoir Starting Over, Jackson revealed the details of the years of abuse she’d suffered at the hands of Gordon and how he’d threatened her life if she ever tried to leave him. Her experience motivated her to help other victims of abuse by not only sharing her story, but also living as an example that survivors of domestic abuse can lead fulfilling lives unencumbered by fear.

Life With La Toya, the new OWN network reality series focusing on Jackson’s life, gives the talented performer the opportunity to be that example while also allowing her to do something in front of the camera that she says she’s never before been able to do — be herself.

Jackson spoke with The Advocate about the genesis of her latest project, her love of LGBT culture, and the public misconceptions she’s working to overcome.

The Advocate: You’ve been a very private person in the past. What inspired you to open your doors to a camera crew and record a reality TV series?
La Toya Jackson: I’d been approached about doing my own show many times over the years, but I always said no because it wasn’t going to be done the way I wanted it to be done, which was just me being me. But eventually I decided to put a reel together because everyone kept asking me how I escaped my abusive relationship and I wanted people to know that just because you’ve been abused doesn’t mean you have to stay in a corner and cry and not really experience life for what it’s worth. I thought I’d never get out of that relationship, but I managed and I’m living my life. I wanted people to see what I was doing and know you can own yourself and do whatever you want.

In addition to domestic abuse, you’ve overcome numerous obstacles in your life. Yet you’ve managed to maintain a positive outlook. What’s your secret?
I’m so happy that I’m free and I’m alive and I can express myself and take control of me. Doing Life with LaToya has helped me regain me and it’s given me back my life. I’m happy I can show people, no matter what you go through in life, you can always start over. It’s like they say, “it could be worse” and for me it has been worse. That’s why I’m so excited about life now.

You come from a very famous family. Do you ever feel the need to compete with any of your siblings?
Not at all, because when you know who you are and you don’t allow anyone to pressure you, you’re OK with doing what you want in life.

In addition to you, we’ve had the chance to see a more personal side of your mother, Katherine, on Life With La Toya. What’s it been like getting the chance to work together with her in front of the cameras?
It’s been fun because my mother is very natural. She’s always herself and I love that about her. In fact, one of the reasons I love doing Life With La Toya is that I’m getting to spend time with her. When your parents start getting older, you realize they’re not going to be here for the rest of your life and you want to spend quality time with them. So I’m happy I’ll have the chance to look back and see this time because it’s been documented on film.

Tags: television