Michael Jackson and Diana Ross loved each other deeply and supported each other's careers. He wanted her to take care of his kids if his mother couldn't.
Michael Jackson would never have become the King of Pop unless Diana Ross, 76, discovered him. His solo debut was on her TV specials in 1971 but his fascination with her began long before that when he was only 9 years old. They met at Motown when he was a prodigy, and she was already a legend. It was popularly believed that she discovered Jackson and his brothers, the Jackson 5 but that's not accurate. They were discovered by Gladys Knight and the Pips, another Motown act but the music label said that their biggest star Ross found them.
Jackson also perpetuated the myth but he was only a child then. According to ABC, at the age of 10, he said, "I thought I was going to be an old man before being discovered, but along came Miss Diana Ross to save my career." Regardless of this small story building about himself, he idolized Ross and wanted to be like her.
The book, Call Me Miss Ross, quotes the Ain't No Mountain High Enough singer as saying, "I was older. He kind of idolized me and wanted to sing like me." In a 1981 Diana Ross TV special, she teased Jackson about him being "very sexy." "You are embarrassing me," the 23-year-old star replied, laughing.
Their biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli wrote about one incident in 1986 when Jackson went to meet Ross backstage at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. She found him putting her make up and transforming himself into her when she got back to her room after her performance. While they never had a romantic relationship, MJ wrote about her as "my mother, my lover and my sister all rolled into one" in his autobiography Moonwalk.
Many people believed that his plastic surgeries were meant to make him look like her. The King of Pop never addressed these claims but it is undeniable that she was important in making him a star.
"Whether that was purposeful on his part has never been explained by M.J. when he was alive or anyone close to him. Certainly, the parallel in their appearance was marked," J.D. Heyman, assistant managing editor of People magazine, was quoted as saying by ABC.
His love and passion for her ran deep and there were instances when he was jealous of the men in her life. When she married Norwegian multimillionaire Arne Naess, he refused to attend the wedding. "I was jealous because I've always loved Diana Ross and always will," he told Taraborrelli.
When he passed away in June 2009, it was a shock for Ross. "I can't stop crying, this is too sudden and shocking. I am unable to imagine this," she said. "My heart is hurting. I am in prayer for his kids and the family."
He also honored her in his will and that was his way of keeping his love for her alive beyond the grave. He had specified that if his mother, Katherine Jackson, couldn't be the guardian to three young children, then Ross should take custody of the kids. When he passed away, his kids Michael Joseph Jr., 12; Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson, 11; and Prince Michael Jackson II, 7, known as Blanket or Bigi, moved in with their grandmother.
"Raising children was the most important role Michael Jackson believed he had, and to put down that Diana Ross would replace his mom, you can't have any greater honor," said Stacy Phillips, a family attorney.
The 76-year-old singer has also been faithful to the memory of her dear friend. She continues to defend him from his critics who go on claiming that he abused children. After the documentary Leaving Neverland was released, there were fresh accusations against MJ, as per People Magazine.
"This is what’s on my heart this morning. I believe and trust that Michael Jackson was and is A magnificent incredible force to me and many others," she continued. "STOP IN THE NAME OF LOVE," she added.
Their relationship was a complicated one, deeper than that of a mentor and mentee, or that of friendship but it never became a romantic or sexual one. However, the pair did love each other in their own ways.