Deborah Jeanne "Debbie" Rowe (born December 6, 1958) is an American nurse known for her marriage to Michael Jackson, with whom she had two children. She lives in Palmdale, California.
Rowe was born in Spokane, Washington, the daughter of Barbara Chilcutt and Gordon Rowe. Her father divorced her mother a few weeks before her second birthday. She was raised by her mother, a few aunts, and maternal grandmother. She has one half-sister named Loretta Scarlett Rowe who was born in 1961.
Rowe first married Richard Edelman in 1982. The couple divorced six years later in 1988.
Relationship with Michael Jackson
Rowe met Michael Jackson while working as a nurse in Dr. Arnold Klein's dermatology office, where Jackson was being treated for vitiligo. She recalled that after Jackson's divorce from Lisa Marie Presley in 1996, he was upset at the possibility that he might never become a father. Rowe, a longtime Jackson fan, proposed to bear his children. In an interview with Playboy, Lisa Marie stated that she knew at the time that she and Jackson were married that Rowe wanted to have his children and that Rowe had "a crush on him".
Children and marriage
It was announced she was pregnant in 1996, and the two were later married on November 14, 1996, in Sydney, Australia. It was her second marriage, her first being to Richard Edelman in 1982.
Three months after Rowe and Jackson's marriage she gave birth to a son, Michael Joseph Jackson Jr. (born February 13, 1997 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles), who was subsequently nicknamed Prince. The next year she gave birth to a daughter, Paris Jackson (actress) (born April 3, 1998 at Spaulding Pain Medical Clinic in Beverly Hills in Los Angeles). Jackson took full responsibility for raising the children.
Rowe, who described herself as a private person and almost never gave interviews, was overwhelmed by the publicity that came with being married to Jackson. The couple divorced on October 8, 1999, with Rowe giving full custody rights of the children to Jackson. Rowe received an $8 million settlement, and a house in Beverly Hills, California. Court documents indicated she had signed a prenuptial agreement and therefore could not obtain an equal division of community property under California law.
In 2001, Rowe went to a private judge to have her parental rights for the two children terminated. In 2004, after Jackson was charged with 10 counts of child abuse, she went to court to have the decision reversed. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Rowe, who is Jewish, sought the reversal in part because she feared the nanny and some of Jackson's siblings were exposing the children to teachings of the Nation of Islam. Court documents from 2005 noted that "Because she is Jewish, Deborah feared the children might be mistreated if Michael continued the association." On the stand, in the 2005 People v. Jackson case, she explained that she had been allowed limited visits to her children, for eight hours every 45 days.
In 2005, Rowe sold her Beverly Hills house for $1.3 million, and bought a ranch in Palmdale. In 2006, she sued Jackson for one immediate payment of $195,000 and one payment of $50,000 to pursue a child custody case. Jackson was ordered to pay her $60,000 in legal fees.
After Jackson's death
Following Jackson's death on June 25, 2009, Rowe made statements through her attorney to deny a series of gossip reports, including reports that she was not the children's biological mother and that she was attempting to bargain her parental rights for money. Several gossip outlets reported that Debbie Rowe was the surrogate mother for the children and not their biological mother.
In July 2009, she filed a lawsuit for defamation and invasion of privacy against a source who handed over alleged private e-mails to the television entertainment news program Extra, and on March 3, 2010, she was successful in the defamation lawsuit. She was awarded $27,000 in damages, although she had originally sought $500,000.
In August 2009, Rowe reached a settlement with Katherine Jackson, the children's guardian, under which she has rights to supervised visitations. Mrs. Jackson's attorney stated that the negotiations were "never about money" and the settlement was in the best interests of the children.
In April 2014, Rowe announced on Entertainment Tonight that she was engaged to music producer and former Neverland Ranch videographer Marc Schaffel, who worked with Jackson on his 9/11 charity single "What More Can I Give". Schaffel was the sole Jackson employee who was permitted access to visit Rowe following their divorce in 1999 and he assisted Rowe with her health issues.
In the summer of 2016 Rowe was diagnosed with breast cancer.
In popular culture
Rowe was portrayed by April Telek in the 2004 film Man in the Mirror: The Michael Jackson Story.
Rowe was parodied in actress/comedian Tracey Ullman's series Tracey Ullman's State of the Union.