July 2, 2009— -- It may have come as a surprise to some that Diana Ross was mentioned in Michael Jackson's will as a secondary caregiver to his three children, but her inclusion was not unexpected to those who had tracked their longstanding relationship, dating back to Jackson's early childhood.
In his will, Jackson specified that if his mother Katherine Jackson, his first choice to become guardian for his three young children, died before he did, then he named Ross to take custody of the kids.
Jackson's three children, Michael Joseph Jr., 12; Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson, 11; and Prince Michael Jackson II, 7, known as Blanket, have been staying with their grandmother Katherine at the family compound in Encino, Calif., since Jackson's death last Thursday.
Jackson knew Ross from the time he was 9 years old, and their relationship was one of the most important in his life. He idolized Ross, and some have said he even tried to emulate her.
"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 not working for the Jacksons.
Over the years, Jackson has had his obsessions with "it girls," including Elizabeth Taylor, Brooke Shields and Princess Diana. But Ross was always his idol. The two became close after Jackson signed on with Motown as a child.
When Jackson made his solo debut in 1971, he did it on one of Ross' TV specials.
In a 1981 Diana Ross TV special, Ross brought out Jackson's shy demeanor, teasing him about being "very sexy."
"You are embarrassing me," he replied, laughing.
They were so close, in fact, that some have even speculated that Jackson's plastic surgeries were done to make him look like Ross.
"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," said J.D. Heyman, assistant managing editor of People magazine.
Ross has yet to speak publicly on the death of her good friend, but she issued a statement shortly after he died.
"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."