Feb. 8, 2003 -- Although Michael Jackson says in a new documentary that he has had only two operations on his nose, a leading plastic surgeon believes he has had so much work done that he is now a "nasal cripple."
Dr. Pamela Lipkin, a prominent plastic surgeon in New York City who has studied photographs taken of Jackson at a California court appearance in November — in which his apparently scarred nose was covered by a small transparent bandage — believes something went wrong.
"What I think happened recently is that something in his nose — a graft, an implant, something — has now come out through the skin," said Lipkin, a nasal specialist who is not Jackson's doctor and has never examined him in person. "He's really got a hole in his skin."
"Michael Jackson has what we call an end-stage nose, a crippled nose, a crucified nose — one that's beyond the point of no return," she said.
People who have had so many surgeries on their nose that it becomes hard to breathe through are called "nasal cripples," Lipkin said.
Although Jackson's face has been splashed across the tabloids in recent months, Brittan Stone, photo editor at the celebrity magazine Us, says the singer's face is not being seen on magazines.
"The one thing you can't do with Michael is a beauty shot, because that shot simply just doesn't exist anymore," Stone said. "I don't think you can put Michael Jackson's face on the full-page of a magazine.... I think the flaws in his face become a little too evident, a little too frightening. It becomes like a medical study."
Jackson Denies Face-Changing Surgery
In the documentary, which aired in Britain and the United States this week, Jackson said the only surgery he had had on his face was two operations on his nose to help him breathe more easily so he could hit higher notes. He denied having any surgery done on his lips, cheeks, chin or eyes.
Primetime asked Lipkin to review photographs taken at different points of Jackson's career and give her opinion. The first photograph showed Jackson with the Jackson 5 in the early 1970s.
"At that point, Michael Jackson's [a] very normal, very cute, Afro-American child, with actually very good features. You know: good lips, high cheekbones, good bone structure. Even skin tone, I might add," Lipkin said.
In a picture taken with Diana Ross at a publicity event for the musical movie The Wiz in 1977, Jackson, who was then 19, looked similar to his childhood photos. But in a picture taken with Ross at an awards show four years later, his face was "starting to get a little bit more interesting," according to Lipkin.
"Obviously he's had some nasal surgery," she said. "The width of the nostrils is dramatically reduced.... The bridge is much thinner.... And you know something, that's a great result. Having started with that nose, that nose is still believable."
Rumors of Plastic Surgery
Three years later, by the time Jackson's next album, Bad, hit it big in stores, his appearance had evolved again. By this point, there were rumors that he was undergoing plastic surgery to change the shape of his face.
Lipkin believes photographs from the time show evidence of more procedures. "His eyebrows are very, very high, so he's probably had some sort of forehead lift, or brow lift," she said. "His eyes, I'm not sure. He probably did have some fat removed around his eyes. They're particularly naked-looking."
Lipkin also said Jackson's lips appeared to have been thinned out, and noted that a cleft had appeared in his chin that was not there before. "That's not a natural cleft," she said. "You can tell." She said she knew of a technique for creating a cleft chin, but that it was not popular because "it never looks real."
Black and White
By 1991, when Jackson's song "Black and White" was a huge hit internationally, people were beginning to wonder whether he was lightening his skin. On the song, he sang, "I'm not gonna spend my life being a color"
In 1993, Jackson told Oprah Winfrey that his skin color was indeed changing — because of a skin disorder called vitiligo, which causes white blotches to appear on the face and other parts of the body. "It is something that I cannot help, OK?," he said on Winfrey's show. "But when people make up stories that I don't want to be who I am, it hurts me."
When studying a photograph of Jackson taken at the time, Lipkin's initial reaction was to call it "the most unusual case of vitiligo I've ever seen."
Although she said it was possible that Jackson started bleaching his skin because of the disease — in order to blend his natural darker tone with the lighter blotches that were appearing — she also said that a lighter skin seemed consistent with other changes that she believes Jackson made to his features.
"When you look at the other features, the skin bleaching sort of goes along with what I think was his quest for beauty," she said. "So I have to wonder what came first? Vitiligo or lighter skin?"
Jackson Says Face 'Squared Out' During Puberty
In 1995, at the age of 36, Jackson released HIStory: Past, Present And Future — Book 1. In the video for the song "Childhood," his appearance was strangely wide-eyed, square-jawed, narrow-cheeked, and his skin was like porcelain.
"Probably he's trying to look Caucasian," was Lipkin's reaction. "His skin is whiter. His nose is getting thinner every six months. His lips are getting thinner. His eyebrows are getting higher. His eyes are getting wider every time. His cheekbones are getting bigger."
In a 1999 interview with ABCNEWS, Dr. Stephen Hoefflin, a plastic surgeon who operated on Jackson's nose, said he did not believe the singer was trying to appear less African-American. "I think he wanted a feature that bothered him to be made smaller, more sculptured. And certainly not to erase the ethnicity," Hoefflin said, adding that Jackson had more surgery than he recommended.
In the British documentary, Jackson said that when he was growing up his father used to tease him about the size of his nose, but he rejected any suggestion that he was trying to change his appearance or to appear more white. "I don't control puberty and I don't control the fact that I have vitiligo," he said.
He said his face had "squared out" in adolescence, and that he had never done anything to change it. "I have had no plastic surgery on my face — just my nose," he said.