By// Starrene Rhett Rocque
JETmag.com caught up with the La Toya Jackson to chat about her new attitude and life as a businesswoman. She’s reclaiming her life after years of abuse, which plays out on Life With La Toya, her reality show on OWN. Here, she shares how she stays youthful, why women can relate and reveals her personal reality TV guilty pleasures.
It seems like you should have had your own show much sooner, so how did you find your way to OWN?
I had been asked so many times to do my own reality show and I’ve always said no. I just wasn’t ready for it. And it got to the point where you heard all these facts about the family and all the misconceptions and things of that nature, and about me and people get it all wrong and I said, “They really need to know me and my family for who we all really are,” and the only way to do that is to do your own reality show, so that was one of the reasons why I did it. Another reason is because I had a very bad marriage. He was my manager and then he married me without my permission and he took that and he started just abusing me and mocking me and I had to do what he wanted me to do, say what he wanted me to say and it was a very abusive relationship. I was living this life that was totally against me, because I was really religious then and I thought everybody was sweet, kind and everything people said was the truth and he took that and just made me do everything that I would have never done. Keeping me in closets and beating me almost every other day and I never thought in my life that I would be able to escape. I thought I would be left like that because he promised me if I didn’t do what I said that he would kill me and then go after my brother and I believed him, so I eventually escaped and when I escaped women ask me every where I managed to escape and it’s all a part of my book Starting Over. And I want them to know that it doesn’t matter what you go through in life, you can always start over no matter how many times. Just keep going, think positive, move forward and start over. And that’s ostensibly what Life With Latoya is about. It’s about my new life and me starting over, and me being the person that I used to be, regaining and re-owning myself, and not letting someone else take that position for me.
Did taping The Apprentice prepare you for the beast that is reality TV?
Not really, because when I was doing The Apprentice, especially this last one, I was taping Life With Latoya at the same time.
Speaking of The Apprentice you had some major guts to go back and do it again!
I did it for charity and that’s what so great about the show is that you can do it for all the different charities that you want. This time I was playing for the National Network for Domestic Violence, because I think that’s very important for women to stand up to go and find shelters, which I can help them do and that’s why I was playing, but I knew at the same time my mind was thinking, “I hope it’s not an outrageous cast.” [Laughs]
And look what you got! [Laughs]
That’s what I was dealt with, because they asked me in the very beginning to do it and I said no. They told me that I was the first they asked because they asked all the executives who should come back and they said every executive had me in their top two. And so they asked me, and I never gave them an answer. Do you know, I finally gave them an answer—I think it was probably, two or three days before the show actually started. And I waited that long because I wanted to know who was on the show. And I said, “You put certain people on the show there’s no way I’m gonna go and be humiliated like that,” but they didn’t tell me there’d be another villain! [Laughs]
Was there anyone you managed to make a real connection with?
During the taping of Celebrity Apprentice there’s always that one or two people that fight with you. And I know why they do that, because you overhear talk like, “She’s not as outspoken and we can out talk her,” but Claudia [Jordan] is so sweet. I love Claudia. There’s a lot of sweet people. Marilu Henner was just absolutely sweet and the guys were all very sweet. Dennis [Rodman] is a sweetheart, he really is. All the guys are so sweet.
And I know you have your company Ja-Tail, talk about the work you do there.
Ja-Tail is a company that was formed in 1999 by me and my business partner Jeffre’ Phillips, and we do a number of things. We have different companies within Ja-Tail, which is, we have a television division for reality TV that we produce—not only my show but other shows that you will see and hear about and be really excited about. We have a luxurious perfume in a cream sort of base, which is really incredible. You will see all of that. All of this will come out. We have a division for management and things of that nature. We book a lot of different entertainers and people all over the world we also have a movie division, and I’m really excited to say that my film is debuting at Tribeca.
What’s the film?
The film that I’m doing is an incredible piece of work. It’s called, Dancing in Jaffa, and what the film is, is that it takes place in Jaffa, and the Jewish and Palestinian Israelis that they all live together amongst each other, yes their cultures are different and they have been segregated for so many years. And as you know, in that area they’ve been fighting for so many years, so what we do is we go in and we bring harmony together. We bring it through the children and we bring it through dance. We go into the schools and we teach the kids to dance. When you ballroom dance you have to touch each other while dancing and it teaches you style and grace, and you’ll hear the kids say, “I can’t touch you, you’re an Arab,” and we’re not supposed to be seen together and they just go on and on like this and then they just forget about the prejudices. You see the fighting going on, the wars, we film all of this because it happens on a regular basis there, so through dance the parents are so enthralled with the kids knowing ballroom dancing and being graceful and loving what they do, that the parents are getting along as well. So we bring two different cultures together that live so close amongst each other together in harmony in peace and this to me is the beginning of bringing harmony together to the world. And I love it. I just love what it represents and what it stands for. I’m very proud of it. You have no idea how they forget about the fighting and they focus on the kids and the choreography, and it’s just bringing harmony and peace together and that’s what we need.
Speaking of dancing, I know you did guest spots on Dancing With the Stars, but do you ever see yourself actually competing on the show?
I love that show. Me and my mother always watch it. They’ve asked me over and over to do it and a part of me wants to and the other part is…I just like watching it. [Laughs]
As a woman of a certain age, how do you stay youthful and fabulous?
Age has never been a factor for me. I think you’re as young as you feel and that’s what I like to go by, and I know that why I feel that way is because I’m from such a large family and we’ve never celebrated birthdays. I know it sounds weird. But coming from a large family it’s so many people and we’re all having fun we, and don’t celebrate birthdays, age is not that important it’s about loving each other and enjoying your life. And that’s how I live my life. I just enjoy my life and I don’t think about how old I am because a lot of people get stuck in, “Gee, I should be dressing this way, because I’m this age,” it’s about joy, doing what you feel is best for you, wearing what you want to wear and not worrying about anybody else.
We saw you go to last year’s Indiana Vigil for Michael Jackson on your show but what are your plans for this year?
We hadn’t really discussed it yet but they always have a vigil there and they’re in a lot of different places, mind you. They have them in Georgia, they have them everywhere and I’m sure there’s gonna be one there but I haven’t really made plans just yet.
You’re a busy woman but about reality TV…I know you said you watch Dancing With the Stars, but do you have your own reality TV guilty pleasures shows that you love to watch?
I do. I don’t know why but if I’m feeling a little bit down I love Honey Boo Boo. I love that show. It’s funny.
It’s hilarious that there’s subtitles.
I know, isn’t that funny? Because you never know what they’re gonna say, or what’s gonna come out of their mouths, and the things that they do. Did you see the Thanksgiving episode where they were making the table with this blanket and they flipped it around and it had dog poop all over it. She just turned it over and put the turkey and everything on in and they just ate right off of it. And they’re serious, and that’s what’s so interesting about it, they think nothing of it.
And you can see that they also really love each other, which is sweet.
It’s so funny because I always say that. I always say no matter what they go through—meaning their lives as far as behavior—they truly love each other and the mother is a loving mother and she loves her children and that shines all the way through and I love that.
And back to Life With Latoya, what do you hope fans take away from watching the show this season?
I hope that women can watch it, as well as everyone—but I hope that they can watch it and if they’re going through anything in life, if they can say to themselves, “It’s never too late to start over,” and even if you get it wrong you can keep starting over and over and over again and they can look at me and say, “She did it and I can do it too.” I think for women it’s very important to be yourself and reclaim your life, and be you and that’s all that matters in life. Surround yourself with people that seem to uplift you and that are positive and you’re on a road to happiness.
Catch Life With Latoya every Saturday night at 10:30 pm on OWN.