I couldn’t help but notice the striking contrast between the dueling CNN headlines.
Paris Jackson, the 15-year-old daughter of Michael Jackson, was rushed to a hospital after cutting one of her wrists last week, after calling a suicide prevention hotline.
On that same day, Gloria Mackenzie, 84, came forward to claim the second-largest U.S. lottery jackpot, more than two weeks after the $590.5 million Powerball drawing on May 18. She waited more than two weeks to claim her prize, waited “to make sure they were ready to handle the types of responsibility that come with that kind of a jackpot win.”
The stories provide a contrast between the impulsiveness of youth and the wisdom of age, but also a case study of the perils of wealth and fame at too early an age.
Fashion designer and heiress Gloria Vanderbilt was the original “poor little rich girl,” while Paris Jackson is the most recent in a long line of beautiful, vulnerable young women who have been blessed with wealth and glamour, yet cursed by family tragedy. When she was 10 years old, little Gloria – who lost her father to liver disease as a toddler – made worldwide headlines in a nasty custody battle between her mother and her aunt.
Paris Jackson was 11 when she was thrust onto the world stage after the death of her father. In the most poignant and human moment in Michael Jackson’s funeral, a sobbing Paris was consoled by family members as she eulogized her father.
Jackson family attorney Perry Sanders noted, “Being a sensitive 15-year-old is difficult no matter who you are.”
The sensational wrongful death trial against AEG, one of the leading sports and entertainment companies in the world, undoubtedly has resurrected the painful events surrounding her father’s death. Paris and her brother, Prince, were scheduled to testify later this month.
We all wanted a happy ending for Paris, especially after her touching tribute at the funeral. We hoped that she could elude the contamination of early wealth and fame that ensnared her own father.
There’s still every hope for that. I wish that Paris could sit down with her fellow headline grabber, Gloria Mackenzie, who took home the lump sum of $275,178,000, after taxes, from her staggering Powerball windfall.
Of course, the list of dissolute Lottery winners may be longer than that of celebrity children run amok. But there are several signs that Mackenzie, a widow who moved to Florida from a mill town in Maine, won’t be joining their ranks. Foremost among them: Her reluctance to claim the prize at all, knowing how it could transform her life in Zephyrhills, Fla., where Mackenzie lives in a two-room duplex with a tin roof.
The mother of four has dodged the press, other than to issue a simple statement of thanks: “While in line, another lottery player was kind enough to let me go ahead of them in line to purchase the winning Quick Pick ticket.”
Meanwhile, Mindy Crandell, the woman who let her cut in line, has no regrets about her act of kindness. She believes that everything happens for a reason. “Maybe there’s something down the road, or she needed it more than I did.” In either case, Crandell is glad that her young daughter, who was with her in line at Publix grocery store, is coming away with the right message. “Polite is better than rich,” Mallory Crandell told her mother.
“No matter what, we are raising our daughter the right way,” Crandell said.
It’s a reminder of the humanity at the core of each of us that can’t be augmented by any amount of wealth – or diminished by the lack of it.
That’s important to remember when we think about Paris Jackson. She’s not just another “poor little rich girl,” not an object for our entertainment consumption, but a very real teenage girl with heartbreaks and troubles like countless others.
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