Tag Archives: Michael Jackson

Got Insecurity? So Does Maxwell.

10 Jul

“I’m a really, really insecure person at best…”

– Maxwell, Q&A at the BLACKsummers’night Listening Party & Press Conference on 4/28/09

A few years ago, I blogged about how John Mayer gets anxiety attacks.  And lately, with all the Michael Jackson coverage in the news, it’s been mentioned a lot that Michael Jackson was extremely shy.

OK, these are obstacles.  Big obstacles.  If you have “crippling anxiety attacks” as John Mayer’s were described in a September 2006 issue of Rolling Stone, one could assume that you might not be able to perform in front of huge crowds, have your albums go multi-platinum, and win Grammy Awards.  and if you are extremely shy, maybe you are just not meant to be the greatest pop star of all time.  Or maybe just maybe, you would be able to perform in front of thousands upon thousands of people, wow crowds, and maybe even become the King of Pop.  Maybe, despite all the obstacles that would seemingly make these things impossible, you can, and you do anyway.


In a recent Q&A at the BLACKsummers’night Listening Party & Press Conference, Maxwell confessed to being a “really, really insecure person at best,” and this is what he tweeted before his dress rehearsal for the BET Awards in June:  “on the STAGE gettin’ ready to do the dress rehearsals… so NERVOUS…”

I have long been fascinated by insecurity and fear, and how it can stop you.  Or not.  In my own life sometimes I will hit a wall of fear that is so scary it makes me want to stop, drop, and roll under my covers, question if it’s worth it, and be tempted to just give up altogther on that particular hope.  And it is easy to think that if you are at all insecure, shy, nervous, anxious, or fearful, well, maybe that big bold dream just isn’t for you anyway.  Maybe it’s for those totally secure, calm, fearless people, and you, well, you can stay hiding out, snuggled under those covers, and settle for a listless life devoid of meaning, in which your dreams are absent, having been chased away by your fears. 

But who are those supremely confident, ever-unflappable people?  Does anyone really not have to walk through some form of fear or insecurity on the path to their dreams?

Whenever I’ve performed or spoken in front of large groups, and even when I teach small groups, I often get very nervous (the heart-racing-difficulty-breathing-sick-to-my-stomach variety) beforehand.  A calm then sweeps over me once I get onstage or get started, but I’ve wondered if there are certain people who are extremely successful at what they do who just get to skip the fear step.  I’ve wondered if there is a way to override those nervous jitters and instead only embody complete confidence and calm at all times, in all situations, even in the most jitter-inducing of circumstances.  Seeing people who just SHINE, or ROCK, or do whatever they are doing to its fullest and most radiant expression, I’ve longed to know, what is their secret?

And the secret is this:  these people are often insecure, shy, nervous, anxious, or fearful.  But they do their thing anyway.

Maxwell describes himself as insecure.  Watch this video for “Pretty Wings” and see if it appears that he has anything at all to feel insecure about, or if “insecure” is one of the top five adjectives that comes to your mind to describe him.  Personally, I think, “dizzyingly beautiful, amazing voice, off-the-charts-talented, soulful, and sexy.”  Insecure doesn’t make it anywhere close to my list.  Or check out this performance for the CBS Early Show and see if you could guess that he ever gets nervous before performing.

In this recent Q&A Maxwell said, “I’m a really, really insecure person at best,” and he then continued with a laugh, “I mean, I know I front hard on that stage, let me tell you, it’s all fake.”  That’s the other piece of the secret:  sometimes you really do just have to fake it ’til you make it.

Fear, shyness, insecurity, anxiety, and nervousness can be obstacles that stop you in your tracks, propel you into hiding under your covers, and chase away your dreams.  But they don’t have to be.  John Mayer gets anxiety attacks.  Michael Jackson was shy.  Maxwell is insecure at best.  But they all stepped through their fears to share their incredible gifts with the world.  Don’t let those things stop you from sharing your gifts with the world.  Just take a deep breath, front if you have to, and step out into your spotlight to rock.

What Are Your Michael Jackson Memories?

28 Jun

Amidst the very unclear and devastating tragedy of Michael Jackson’s death, what is clear is how many people’s lives he touched through his music and performing and very being, in both obvious and more subtle ways.  The past few days as I walked down the streets of  Brooklyn, I’ve passed cars with his music blaring through their windows like a time capsule of the 70’s and 80’s.  I’ve been surprised when I’ve turned on the radio and his music was not playing, as since Thursday it feels like the whole world is united in listening to Michael Jackson together.

Among my friends and I’ve noticed memories surface, memories of listening to his music throughout our lives.  His songs were not just songs in a vacuum at a certain moment that then evaporated and disappeared; his music is tied to our memories, feelings, stories, and so much more.

I remember…

-Listening to the Thriller album on my plastic Fisher Price record player when I was 7 or 8 years old, sitting on the floor in my living room as the record spun, the album cover nearby, playing the record straight through, from first song to last.

-Being 8 years old, the summer before I turned 9, visiting my Aunt Pam and Uncle Mark in Cleveland, OH.  I was tan and my short feathered hair (before my hair turned curly), was parted in the middle and flopped open.  I think I was wearing a turquoise cotton sundress, and one large single cooking mitt to simulate Michael’s single sequined glove, and, performing for the audience of my family, I had just done a moonwalk and spun around and threw up my kitchen mitted-hand into the air when someone snapped a photo.

-When my parents got divorced, my Dad moved into a small apartment a few towns away that sat at the entrance of a dead-end alley.  My sister and I would go there every other weekend, and sometimes we would visit my Dad’s neighbor Nancy, who lived a big old run down house at the end of the alley.  She was in her early 40’s and the youngest grandmother I had ever met, we’d play Parcheesi and she had a huge record collection filled with albums like old classic Billy Joel, and The Jackson Five, and I associate her house and Parcheesi with the first time I ever heard “ABC.”

-Being planted in front of the television in my wood-paneled family room watching the video for “Say Say Say” on network television, back when they used to play videos on network TV, riveted by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney driving away on the back of a truck, and Michael Jackson’s tearful clown make-up…

-My seventh grade class trip to Washington, D.C. I associate with the song “Man in the Mirror.”  I had the cassette tape of “Bad,” so maybe I listened to it on a walkman on the bus ride down.  I remember the first sense of freedom, four 7th grade girls staying in our very own hotel room, and there was even a telephone in the bathroom, and we went sightseeing, and to a mall, and on a boat cruise, and stayed up late talking to boys, one of us from the phone in the bedroom and someone else on the phone in the bathroom, and there was always the possibility that a cute 7th grade boy you had a crush on, or wanted to practice flirting with, would knock on your door to say hi.

-Junior year of high school, my friends and I going over to Chip’s house to watch the television premiere of the “Black or White” video.

-The summer after I graduated from high school, my best friend Zoe and I cocktail waitressed at The Chart House.  The restaurant played the same official restaurant soundtrack over and over again, and one of the songs on it was “Wanna Be Starting Something,” and I remember being giddy and delirious after a 10 or 12 hour shift of working outside on the patio in the blazing summer sun, cleaning up and stacking cocktail trays and packing table tents away in bus bins, when that song would come on and we would dance, standing up tall to “It’s too high to get over, Yeah, Yeah” and ducking down low for “Too low to get under, Yeah, Yeah.”

-Being in acting school after college, getting there early in the morning and bringing in cds and blasting them on the boom box in the classroom, some of us launching out of our chairs that were lined up in rows to have a dance party before our first class started, before 9am.  Dancing and moving to have fun, and release some anxiety before an angsty day of difficult classes, and somehow those early morning dance parties helped get me in a happier and lighter mood, where I could feel more in control, and maybe deal with the criticism that was to come a little better.  Dancing to The Jackson Five, “ABC,” or “I Want You Back,” and feeling that burst of energy and joy that music can bring.

Michael Jackson’s life ended too soon, and tragically, and seemed to be characterized by an unknowable…something… sadness or loneliness or trouble or torment…  But for everyone who has lived in the past 40 years, his life reached out and touched all of ours.  We all have our own different Michael Jackson memories but we are all connected in that we all have them – memories, feelings, and stories we associate with him and his music – and we were all affected at different times, at different ages, in different places, and at different moments, by his music, and his presence in this world.

So, in honor of Michael Jackson’s life, and the ways in which he was a part of our lives, for the inspiration he provided, for his music and dancing that brought people glimpses of joy and upliftment and connection, for his passion and drive and dedication and creativity, and for all that he created…

What feelings and stories do you remember?  What friends and family and people and places and times and ages do his songs make you think of?  What are your Michael Jackson memories, where are those pieces of your life when his music was playing along, creating the soundtrack of your stories?

“And my goal in life is to give the world what I was lucky to receive: the ecstasy of divine union through my music and dance.”  – Michael Jackson

Copyright © 2009 by Jennifer Garam