With all the mourning and music, celebrity performers and soaring speeches by African American leaders at Staples Center on Tuesday, it was easy to overlook a quieter spectacle. Michael Jackson's memorial served as a grand unveiling for the singer's children.
While their father was one of the most photographed men of the last half-century, his sons Prince Michael II, 7, and Prince Michael Jr., 12, and daughter Paris Michael Katherine, 11, have remained in the shadows, surfacing only in paparazzi photos and until recently, wearing fanciful masks whenever they were in public.
On Tuesday, however, the children arrived before the eyes of the world without disguises. They sat in the front row with their grandmother Katherine Jackson. At one point, the Rev. Al Sharpton addressed the children, telling them their father was an inspiration to the African American community.
"There wasn't nothing strange about your daddy," Sharpton said. "But it was strange what he had to deal with. But he dealt with it anyway. He dealt with it for us. Some came here today to say goodbye. I came here to say thank you."
During a segment near the memorial's conclusion in which the elder Jackson brothers delivered their recollections of Michael, the young trio took center stage for the first time. Paris could be seen maternally clutching Prince Michael II and clinging to her aunt, Janet Jackson. Prince Michael Jr. seemed awed by the spotlight.
Then came an unscripted moment widely considered to be the memorial's emotional high point. Fighting back tears, Jackson's daughter delivered her own remarks.
"I just wanted to say, ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine," Paris said. "And I just wanted to say I love him so much."
With that, she collapsed into Janet Jackson's arms, sobbing.