He knew her intimately for nearly thirty years. During this time, she was his confidante, his protector, and his advisor. She rubbed cream into the piebald patchwork that was his back and shoulders: a torso that no-one else got to view, unless she had applied concealing make-up beforehand. He was very insecure about his vitiligo. He was very insecure about his overall physique. During times of stress, he would often fast to feel better about himself – often miss meals, try to concentrate instead on making his work as perfect as possible. Fasting and exhaustion landed him in hospital on numerous occasions. Stress exacerbates the effects of vitiligo. She tried to ensure he was fed.

His face was pocked with acne scars. He believed his nostrils were vast, his chin not clearly defined – that it seemed to get swallowed up by his neck. He was self-conscious about his smile. But he liked his eyes. He would ask her to accentuate them. He had his eyebrows tattooed on. And his lipstick. It saved a lot of time. And meant that when she wasn’t around, they remained there – indelible swooshes of self-esteem reassuring him from the mirror. A lifetime in the public eye had taken its toll. The camera was his nemesis. He would wear a surgical mask, or hide behind strategically straggled curls and a fedora – unless she had primed his confidence first. She did this by combining her artistic skill with a unique, nuanced knowledge of the intricacies of his face, as well as an inimitable understanding of how he liked to look – though she also knew that he was capricious in these matters. Such is the nature of insecurity. He was changeable in his choice of hairstyle – sometimes preferring more curls or body in his hair, which gave him a sense of having his face covered, like when he wore the mask. She created and fixed his wigs for him. For nearly thirty years.

Still. Since they had known each other for nearly a third of a century, she would have usually intuited his mood before he had even sat down in the chair. The chair in which they talked. The chair in which they cried together; laughed together. The chair in which they would put the world to rights. For nearly thirty years. Some are jealous of the intimacy they shared. After all, their relationship was both as open and as close as any can be. She knew and understood his secrets, his intentions, his vices, his desires.

He trusted her. Implicitly. She prepared him for his final corporeal resting place. His deathbed.

He was Michael Jackson. And she was Karen Faye.

This article is the Preface from The First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla, which Karen Faye contributed the Foreword to. The book is available in paperback and on Kindle at http://amzn.to/1GycUw1 and for all other eBook devices at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/511371