They go by several names: Moonwalkers, the MJ Fam, soldiers of love.
Due to their obsessive enamouring of the star, Michael Jackson fans have also been called cultists, psychos, sycophants, conspiracy theorists and bullies. They have been accused of being crazy, shallow and brainwashed. But this has never seemed to deter them. On the contrary, it seems to fuel their love for their idol even more. It makes them love him harder.
From his influences; Fred Astaire, James Brown, Sammy Davis Jr, to the artists he influenced; Beyoncé, Usher, The Weekend etc, to his children, fellow celebrities, lawyers, nurses, news presenters, dancers, cooks, painters, collectors, auctioneers, etc, Michael Jackson fans range far and wide. They come from all walks of life. All age groups, ethnicities, creeds and continents. They come in all shapes, sizes and colours. And they express their love for their idol in different ways. Some more pronounced than others.
His social media profile has hundreds of millions of followers combined. His YouTube channel boasts 21 million followers. Even though it is highly unlikely that new short films will be put out especially those at par with Jackson's standards, the fact does not deter his followers from growing.
Jackson intended for his music to be enjoyed even after he was gone. Gaining inspiration from Michelangelo, his intention was to live forever. To immortalise himself in his art. And so far based on his gaining of new fans in every new generation, Jackson seems to have achieved his objective.
"I know that the creator will go, but his work survives. That is why to escape death, I attempt to bind my soul to my work." - Michelangelo
Michael Jackson fans do not play when it comes to their idol. They have loved him unwaveringly. In the good times and in the bad times.
At his heights, they bought his records in the millions, attended his concerts in droves, obsessively purchased his merchandise driving them to great commercial success. They made him part of their lives, they sang his praises and introduced him to their friends.
When Jackson faced controversy and his appearance and persona was mocked by the media on the constant, his fans reassured him of his beauty and of their unwavering love.
When he was accused of child molestation twice, arrested and arraigned in court, when he was at his worst, humiliated, frail and emaciated, the fans assured him of their belief in his complete innocence, they campaigned for it, showed him their loyal support as he faced his trials and defended him vehemently.
When he had lost his confidence, when he hadn't really been working for years and many had written him off, it is the fans that told him that he still had it, that they still loved him, that they were looking forward to even greater things from him. It is them that encouraged him to keep going.
"Some friends are like shadows. You only see them when the sun shines. But my fans have sustained me even in the dark days. I owe them everything." - Michael Jackson
Unlike many stars that separate their public lives from their private lives, Michael Jackson's worlds were almost intertwined. Many stars would probably call the cops or ignore fans that hover around their homes. Michael Jackson wasn't one of them. He even seemed to encourage it. When he still lived in Encino with his mother back in the 80s, he would on occasion invite fans in and entertain them. Other times, he would sign autographs for them. He continued to do this throughout his life.
"The fans don't know how much I love them so. It really can get to a hurting feeling inside due to how strong I love them all." - Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson loved his fans. He truly did. His relationship with them wasn't just an idol-follower relationship. It was a fellowship. Jackson knew several by name and even interacted with them on a one on one basis. He also introduced them to his children. When he travelled around the world and many hanged around his hotels, he would throw them autographs, pillows and blankets at night and even ordered them pizza on several occasions.
When a fan got hurt and had his leg broken while chasing Jackson's motorcade, the star brought him backstage at one of his concerts and based on available photographs knelt down and signed his cast.
His instructions to his security were plain and simple. Be good to my fans.
"My fans truly are a part of me, we share something that most people will never experience." - Michael Jackson
After his death, his mother Katherine has severally confirmed Jackson's deep affection for his fandom.
When two accusers came out posthumously and alleged that Jackson had abused them as children, his fans went on full defence mode. They did their research, organised themselves, donated to causes that pushed for his full innocence, shared facts and educated those that felt otherwise.
“It was you who put your heart on the line. It was you who stepped forward to defend someone you love. It was you, on a worldwide basis, who supported me as my army, my soldiers of love. You were always there. You are always loyal and I love you forever.” - Michael Jackson
Fans have kept Jackson's art and memory alive. On YouTube, his short films have gained billions of views combined and his streaming numbers are growing constantly. He has been topping Forbes magazine's list of highest-earning deceased celebrities for several years in a row now. Fans have erected statues and devoted shrines in his honour in several locations around the globe. They visit his final resting place all year round bearing flowers, gifts and mementoes. On the anniversary of his death and during the holidays, they gather and make sure that he is not alone and that he feels loved.
In death, Michael Jackson will never know what his fans have been continually doing for him and his legacy. But that doesn't seem to matter. To them, it's a portrayal of their everlasting love that will never die. In life, he gave it to them from his core, in the best way he could and promised them that that love would be eternal. He wrapped it in his music and it gets rekindled every time they listen to a track.
"When you want to be close to me, listen to the music. The love is stored there and it will not die. " - Michael Jackson
Ushered into show business at the tender age of five, Jackson didn't have a childhood. It passed by with him in studios and arenas around the world as it was maximally exploited to make millions for corporations. As an adult, he came out as a grown man stuck in a child's body. Those close to him described him as fragile and childlike. Attempting to recreate his youth brought him serious trouble. Many who couldn't understand him resulted to mocking his lifestyle labelling him weird and "wacko". When he hanged around young boys, seeking to experience the carefreeness, the innocence, the magic and bliss of childhood that he never got to enjoy, others insinuated something sinister was behind it. This hurt him deeply and was ruinous to his reputation.
Michael Jackson fans get the star. They enjoy his art. They admire his talent and his genius. They worship his stardom and greatness. They are inspired by his strength and resilience. They are motivated by his hard work, his optimism, his grand aspirations and his achievements. They resonate with his tribulations and empathise with his predicaments. They listen to and believe in his message. They seek to emulate his example of sharing love, touching other people's lives and being the change they would want to see.
Michael Jackson fans dissect his words, his music and his philosophies. They share his passions, they believe in and push for his mission of healing the world.
"I'm married to my fans, I'm married to God, I'm married to my children, I am married to life." - Michael Jackson
What is it about them or about Jackson that causes his fans to be so devoted exactly?
If someone loves you so passionately. If he teaches, motivates and inspires you. If he dedicates his entire life to producing phenomenal art just to bring some happiness and escapism into your life. If he acknowledges you and your efforts. If he truthfully and unfailingly shows you that you matter. If he constantly expresses his love for you so devotedly, then there is nothing else for you to do. You reciprocate.
The Michael Jackson fandom is a global family brought together by love. It transcends age, time, ethnicity, creed, language, and colour. And is always open for all those that would love to share in it.
You can never understand what it's like to love Michael Jackson until you start loving him yourself.
"If you are a fan of mine, I consider you family. Blood-related." – Michael Jackson