Whatever you think of La Toya Jackson and the rest of her family, she wants you to know you're probably wrong.
"I think that when it comes to the Jacksons in general is that people think that they’re weird. They’re strange. They’re crazy. They're odd. And we're not,” she tells omg!. “We’re not any of those things. I want people to know that we’re just like you guys are. We're no different."
And if you also thought that Jackson, now 56, might have been jealous of her more famous siblings, the late Michael (who passed away in 2009 at age 50) and sister Janet, now 46, well, wrong again.
"I was never ever jealous. I was happy for them. You have to remember I was excruciatingly shy," she insists. "I wanted no part to show business whatsoever. It was my father who said, 'No, you're going to be in show business.' I was too shy for it. For me it was like … 'I want to study business law.' My father took me out of school … [and said] 'No, you’re going to sing and dance like everybody else.'"
Show business won out over business law. Jackson has released multiple albums over the years, sang backup vocals for Michael, made lots of TV appearances, and famously posed as a Playboy centerfold in 1987 … something she insists she never wanted to do. "I was so religious and I was against it … but I had no say," she claims. "He made me do things that were totally the antithesis of what I would do."
"He" would be her ex-husband and former manager, Jack Gordon, who the "Just Wanna Dance: singer now alleges physically abused her, took her passport away while the two were abroad, and forced her into marriage.
According to Jackson, "I never ever thought I would really escape that relationship. I was just so afraid because he would tell me, 'If you don't do it, then I’m going to kill you and I’m going to kill your brother,'" Jackson recounts. "And I believed him." The two divorced in 1997 and Gordon died in 2005.
Despite the fact she’s spent much of her life in a sometimes-unfriendly media spotlight, and the last few years appearing on multiple reality shows -- including the British version of "Big Brother" and two stints on "Celebrity Apprentice" -- Jackson's not ready to step out of that spotlight yet, and is putting even more of her life on display with her new OWN reality series "Life With LaToya."
"I want women to know that whatever you go through in life, it doesn't matter how many times, you can always start over. Regain your life, regain yourself, and take charge and control of you," says Jackson. "And that's what I'm doing now. You're seeing the LaToya that's always been, not the La Toya that was depressed when he had total control over me."
Viewers will also see the show's star exploring the possibility of adopting a child and jumping back into the dating world, something she's found a little challenging. "It's different than what I thought," Jackson admits. "People want to kiss and do everything on the first night. It's like, 'No.'"
Though Jackson, the fifth of 10 children, was at one time publicly estranged from much of her family, that's no longer the case, and her parents, Joe and Katherine, are actually part of her new show. "I love spending time with my parents because I know that they're not going to be here for the rest of my life," she shares. "And I think it's so important to spend quality time with them because I don't want to have any regrets when they're not here one day."
Understandably, Jackson's still reeling from the loss of her beloved brother Michael four years ago. "I miss his laughter, his smile, his jovialness," she shares. "It hurts, you know … you can just stare in space and see that smile and that just makes you feel better."
As for whether she has any concerns about Michael’s children -- 16-year-old Prince, 15-year-old Paris, and 11-year-old Blanket -- becoming household names themselves (the kids occasionally make red carpet appearances, Prince has a correspondent gig with "Entertainment Tonight," and Paris has more than a million Twitter followers), Jackson says not at all.
"Their father told them, 'Do exactly what you want.' And Prince is 16. He drives a car, has girlfriend. the whole bit. He knows what he wants to do. He wants to be a director more than anything else. You have to remember, Michael was working at 5 years old. And so, professionally, these kids know what they want," she explains. "And Prince says, 'My dad wants me to do this and I don't want to stop doing it, Auntie La Toya.' So, they know what they want, but I am protective of them, of course."
"Life With La Toya" airs Saturdays at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT on the Oprah Winfrey Network.