Movie Stars, Famous and Infamous People brought up under Jehovah's Witnesses:

Venus and Serena Williams

famous tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams who are Jehovah's Witnesses


Damon Wayans

interview quote from "Taming Wayans" by Kevin Koffler, photographed by Greg Henry:

DAMON WAYANS: My father is a Jehovah's Witness, and he raised us under a very strict hand. He believed that if he did not spare the rod, he would raise functional, obedient children. He failed to realize that he didn't need to beat [us] all of the time; he needed to talk to us, to try to understand us. I think that he learned [to do that] towards the end of his career as a father. [When I was young], he didn't know there was any different way of being. He's two generations away from being a slave; [when he was growing up] he got beat, so he passed it on. The good thing is I don't [beat] my children, and none of my brothers and sisters do to theirs. We've broken the chain.

December 1996 MOVIELINE p. 75 (contains an excellent special issue on Black Hollywood. write PO Box 469004, Escondido, CA 92046-9982. $11.75 for 12 issues.)


La Toya Jackson

Book Review (reprinted from the May/June 1993 Bethel Ministries Newsletter; now the Free Minds Journal)

LA TOYA - Growing Up in the Jackson Family

1991, New York: Penguin Books

Many are aware that both entertainers Michael and Janet Jackson were raised as Jehovah's Witnesses, but few details are known about the family that raised them and how the religion figured in their lives collectively. La Toya tells a great deal about how the Watchtower affected them, and I have noted a few of her memoirs, revealing experiences that are all too common among those raised in the Witnesses.

 On Holidays

"After Mother became a Jehovah's Witness, we no longer celebrated Christmas at home. So my grand-parents, feeling sorry for us, took us to Christmas parties and gave us gifts and money. Although this went against my mother's religious beliefs, she permitted it, seeing how happy it made us." p. 21

 On Dating and Door-to-Door

"While my older brothers were dating, the opposite sex was the last thing on my mind. For one thing, Michael and I were very active in the Jehovah's Witness faith. By this time most of our siblings had basically given it up. Five days a week the two of us and Mother studied the Bible at home and attended the Kingdom Hall.... Every morning Michael and I witnessed, knocking on doors around Los Angeles, spreading the word of Jehovah. As my brother's fame grew, he had to don disguises, like a rubber fat suit he bought years later, around the time of Thriller. Adults were easily fooled by Michael's incognito, but it was a rare child who didn't see through his costume...." p. 53, 54

 On Personal Grooming

"As an entertainer and idol of millions, Michael was always being reproached for such things as the length of his hair and for wearing widely flared bell-bottoms. My brother loves vivid colors, particularly red, causing one elder to criticize, `The colors you wear are too bright, and you're attracting attention to yourself. You must stick with brown and black.' Some Witnesses refused to associate with us at all." p. 56

 On Popularity

"Whatever long-standing reservations these Witnesses held about Michael being a pop idol crystallized the night he won those record-breaking eight honors at the 1984 Grammy Awards. The very next morning one elder issued him an ultimatum that my brother must choose between music and the religion. `What you're doing is wrong,' the man declared." p. 197

 "Truth be told, many Jehovah's Witnesses used to congregate outside the Kingdom Hall hoping to catch a glimpse of Michael Jackson, knowing full well this kind of adulation was forbidden." p. 197

 On Disfellowshiping

La Toya recounts the treatment her closest friend received by the elders:

"During a meeting, Darles bravely challenged one of the elders. `Why is it that I will be saved,' she asked innocently, `but my parents won't be? They may not be Witnesses, but they're perfectly nice people.' The elder's reply was typical. He cited the scripture, which supported his position but did not really address Darles's point. So she wrote a letter further explaining her feelings and doubts. This outraged the other elders. One day Rebbie's husband, Nathaniel, also an elder, cornered me. `La Toya,' he said, `you're never allowed to speak to Darles again. Ever.'"

"But why?"

"`She's been disfellowshiped.' Cast out of the faith, to be shunned from then on." p. 55

La Toya recounts the time when Michael was told not to ever talk to his sister (meaning La Toya) again:

"`La Toya, I ...' The words came out in a torrent. `I can't talk to you ever again.'"

"What do you mean?"

"The elders had a big meeting, and they told me never to speak to you because you haven't been coming to the Kingdom Hall."

"Michael then excused himself, drove over to his friend Marlon Brando's house, asking his advice. Marlon advised him, `For heaven's sake, Michael, that's your sister. If that's the way they're going to do things, you don't need to be part of that. You can always get another religion, but you can never get another sister.'"

"Michael decided to disobey the elders' edict and after that never attended any more meetings. To this day we've never discussed exactly what happened, but I know he subsequently severed his ties to the organization through a formal letter." p. 199


Gloria Naylor

The novelist Gloria Naylor, b. New York City, Jan. 25, 1950, was a Jehovah's Witnesses missionary from 1968 to 1975, then worked as a telephone operator in New York City hotels while attending Brooklyn College (B.A., 1981). Next, while earning an M.A. (1983) from Yale University, Naylor became famous for The Women of Brewster Place (1982), which won the American Book Award for best first novel. In linked stories the book portrays seven strong black women against the background of a rundown urban neighborhood. It became a television miniseries in 1989 and the basis for a short-lived weekly series in 1990. Naylor's second novel, Linden Hills (1985), applies the pattern of Dante's Inferno to a prosperous black suburb whose people have escaped the inner city, but at a high cost. Mama Day (1988) blends elements from Shakespeare's The Tempest with a tale of modern-day magic and mystery. Completing what the author called her "novel quartet" is Bailey's Cafe (1992), which explores the theme of female sexuality.


Michael Jackson

Question: Does any one remember what it was WT put out shortly after all the Michael Jackson eruption? I remember there were comments, but just shy of a name. We all knew who they were talking about. Any one remember?? It was a Watchtower article.

Answer #1: I can add to this the known fact that the WTS harrassed Jackson about the Thriller video, causing him to add a disclaimer to the video that it did not represent his beliefs about the supernatural. He also gave an 'interview' in the Awake! magazine saying he was naughty and sorry and he would never do it again. Does nayone have that?

Answer #2: This might be the one.

Awake! May 22, 1984 p. 19-20 "What About Music Videos? ***Would Never Do It Again!"

In another popular video, Thriller, the performer is seen to transform first into a "cat person," then a dancing "monster." Evidently not wanting viewers to conclude that it promoted spiritism, the film begins with the disclaimer: "Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this film in no way endorses a belief in the occult.-Michael Jackson." Nevertheless, it was so realistic that some who saw it admitted that they were horrified at first. What was this short film intended to convey? And how does the performer, Michael Jackson, feel about it in looking back?
"I would never do it again!" says Jackson. "I just intended to do a good, fun short film, not to purposely bring to the screen something to scare people or to do anything bad. I want to do what's right. I would never do anything like that again." Why not? "Because a lot of people were offended by it," explains Jackson. "That makes me feel bad. I don't want them to feel that way. I realize now that it wasn't a good idea. I'll never do a video like that again!" He continues: "In fact, I have blocked further distribution of the film over which I have control, including its release in some other countries. There's all kinds of promotional stuff being proposed on Thriller. But I tell them, 'No, no, no. I don't want to do anything on Thriller. No more Thriller.'"

Also I got a book called Michael Jackson: The Magic and the Madness by J. Randy Taraborreli.

This book goes into some interesting situations that the gloved one had with the elders in his congregation. I quote some things from the book:

"Despite the fact that Michael was a devote Jehovah's Witness-and no doubt had donated quite a bit of money to the religion-the church's elders were extremely upset with him, mostly because of the "Thriller" video. p.324
"But before he had even finished work on the "Thriller" video it brought to a head the ongoing conflict between the church elders of the Encino Kingdom Hall and Michael regarding his fame and his career....Im meetings between Michael and the elders...he was not receptive....He refused to make any kind of statement repudiating his work, and the church insisted he should .....Finally, when the elders threatened to force him to leave the religion Michael became extremely upset" p.326

This obviously had a serious effect on the gloved one so he decided to destroy the tapes. We're talking about a million dollars of work here. It was brought out to Michael that the church elders should not dictate Michael's "artistry." Michael's attention was brought to the fact that Bella Lugosi was a very religious man yet he played out his artistry as Dracula and Lugosi's religious beliefs had no bearing on his "art." So it was suggested that Michael put a disclaimer at the beginning of the video stating that the video in no way reflect Michael's religious convictions. Michael agreed to this. John Landis, the director, didn't want to do it but if he didn't agree then the whole thriller video was going to be scrapped.

The book continues:

"How ironic that Michael's benevolent spirit wasn't enough to satisfy the elders of his Jehovah's Witness congregation. They expected him to restrict his entertainment practices as well. At this time, Michael was called into another meeting with the witness elders over the "Thriller" video. Again they told him that they were considering excluding Michael from the religion. Michael left the meeting particularly shaken. He did not want to be disfellowshipped. He decided he would disown "Thriller" if he had to....Furthermore Michael would make a public statement about his sin in an issue of the Witness periodical, Awake! ( May 22, 1984 ) p.359

Finally Michael became like the rest of us in this group.

" In the spring of 1987 Michael disassociated himself from the congregation and that he no longer wants to be known as a Jehovah's Witness."

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