Local woman’s memoir details friendship with Michael Jackson
By Katie Lulla
The legendary singer-songwriter Michael Jackson is many things to many people. For some, he is the definitive King of Pop. To others, it’s a lot more complicated, given the controversies that surrounded his fame. But for one Playa Vista resident, Michael Jackson was a beloved friend. Shana Mangatal’s book “Michael and Me: The Untold Story of Michael Jackson’s Secret Romance,” details her friendship with the music icon.
In 1989, Mangatal drove from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles where she landed her dream job as a receptionist for one of the hottest music management companies in the ’90s, Gallin Morey Associates. It represented class acts like Dolly Parton, The Pointer Sisters, and Neil Diamond, not to mention Mangatal’s childhood idol, Michael Jackson.
“My first day Elizabeth Taylor called, Michael called. It was just crazy!” Mangatal says. “We also represented actors. I remember when Renée Zellweger landed her role in ‘Jerry Maguire,’ she came to the office and we toasted champagne. She became a superstar.”
Mangatal spent seven years working for the management firm. It was during those years her friendship with Jackson developed. He would personally call into the office nearly every day. She remembers Jackson mostly as a down-to-earth, lighthearted person with a big laugh. She went to his birthday parties at Neverland Ranch and the two often played practical jokes on each other.
“(He influenced me) in every way really. He had such a powerful personality that, anyone who hung around him, his personality kind of rubbed off on them. I was no exception,” Mangatal says. “I always remembered that… I had to make the most of every opportunity that I had, because that was what Michael would want me to do.”
Jackson cast Mangatal in two short films, the first was called “Is This Scary.” Though the song from “Is This Scary” was meant to be the theme song for the 1993 film, “Addams Family Values,” it was dropped from the soundtrack when Jackson was accused of child molestation. “We had to stop filming because Michael was just too distraught to go on,” Mangatal says.
During the 1993 allegations, Mangatal and Jackson’s bond grew as she comforted him over the phone and gave him her support. She even told Jackson she loved him, and he said it back to her, which was an emotional experience for her because she had never exchanged those words with a man before.
“I said it out of support because I knew he needed it — he was going through so much. We didn’t know if he would make it through the night some nights. … We remained friends up until his death and that’s what the book is about,” she says.
After Jackson died, his fans contacted Mangatal over social media and suggested she write a book about her friendship with him. Although she was interviewed about Jackson on TV’s “Entertainment Tonight” in 2003, she never imagined writing a memoir. A few years after his death, she reread her diaries and decided to share her memories of him.
“There were so many crazy stories in the press about him. Most of it wasn’t true. And I wanted to just scream out and say, ‘No, that’s not true! That’s not who Michael was. That’s not the real Michael,’” she says. “I thought if I could somehow put what I had written in my diaries together as a book, maybe it could shed some light on who Michael really was.”
After pitching her memoir to several publishers, the Chicago Review Press gave her a book deal and she surprised herself by finishing the book in two months.
“(The process of writing a memoir) brings you clarity and it makes you see where you went wrong, and even where you went right, in life,” Mangatal says. “It’s not easy. I did it because I thought it could be cathartic, because I was really hurting from Michael’s passing.”
To accompany her book, Mangatal has a YouTube channel where she shares her experiences from her time with Jackson.
After working for Gallin Morey, Mangatal took different jobs in the entertainment industry including working for another legend — only this one was from the sports world. “Magic Johnson came into the office. He sees me and says, ‘You’re coming to work for me!’ So, I did,” she says.
Mangatal also continued to work as an actress. She can be seen in “Family Matters,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place.” In 2009, she visited Playa Vista and quickly decided to move into the area.
“I’ve been here ever since,” Mangatal adds. “It will be really hard to move away from here because I’ve really grown accustomed to just how perfect and beautiful it is.”
“Michael and Me: The Untold Story of Michael Jackson’s Secret Romance”