"All anyone wants to talk about is my father," Paris Jackson says, "and it makes me sad."
Paris understands she's not a girl, not yet a woman. She wants to honor her father Michael Jackson's legacy, but at the same time, she wants to establish her own identity in Hollywood.
The budding model graces the April 2017 cover of Harper's Bazaar, but given her lineage and thin résumé, it's impossible not to talk about her famous family. "Plenty of times I've thought about not doing anything in the public eye and having my own private life. Then I started seeing how everything in the world is going. And I feel like each year it's getting worse," Paris says. "I know there are a lot of people who would feel very blessed to be in my position, so I want to use it for important things. I have a couple of ideas. I have a lot of ideas, but I'm still trying to figure out the right way to do it. I mean, I'm 18. I can't have it all together, but I do have a plan."
Paris was born into pop music royalty, but it wasn't necessarily the life Michael wanted for his little girl. "I wasn't around a lot of other girls. When I was a kid, I was with my dad and my two brothers [Prince Jackson, 20, and Blanket Jackson, 15]," Paris says. "Growing up, I was treated as the favorite because I was the only girl. I was the princess; I was perfect in my dad's eyes."
Michael was fiercely protective of his children, and for the first 12 years of Paris' life, she was home-schooled—meaning "the only interactions I'd ever had were with family members or other adults," she says. As a result, Paris "didn't have social skills. I had to force myself to learn so fast. For the past six years, I've been learning how to communicate."
Fortunately, she says, "I think I've gotten pretty good at it."
To say Paris' life has been hard is an understatement.
In the eight years that followed Michael's death, Paris tried to commit suicide several times, and she eventually sought treatment at age 15. A self-proclaimed "weird kid," Paris "always wanted to kind of break off and do my own thing, just 'cause I feel I enjoy independence very much." But independence wasn't necessarily what she expected—or what she needed. "Once I got introduced into the real world, I was shocked. It blew me away," she says. "Not just because it was sexist, but misogynist and racist and cruel. It was scary as hell. And it still is really scary."
And Paris would know: she's been bullied for years. But today, she chooses to ignore her haters. "There are some days when I still don't want to deal with any of it. There are some days where I'm like, 'Nope, I'm not going to go online.' There are days when I'm too sensitive," she says. At the end of the day, Paris says, "Who gives a f--k? You're on their mind—how is that a bad thing? Doesn't matter if they're saying good or bad things about you. They're thinking about you enough to write about you. You just can't care. I used to [care]. Then it gets to a point where, you know what, it's going to happen. Not everybody is going to be happy with what you do. If you're not happy with what you're doing, that's a problem. If you're happy, who gives a f--k?"
The April 2017 issue of Harper's Bazaar is on newsstand March 28.