From his sprawling fairytale Neverland Ranch in California to lavish shopping sprees around the world, Michael Jackson was legendary not only for his iconic musical career but for his over-the-top lifestyle. A new biopic, “Searching for Neverland,” set to air May 29 on Lifetime, examines the singer’s later life through the eyes of his bodyguards, Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard.
“We did a lot of research,” explains costume designer Rita McGhee. “The great thing is Navi — who plays Michael — knew about Michael’s style firsthand because he was actually his body double.”
The Trinidadian native was hired by Jackson to work as his body double over the course of 17 years and consulted on the film’s wardrobe, which consists mainly of looks the late pop star wore at home with his children Prince, Michael Jr. and Paris Jackson.
“We captured him being a loving father to his kids and he wanted the kids to have fun with their clothes,” continues McGhee. “He was very much into textures and had a lot of denim, from hard to chambrays.”
During his life, which ended tragically in 2009, Jackson shopped at the most exclusive clothing boutiques worldwide, but also could be down-to-earth in his sartorial pursuits. “Bill [his bodyguard] would take Michael to Burlington Coat Factory to get clothes,” adds McGhee. “He would be in disguise and would get clothes for himself or pajamas for the kids. He had Roberto Cavalli making him clothes, too, so it was both ends of the spectrum.”
McGhee, whose design credits also include “Empire” and “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” said that it was important she capture the textures of Jackson’s wardrobe — from silks to wools and cottons. All have a certain movement accurate to the singer’s style.
“He liked things that flowed,” she adds. “It was about making sure it was right.”
More From WWD: