Jackson Tribute: The King of Pops

Michael Jackson's daughter Paris outshone the stars at his memorial last night as tears and tributes flowed to the King of Pop.

The 11-year-old, comforted by the Jackson family, sobbed as she made her public debut in front of 17,000 fans in Los Angeles - with an estimated billion more tuning in worldwide.

Standing in front on her father's gold-plated coffin, she said: "Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine and I just wanted to say I love him so much."

Paris was given the microphone after taking part in the final tribute song on stage alongside her two brothers Prince Michael Jackson II (also known as Blanket) and Prince Michael Jackson I.

A host of the world's biggest stars took part in the glittering memorial ceremony - but it was the children who made the greatest impression on the night.

[Shaheen Jafargholi]

12-year-old Welsh schoolboy Shaheen Jafargholi won a standing ovation from the packed stadium.

Shaheen, a former Britain's Got Talent contestant, delighted the crowd with his performance of the Jackson Five hit Who's Lovin You?

Afterwards, he said: "I love Michael Jackson. I just want to thank him for blessing me and everyone on this earth with his amazing music."

Choreographer Kenny Ortega praised the youngster and revealed that the King of Pop had personally requested his appearance in his London concerts after watching the child on Britain's Got Talent.

Former South African president Nelson Mandela and singer Diana Ross had led tributes to Jackson at Los Angeles' Staples Centre.

Praising Jackson for triumphing over tragedy in his life, Mr Mandela said in a message read out by Smokey Robinson: "Michael was a giant and a legend in the music industry and we mourn with the millions of fans worldwide."

Many in the audience were visibly upset at the sight of the coffin. Fans were seen breaking down in tears as the body was brought in as the Andrae Crouch Choir sang on stage.

The event, billed as the biggest celebrity send-off in history, ran at least 30 minutes longer than scheduled after Mariah Carey opened proceedings with a rendition of the Jackson Five's ballad I'll Be There, alongside Trey Lorenz.

Usher, the RnB singer who identified Jackson as his greatest inspiration, caused a stir among the crowd by becoming the first artist to touch Jackson's coffin.

After breaking down in tears singing Gone Too Soon, he was embraced by Jackson family members as he was led away from the stage.

Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown, earned a roar of approval from the crowd when he said Jackson was "quite simply the greatest entertainer that ever lived".

[Smokey Robinson]

Before the packed Staples Centre joined in several minutes' silence for the star, singer Smokey Robinson read out messages from Diana Ross and Mr Mandela.

A message from Ross said: "Michael wanted me to be there for his children and I will be there if they ever need me - I hope today brings closure for all those who loved him.

"I send my love and condolences to the Jackson family - Diana Ross."

Mr Mandela added: "We also mourn with his friends and his family for the loss of our dear friend (who) we will miss and memories of him cherish for a very long time.

"My wife and I, our family and friends, send you our condolences during this time. Be strong."

Actress Brooke Shields, who first met Jackson when she was 13, broke down in tears throughout the event.

Describing Jackson as "pure", she said: "He was often referred to as the King but the Michael that I knew was always the little prince.

"Michael saw everything with his heart."

She said Jackson's favourite song was Smile.

Referring to the lyrics "smile though your hearts are aching", she said: "Today, though our hearts are aching, we need to look up and we need to smile."

After her emotional speech, Jackson's older brother Jermaine, wearing a white glove, sang Smile to rapturous applause.

After actress Jennifer Hudson, whose own life was hit by tragedy, sang Jackson's hit You're Always In My Heart, the Reverend Al Sharpton suggested Jackson laid the foundations for a black man to become president of the United States.

The civil rights activist said: "It was Michael Jackson that brought blacks, whites and Asians together. Thank you Michael, thank you Michael, thank you Michael."

Family members held a private funeral service earlier at Forest Lawn Cemetery - but the scene of Jackson's eventual resting place has yet to be made public.

Police blocked off roads and warned those without tickets to stay away because they would not be able to get close to the centre, as an invasion of British fans arrived in California.


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