Paris Jackson wowed at PEOPLE’s Ones to Watch party on Tuesday — but just a few years ago, the 19-year-old never imagined herself walking a red carpet.
“I originally wanted to just kind of stay out of the spotlight and become a psychologist or a nurse at a psychiatric ward,” says Jackson, who is featured in the current issue of PEOPLE as part of the magazine’s annual Ones to Watch portfolio.
The daughter of pop icon Michael Jackson, who died in 2009 when she was 11, says the realization she wanted to enter public life came as she approached high school graduation.
“I realized it would be a shame to waste the platform I was given,” she says. “Having the ability to go into the acting and fashion world, I just figured why not use that to make my platform bigger. That way, instead of helping the world one by one with patients, I could help the masses.”
- To see who else made it on PEOPLE’s Ones to Watch list, pick up the latest issue of the magazine — on newsstands Friday
Jackson is currently a recurring guest star on Fox’s Star, recently signed on as the face of Calvin Klein and will make her film debut alongside Amanda Seyfried in 2018’s Gringo. But the actress and model — who has a history of speaking out on social issues — says she feels most rewarded by the work she does as a newly announced ambassador for the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.
“I feel very lucky to have gotten to fly to Africa and be a part of the work we’re helping make possible,” says Jackson, who was Taylor’s goddaughter.
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And while being a public figure means a lack of privacy at times, Jackson says most fans are very “mindful” of approaching her when she’s out and about and she believes she’s figured out the key to maintaining a sense of being grounded while navigating Hollywood:
“The best advice I’ve been given is to be strategic in the mind, young at heart, and wise in the soul,” she says. “If you have those three things you can navigate pretty easily any path that you’re on.”