By People Staff
July 13, 2009 12:00 PM

God, your nose is big.” That’s the taunt Michael Jackson, in a 2003 documentary, recalled his father repeatedly making, leaving the young star feeling like he wanted “to die. And on top of it, you got to go onstage … in front of hundreds of thousands of people, and just, God; it’s just hard. I would’ve been happier wearing a mask.” In some way he ended up doing that: Starting with a nose job in the early 1980s, Jackson radically transformed his face, although he would only ever admit to a second nose job and the skin condition vitiligo (in which pigment-producing cells are destroyed). But plastic-surgery experts say vitiligo alone would not have left his skin such an even shade. “Vitiligo is usually not uniform; it appears in small patches,” says plastic surgeon Pearlman Hicks, who adds Jackson could have lightened his skin to even it out using a medication that blocks pigment production. Experts also note that, based on photos, it seems likely Jackson had more than 25 facial operations, with additional nose jobs, cheek implants, eye lifts and chin work possibly contributing to his changed visage. “There’s no question he had too many inappropriate surgeries,” says Dr. Wallace Goodstein, who shared a practice with Jackson’s former plastic surgeon in the early 1990s. “And they didn’t serve him well.”