Written by Seven
Researched by Nikki Evans-Taylor
The intertubes are all abuzz with salacious speculation by a parasitic French “doctor“ who has a book to peddle and who, like so many others, intends to abuse Michael Jackson’s name to do so. Alain Branchereau claims that Michael’s voice remained high due to “chemical castration” from a drug prescribed to him at 12 years old for acne. The drug in question is called ‘cyproterone‘.
“Chemical castration” is a deliberate misnomer. This treatment is used for sex offenders, not acne. And there are other drugs used for “chemical castration“, such as Depo-Provera and none of these drugs cause any changes to the voice. So this doctor’s misuse of the term is right off the bat, deliberately salacious. Also, we’ll mention that Branchereau is a vascular surgeon, not an endocrinologist, so he is speaking far out of his field of expertise here.
Micromedex lists the drug in question (cyproterone) as at one time being used for acne, but only in low doses and only for girls. More commonly it has been used for hirituism (hairiness) in women, for precocious puberty (early puberty) and for late-stage prostate cancer. This drug was researched beginning in 1965 and patented in 1976 but only in Britain at that time. It is unclear when it became available in the US and when it was, it was certainly not used for “chemical castration” or for acne in boys.
Around 1981, it began to be used for ‘precocious puberty‘. At that time, it was considered a newer treatment for that disorder. Used for that purpose, cyproterone acetate suppresses the clinical signs of sexual maturation in precocious puberty (puberty that occurs far too early in the life of a child).
When used for precocious puberty, the goal of the drug is to suppress puberty – not to prevent it from occurring, so its effects are temporary ie: as soon as the drug is stopped, hormonal levels and development return to normal – including the development of the vocal chords/larynx and all the usual secondary sex characteristics which normally develop during puberty. Thus, if Michael was given this drug for any reason, as soon as he stopped taking it, his larynx and other aspects of adolescent development would have resumed as normal and its effects would not have been permanent.
Also, if used for any reason by Michael, this drug would have suppressed all the clinical signs of puberty, not just vocals/larynx.
Given the timeline of its patent and of the clinical trials in the US, and the availability of the drug in the US, it’s seemingly impossible that Michael could have received this drug in the early 1970s. Cyproterone was not available in 1972 or 1973 in the US because it was still in clinical trials at that time. Furthermore, such clinical trials would never have been done on a child of only 12.
As mentioned, this drug would not only affect the voice or larynx but all adolescent development. Michael’s adolescent development in all other respects was normal: facial hair, body hair, Adam’s apple, broadening of shoulders, increased muscle mass, genitalia normal, etc. With this or any drug you cannot only affect the vocal chords/larynx without affecting all those other systems too. As we saw and can still see via photos of Michael at various ages, his growth from a boy into a teen and into a man was quite normal at all ages and stages. So this gives lie to this salacious speculation in Alain Branchereau’s book that this or any such drug was used at all, much less that it had any permanent effects.
From what I read, Michael did not develop acne until age 14 or so and dealt with it via diet, having become vegetarian for many years, and he continued to suffer with acne will into his late teens. Even in ‘The Wiz‘, Michael had commented that he was happy to be able to wear make-up to cover his acne. At that time, Michael was in his late teens, at least.
Considering all this, the claim by this doctor that Michael took some unavailable drug at age 12 in 1972 or 1973 for acne, that somehow miraculously only affected his voice but not all other systems (ie: onset of puberty), and that it did so permanently, is just ridiculous.
It’s well known that boys at 13 or 14 years old always have a voice change. Michael went through this phase too and may or may not have had the help of a vocal coach to guide him through it. The size of the larynx during this period increases by two-thirds during this period. Boys’ voices can be lowered more than an octave changing a child that was a soprano or alto to a tenor, baritone, or bass. This period in a boy’s life lasts usually one and one half years but can last 2 – 3 years.
But to entertain Branchereau’s theory, let’s talk about ‘castratos‘ and Michael’s vocal range. The only “true” castratos were physically castrated or had endocrine problems. The physical castration process was stopped way back in the 1800s.
Michael’s voice change was obvious beginning in about 1972/73 and well-embodied in his late teens. For example, listen to the song Blues Away on the Jacksons album in 1976. Even well before that, he was full-fledged tenor, not soprano, mezzo soprano or contralto by any means. Voice professionals debating on Michael’s vocal range mention tenor and also some baritone. He just didn’t use his baritone range often. See the following links:
Several others have mentioned that Michael actually had a deeper speaking voice than he often used. Seth Riggs has mentioned MJ’s voice being normal and “husky“. Riggs said that Michael didn’t like it and called it his “frog voice“, and so chose to speak in a higher register. Also, his deeper voice is very present in ‘This Is It‘ and as the mayor in “Ghosts“, as well as in songs like “2000 Watts” and in various award speeches. Listen to ‘In The Closet‘ to hear a much deeper voice from Michael (again not possible if he had been ‘castrated‘).
Seth Riggs also commented in this video that Michael’s vocal range was easily 3.5+ octaves and at one point it reached 4 octaves according to Riggs. That could not be the case if he had been ‘castrated‘, chemically or otherwise. Any type of permanent hormonal meddling whether surgical or chemical would have resulted in a vocal range only in the higher registers, certainly not an entire range of 3.5+ octaves!
What has to be easily the most obvious reason Branchereau’s book is pure hogwash is – as a reader commented below – that all of the Jackson boys had soft, higher-pitched voices, especially when they were younger. This is a Jackson family trait, not ‘castration‘.
Further and also damningly, the autopsy report did not state that there was anything abnormal about the size of Michael’s larynx or other bones, nor anything abnormal about his genitals or any other physical male attributes, which would have certainly been affected if the fantasy is to be believed that this drug was taken by him at 12 (even though it was unavailable at that time), that it somehow affected these things permanently, or affected only his larynx and vocal chords but nothing else.
In addition to being evidently unaware of the drug’s indications, short and long-term effects, and availability in the US, it’s also worth pointing out that Alain Branchereau does not have access to nor has he ever seen Michael’s medical records from age 12 until his twenties, which he would have to in order to factually make any such claim.
The truth is, he is speculating and hoping the public’s ignorance and lack of knowledge on the subject will be enough to allow him to profit from his book. I guess it may work, especially since the tabloids and media have as per usual crawled all over this issue without bothering themselves with any facts whatsoever.
This whole idea that Michael was “chemically castrated” is not only a serious misnomer, but an outright lie. It simply never happened. In fact, it’s absolutely impossible.