Wade Robson is an Australian dancer and choreographer. He is also the focus of the two-part documentary Leaving Neverland, which airs tonight on HBO. Throughout the doc, Robson, 36, details his friendship with Michael Jackson and claims that the pop singer molested him over the course of four years.
Robson’s claims have sparked controversy due to the fact that he previously testified on Jackson’s behalf, and said that the singer never abused him. Learn more about Robson’s history with Jackson, as well as details surrounding his own career, below.
1. He Met Jackson At the Age of 5 After Being Called Onstage at a Concert
Robson first met Jackson in 1987, when he was called onstage to perform at a concert in Brisbane, Australia. He was 5 at the time, and a huge admirer of Jackson’s music. According to Esquire, he impressed both Jackson and the crowd with his performance of the “Smooth Criminal” dance. The pop superstar told Robson and his family to get in touch with him if they ever traveled to America, and three years later, they wound up staying at his Neverland Ranch.
Robson says that the sexual contact began in 1990, when the rest of his family left to tour the Grand Canyon and he stayed at the Neverland Ranch with Jackson. Robson adds that Jackson introduced him to things like pornography and masturbation. “[It was] pretty graphic heterosexual porn — oral sex, full penetration, anal stuff,” he said during the documentary. “It seemed like he liked it, so I wanted to like it. I just didn’t know how to deal with it. It was like him pulling back the curtain on this whole other universe, but this one wasn’t so fun.”
Robson also said that Jackson would often talk about how they are meant to be together. “You and I were brought together by God,” he recalls Jackson telling him. “We were meant to be together and this is us showing each other that we love each other.” Their relationship lasted until 1994, at which point Robson says that Jackson’s attention was on actor Macaulay Culkin. “Macaulay was where I was on the previous trips, by Michael’s side at every moment,” he said. “Now, I was kind of on the sideline as far as being Michael’s friend, being his favorite.”
2. He Said That Jackson Coerced Him Into Testifying On His Behalf In 1993 & 2005
Robson says that his relationship with Jackson led to him being questioned by the police as early as 1992. “As soon as the cop started asking me these questions, the first thing that came to mind was everything Michael started telling me when I was 7,” he recalled. “If anyone ever found out that we were doing these sexual things that he and I would go to jail for the rest of our lives. It was terrifying.”
When Jackson was accused of molesting a boy named Jordan Chandler in 1993, Robson testified on his behalf. The pop singer settled with the Chandler family out of court for a reported $25 million. Robson was asked to testify again in 2004 when Jackson was accused of molesting 13-year-old Gavin Arvizo. This time, however, Robson was hesitant to get involved. In the documentary, he says that Jackson coerced him into testifying.
“I did not want to testify. At some point, I worked up the courage to tell Michael that I don’t want to testify,” he recalled. “I remember silence on the phone for awhile. He said, ‘I understand it’s really hard and it’s tough to go through this with all of the media and everything, but we can’t let them do this to us. We can’t let them take us down. Us, us, us.” Robson testified, and Jackson was acquitted of all charges on June 14, 2005.
3. He’s Choreographed & Directed Music Videos for Acts Like N*Sync & Britney Spears
Robson appeared in three of the music videos for Jackson’s 1991 album Dangerous: “Black or White”, “Jam” and “Heal the World.” He was also part of the rap group Quo, which was signed to Jackson’s MJJ record label. After the group disbanded, Robson found success as a dance choreographer. In 1999 and 2000, he co-directed consecutive world tours for pop superstar Britney Spears.
In 2001, Robson choreographed a Pepsi commercials for Spears that aired during the Super Bowl, as well as the music video for Spears’ hit single “I’m a Slave 4 U.” He also worked closely with N*Sync at the height of their popularity, choreographing their performance at the 1999 Video Music Awards and their No Strings Attached Tour in 2000.
Robson was the creator and host of MTV’s The Wade Robson Project, which was a talent search for hip-hop dancers. The series ran for a lone season in 2003. Robson has won two Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Choreography during his career, both of which came via his work on the competition series So You Think You Can Dance.
4. He Says the Birth of His Son Was What Inspired Him to Tell the Truth About Jackson
Robson credits the birth of his son Koa with allowing him to confront his troubled past.“I start to have these images of the kind of sexual stuff that happened between Michael and I happening to Koa and seeing Michael doing it to Koa what he did to me,” he admitted. “And my immediate emotional reaction to having those images is just this rage and disgust and violent feeling.”
“Like, I would kill anyone who did anything like that to Koa,” he added. “What I started thinking was, how can I have such clear feelings—negative, horrible feelings—about the idea of that sexual stuff happening to Koa but when I think about me and Michael, I don’t feel anything.” Robson told his wife Amanda and then his mother about what Jackson had done, and in 2013, he appeared on The Today Show to announce that he was bringing charges against Jackson’s estate.
In 2015, a judge ruled that Robson had waited too long to file legal action. Nevertheless, he told Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed that he is proud to be telling the truth. “I want to speak the truth as loud as I had to speak the lie,” he says in the documentary.
5. He Wants to Help Other Survivors Feel ‘Less Isolated’ With His Story
Robson told Rolling Stone that his participation in the documentary was to help people who have gone through similar ordeals. “Many times I’ve felt like I was the crazy one and no one would understand. You feel alone,” he admitted. “Then I had some experiences in support groups for adult survivors where I’m sitting in the room in a circle of survivors and they’re talking about their personal stories of abuse. The validation I would get from that was so incredible and so healing.”
“One of the only ways we can change it is to be talking about it,” he added. “Understandably, we don’t want to talk about it ’cause it’s nasty, it’s horrific, it’s one of the darkest parts of humanity. But [that’s] exactly the reason that we’ve got to talk about it.” Robson went on to say that the documentary is less about Jackson and more about his victims.
“It’s not for me, and it’s not any sort of vendetta piece against Michael,” he reasoned. “I was sexually abused. James [Safechuck] was sexually abused. And our abuser happened to be Michael Jackson. And this is the story of how this unfolded and unfortunately the story of how this unfolds in many people’s lives.”