Down-on-Her-Luck Heiress Says She’s No “Smooth Criminal”
2:55 pm, May 24th | by Amy Tennery
Thanks to a 10-cent purchase at a thrift shop, Judi Woolworth Donahue (yes, that Woolworth) now claims she owns a coat that once belonged to the late singer Michael Jackson, according to a press release sent to us today.
We almost ignored the release — after all, it’s a story as unlikely as any you’d come across — but Donahue insists its true. And the details are too outlandish not to explore.
“It’s hard enough to get people to believe I’m F.W. Woolworth’s great granddaughter let alone that I own Michael Jackson’s coat!” she said over the phone.
But, according to her, the coat matches the very same one she saw during an MTV segment on the early years of the Jackson 5. Sure. After the chance purchase, she’s been on a mission to get the garment authenticated — and to get her story into the news.
Donahue first caught the public eye more than a decade ago when an Associated Press article depicted her impoverished life. As a single parent living off of food stamps, Donahue told the AP that her parents split when she was a child and she hasn’t known the luxury of the Woolworth name since. She said that her father was the grandson of F.W. Woolworth and that she and her mother were cut off from any family fortune.
Donahue’s spokesperson at TransMedia Group told Mogulite that — even with her newfound notoriety — the would-be heiress’ life hasn’t changed much since that story.
“She’s really in a tough financial way,” the spokesperson said. “No one reached out to her.”
Now, in a wildly improbable turn of events, Donahue is now publicizing her planned sale of a one-time costume piece from Michael Jackson’s collection. And she claims it’s worth $2 million.
“We have this letter rom a man who knew the Jackson family very well,” the Donahue spokesperson said. He referred us to the Motown Alumni Association — which, according to its website, appears to be a for-profit fan club that is “not affiliated with Motown or Universal Music.”
The organization’s president, Billy Wilson, was not immediately reachable for comment.
Although it’s unclear how Donahue was cut off from the family fortune — the AP said she has records to prove her lineage — her spokesperson said she’s in the “early stages” of trying to win back her rightful stake. Right now, she’s focused on selling this jacket, launching a broad public relations campaign to get the word out.
“She’s desperate and she needs to sell this coat,” her spokesperson said. “She’s going to put it on eBay; she’s notified Christie’s.”
A spokesperson for Christie’s declined to comment. Representatives from Woolworth (which is now known as Venator Group) were not immediately reachable.