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Safety Harbor woman in Michael Jackson video sues over game likeness

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The dancer who played Michael Jackson’s love interest in his 1987 video for his hit, “The Way you Make me Feel” is suing Nintendo and other companies responsible for a 2010 video game she claims uses her unauthorized likeness.

The game is called “Michael Jackson: The Experience” and is a take on the then-popular series of dance video games on the Nintendo Wii. Players use the controller to imitate the dance moves on screen and get scored based on their movements.

In the original music video, Safety Harbor resident Stephanie Thumbtzen under the stage name Tatiana Thumbtzen, played a thin, curly-haired bombshell Jackson chased after throughout the duration of the video.

The dance game shows an animated character wearing the same clothing as Jackson wore in the video alongside a woman in a black dress and black high heels. The woman in the game also has curly hair, same as Thumbtzen.

Thumbtzen’s lawsuit alleges the use of her likeness in the video has caused her permanent “financial and emotional harm” and is seeking financial damages as a result.

The lawsuit does not specify exactly how much Thumbtzen is seeking.

Her allegations that the video game uses her likeness will likely be called into question by attorneys for the defendants including Jackson’s estate, Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Ubisoft Incorporated and others.

In the original music video Thumbtzen is indeed wearing a short black dress and has long curly hair. However, in the video game the character is wearing a black dress with sleeves and high-heeled sandals. In the music video, Thumbtzen’s dress is sleeveless and she’s wearing high-heeled boots.

The animated video game character also appears to have a larger build than the actual Thumbtzen and a larger bust.

Meanwhile, Jackson’s likeness is animated wearing the exact same clothing as the original music video.

It’s not clear whether the subtle changes were intentional to avoid such a lawsuit, but they will likely be used as a defense.

Thumbtzen has already used her work with Jackson to her financial advantage. She toured with the pop sensation for some time until she reportedly kissed him on stage.

In 2005 she wrote a book about her relationship with Jackson titled The Way He Made Me Feel. In 2011 she wrote another, Michael & Tatiana: The King of My Heart.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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