What did the women in Prince’s life bring to him? What was it about the sacred feminine principle that moved and defined him in a way distinct from any other artist of our time? Including ex-wives Mayte Garcia and Manuela Testolini, ’80s protégés Vanity, Apollonia and Sheila E., modern muses such as Janelle Monáe, Misty Copeland, Esperanza Spalding, and model Damaris Lewis, Prince was known for being surrounded by female energy throughout his lifetime. Draping himself with beautiful, creative women always seemed to have brought out some unique inspiration in Prince. What exactly was that about?
Despite his decades-long dedication to a perm hairstyle that conjures images of Little Richard, James Brown and the old-school R&B era in additon to a wardrobe of ruffles, lace, high heels and various ladylike fabrics, we never really questioned Prince’s sexuality. That’s partly because he questioned it first. On his 1981 song “Controversy,” he pondered, “Am I Black or White, am I straight or gay?” But it was mainly because of his sex appeal, evidenced by a long list of ex-paramours—Nona Gaye, Ananda Lewis, Troy Beyer, Carmen Electra, Madonna and Kim Basinger as well as Vanity, Apollonia, Sheila E. and others—that we accepted unquestionably Prince’s hetero affections for the opposite sex.
Consider how his very musical tastes slanted toward the feminine, at least concerning his lyrics. Chaka Khan, Cyndi Lauper, Sheena Easton and the Bangles have all recorded songs Prince wrote. So have Mariah Carey, Patti LaBelle, TLC, Meli’sa Morgan, Nona Hendryx, Madonna, Sinéad O’Connor, Dale Bozzio, Martika, Elisa Fiorillo and Mavis Staples. Not to mention protégés such as Jill Jones, Taja Sevelle, Rosie Gaines and Bria Valente. Covers by men are quite rare (exceptions: D’Angelo’s “She’s Always in My Hair” and Tom Jones’ “Kiss”). Whatever was in Prince’s heart always came across most emotionally and authentically from the lips of gorgeous women.
But his need for a continuous coterie of beauties that encompass a multitude of on-again-off-again relationships and his two marriages that lasted a combined 10 years—1996–2000 (Mayte Garcia) and 2001–2006 (Manuela Testolini)—perhaps went deeper. In a 1996 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Prince revealed, “Recent [psycho]analysis has proved that there’s probably two people inside of me … And we haven’t determined what sex that other person is yet.” Oprah said: “What I’m getting from you is that you are very much in touch with both sides of yourself, your masculine and feminine side.” The Purple One agreed.
Whether he kept constant company with sexy, motivating female muses as a matter of attracting his own inner reflection, one thing is certain: Prince’s acute appreciation for beauty. Apart from his assortment of attractive wives, girlfriends, collaborators and charges, his mastery of the slow jam and timeless lyrical imagery in love songs such as “Adore,” “Scandalous” and “Insatiable” expose an aesthetician.
The legend told Rolling Stone in a 2014 interview, “I just see beauty in everybody now. When you’re a kid, you go, ‘She’s the finest. I want to be with her only.’ And then you hook up with her and you realize that’s not the case. ’Cause here comes, you know, Saturday.” Disciple Ingrid Chavez, co-star of 1990’s Purple Rain sequel, Graffiti Bridge, recently told the same magazine, “That was the thing about Prince: He wanted people’s dreams to come true. He saw the potential in people just because they were his friends.” In the end, the answer to the riddle of Prince’s feminine force field of lady friends likely lies somewhere in the middle of these ideas.
Through his mascara-covered third eye, Prince envisioned the grandest version of who these women really were, and he helped them all realize that potential—because of spiritual altruism and sexual attraction. In return, they gave him the inspired classics. He mastered the law of attraction in more ways than one.
Read the rest of EBONY’s commemorative Prince coverage in the June 2016 issue. On newsstands now! Click here to subscribe.