NEW YORK >> Love, grief, loss and legacy are just a few of the reasons Mayte Garcia is stepping back into the purple light with a new memoir covering her 11 years with the late music icon Prince.
Garcia was just 16, a fan and already a professional belly dancer, when her mother slipped one of Prince’s entourage a videotape of her daughter dancing. They were at one of his concerts and Prince watched right away, summoning her backstage.
Letters and phone calls followed as a friendship blossomed, regardless of their 15-year age difference. At nearly 18, she became part of his working life; by 19, she was his lover (it’s time, he told her, for birth control).
They married when she was 22. She was pregnant two months later, but they lost their baby boy to a rare genetic disorder six days after birth. Their grief over the passing of their precious Amiir, which means Prince in Arabic, would contribute to their divorce in 2000, Garcia said while promoting the recently released book “The Most Beautiful Girl: My Life with Prince.”
Garcia — the subject of Prince’s hit “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” — hadn’t seen him for many years when he died April 21, 2016. The 43-year-old regrets that she didn’t get in touch earlier that year when she learned through old friends that he wasn’t doing well.
Highlights of The Associated Press’ conversation with Garcia:
“I started writing this book years ago. I wanted to remember, just, my childhood,” Garcia said. “People would tell me, especially after my marriage to Prince, you need to write a book because you’ve had a crazy life.”
She added: “It was never like a tell-all or to talk bad about my relationship and my past. Actually it was done for love, and then when he passed, then I really felt the urgency to do it because I know a lot of people are going to come out with books and stories, but none like mine.”
Prince was intensely private; he shied away from the spotlight, did few interviews and cultivated a mysterious image. But Garcia, who later starred in VH1’s reality show “Hollywood Exes,” said he didn’t try and stop her from writing a memoir.
“He was aware that I was writing a book. He never said anything.”
The loss of their baby to a severe and disfiguring form of Pfeiffer syndrome was gut-wrenching. Their grief played out in different ways. Prince refused to acknowledge the death publicly, dragging her out of bed for a bizarre interview with Oprah Winfrey along with a tour of Paisley Park that included a nursery and playroom Prince had installed as a surprise.
“I can’t speak for him and his loss,” Garcia said. “He just got into the work. … That’s what he does, through anger, through love. My journey was different. For me it was really hard on my body, on my soul, the loss, and for many years I kept it trapped, and to release it has been really healing. I feel like I’m honoring him and our son with this book.”
The question of whether Prince had a will has slowed settlement of his estate for a year. None has been found. All Garcia knows is at one point he had one.
“Absolutely. I mean I don’t know if it exists anymore because people were very respectful of him. He could have said, ‘Destroy that,’” she noted.
“I know for a fact there was a will when I was pregnant and married because I asked him. I remember thinking, ‘What’s going to happen? What do you want, because I don’t want to be stuck here having to deal with all of this. Please leave a guideline of what you want,’” Garcia said. “I never saw it, but I know that he did. I don’t know what happened to it.”
Garcia says she never saw Prince take drugs. A medical examiner has ruled his death was due to an accidental opioid overdose.
What she does know is this: He was once rushed to the hospital to have his stomach pumped after passing out, saying that he mixed wine and aspirin for a migraine. There were times he seemed “loopy,” and there was the issue of her Vicodin pills going missing after they lost the baby.
She thought he might have been taking the pain medication to prevent her from doing herself harm.
“He never complained about pain. I never saw him drunk. The three incidences that I mention in the book, the first one was aspirin and wine. I didn’t think that much of it because it was such a happy time in our lives. We were newlyweds and I was freshly pregnant. I was like, ‘OK, well maybe he did have a headache.’”
There was a time he asked her to flush some pills down a toilet after falling ill before a concert.
“I know that the loss of our son was really hard on him and I think that that’s what I thought. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, he’s really affected by it. I really need to be there for him.’ I just went into that, trying to be there for him instead of, what is this and why are you doing that and where did you get it from? Now that I’m older, I probably would have done that, but it just was a very sensitive time.”
PRINCE’S DEATH AND THEIR DIVORCE
Garcia learned the news of his shocking end from an unlikely source: Manuela Testolini, Prince’s second wife who he also divorced. Testolini was involved in his charitable foundation and a Jehovah’s Witnesses study group he attended while he and Garcia were still married but she was living mostly in Spain.
“All I know is that she was around when I wasn’t,” Garcia said.
Years later, Testolini apologized to Garcia after reaching out on social media. The two struck up a friendship, of sorts, that endures.
Garcia was driving in Los Angeles, where she lives with her 5-year-old daughter, when Testolini texted for her to call, and told her of Prince’s death.
“It was just an out of body experience. It was horrible. I didn’t want to believe it,” she said.
As for forgiving Testolini, she said: “I just don’t like to have bad energy with people. It’s like a disease. I even said that with Prince, ‘I don’t want to have any kind of bad energy with you. We need to clear all this.’ I’ll always love him.”