Mayte Garcia, Prince’s first wife, has become the first Prince associate to write a book about him. She says “The Most Beautiful: My Life with Prince” was done with love and respect. Much of the book is about Garcia’s life, as star teenage belly-dancer, lover of Mötley Crüe's Tommy Lee and a single mother of a 5-year-old girl. There’s also a great deal about her 11 years with Prince.
In an hour-long conversation last week from her home in Los Angeles, Garcia, 43, touched on a variety topics, including Prince’s obsession with privacy, her relationship with his second wife and her performance at last fall’s tribute concert in St. Paul.
On her two book signings in the Twin Cities
“For me, Minneapolis will always have a special place in my heart,” said the Alabama-born, North Carolina-reared dancer/actress, who went to high school in Germany while her father was in the U.S. military. “It’s where our son was born and I spent a lot of amazing years there. Of course, it’s bittersweet now but I always love feeling the energy there.”
Tuesday’s event at the University Club in St. Paul will be “more intimate,” she promised. She’ll read some passages and then answer questions from people who must purchase $30 tickets, which covers the cost of the book. Talking with the fans is “healing,” she says.
As for her Mall of America appearance, “there will be more people but it’ll be short,” she said.
On her relationship with Mall of America
“Pretty much my whole pregnancy, I’d walk it all the time,” she recalled. “That was my getaway from Paisley Park. I’d always hit up Nordstrom. The perfume section was something I loved. I’d go smell new scents. I remember the Wisconsin cheese place and I’d always watch people there.”
On writing the book
She began working on a book several years ago to tell her life story. “A lot of trauma I made myself forget,” she said. “I was very into journals.” She delved into this project in earnest in September. She worked with an uncredited ghost writer named Joni Rodgers, who’d collaborated with Broadway star Kristin Chenowith and actress Swoosie Kurtz on their books.
“I specifically chose a woman who’d lost a child because that was the most important part of the book and I wanted to be as delicate as possible,” Garcia said in explaining why she chose Rodgers. “We went back and forth a lot with that. I needed help finding the words.”
On Prince and privacy
Unlike other people who worked for Prince, she didn’t have a nondisclosure contract. If you read the book, you can tell it’s my life.
“I was married to him. There’s a level of respect you want to hold. I worked for him as well. I met him when I was 16. My father gave him legal guardianship over me. It was a different relationship” than his other employees had.
On disclosing the name of her and Prince’s and baby boy, Amiir, who lived for only one week
Garcia checked into Abbott Northwestern Hospital in 1996 under the pseudonym Mia Gregory and hence the baby was cited as “Boy Gregory” on his death certificate after dying of complications of Pfeiffer syndrome.
“For so many years it would bother me that people would write ‘Boy Gregory,’ I have to reveal this,” said Garcia, who explained in the book that “Amiir” means Prince in Arabic. “I revealed it at the memorial [service after Prince’s death last April]. It was something Prince would have liked as well. I don’t think he knew how to handle it. Doing it is such a relief for me. People acknowledging our son has being so healing for me.”
On the estate’s reaction to the book
“They’re very supportive. They consider me family as well. When you’re family, you don’t go and say bad stuff.”
On fan reaction to the book
“People are saying they love seeing a side of him that makes them love him even more,” Garcia said. “People are grateful about this book.”
On the other hand, some detractors have expressed their displeasure about Garcia disclosing personal things about the obsessively private Prince.
“I’ve tried to avoid reading that kind of stuff but it’s gotten back to me. I’ve always said that when we were together, it was a time when he was most social. He wanted to start a family. He got married. You don’t hide when you do these kind of things. Having families, you have to have play days and school. We talked about all that stuff. He did the ‘Today Show,’ he did Oprah, he did the Muppets. He wanted to be more open. It’s my life, as well. I’m sharing tastefully and respectfully and with love. “
On her last interactions with Prince
In late 2015, they were both in the same Los Angeles club to see Liv Warfield, who sang in Prince’s NPG. Garcia saw Prince’s guitar pedals set up on the stage so she knew he was going to perform. “I knew when he walked in. I felt his energy,” she said. “I looked back and I saw the silhouette. And he left.”
The last time Garcia spoke with Prince was in 2008. Her sister had taken Garcia for a rare club outing in Los Angeles and the DJ told them Prince was there. His ex approached him. Twice, he asked her what her name was. Then, he said he was joking.
“We talked for a very, very long time. It was a good talk. It was kind of personal and then he’d get into his beliefs and I’d debate it.”
On Prince’s vault of music at Paisley Park
“A lot of music. A lot of stuff he started and didn’t think he wanted to go in that direction. A lot of experimenting. A lot of stuff he thought people weren’t ready for. He recorded all the time. He taped every show. Just for reference. If it was a really good show, he’d put it in the vault. He’d destroy stuff. We shot music videos all the time that never saw the light of day. I remember doing vignettes that we shot for the Glam Slam club and for NPG Music Club. It was an ongoing thing all the time.”
On Paisley Park as a museum
“I thought it was a little soon when it opened. I also understand the predicament the estate was in. I went to go see it. It was still fresh. But I heard Prince say it: ‘This is going to be Graceland. This will be a museum when I’m not here.’ But then there were many times when he said ‘I’m not going to die.’ So … it was back and forth.
“I totally see it as a museum. It’s heartbreaking, too, I still see him behind the console recording himself. I still see me bringing tea to him. It’s hard but beautiful.
“When I saw his urn when I went to the memorial, it felt exactly like when I saw my son in the urn. It was like ‘He’s not there. His spirit is way above us.’ It was that struggle.
On performing at the tribute concert in October at Xcel Energy Center
“It was very awkward. I definitely had a couple breakdowns. I went onstage thinking ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ The lovely singer Saida came on and she started singing and it helped. And seeing all the love in the audience was amazing. Of course, a lot of pain and sorrow. But there’s a lot of love for him. So it’s healing.”
On not attending the Celebration last month, two weeks after her book was published
She was invited but decided not to attend. “For book reasons and I didn’t want to bring my daughter to it. There’d be a lot of tears. Maybe I’ll go next year or the following year.”
On Prince leaving no will
“It’s heartbreaking that he didn’t leave what he wanted with his music. Because he said it time and time again. His music was like his children. I just pray I don’t see it in a commercial I know he wouldn’t like.”
On selling his clothes and their china
Having those things in her home made it hard for her to move forward.
“If you have a guy over and there’s a whole bunch of china from your wedding, it’s not a good idea,” she explained.
His clothing was sold to raise money for Garcia’s nonprofit animal rescue foundation.
“After he died, it turned into a negative with some fans. What am I going to do? Hang on to it. Put it in storage? Donate it to who? That’s what I deal with.
“I’ll probably keep something. It’s not physical. A song that he wrote for me. A version recorded for me where he’s singing my name. Physical things are great but are they necessary? I just want to appreciate what I have in my heart for him.”
On her relationship with Manuela Testolini, Prince’s second ex-wife
“For many years, it was hard for me to accept because Prince and I had gone through so much,” Garcia said, referring to their late son and then a subsequent miscarriage. “We were trying to heal. I didn’t think very highly of her. It wasn’t until she divorced him that she e-mailed me. We’re the only people that can talk about him and understand and relate. I wouldn’t say it is a friendship. We’d have lunch and dinner once in a while. When I got my daughter, she was very supportive because she already had one. She’s the one that called me when he passed. It’s bittersweet. It’s complicated. There’s a love and a sense of sadness. I’d say maybe resentment. But love overpowers it.”
On moving on
“My past was so amazing. It’s that fine line of appreciating it and letting it go. I have my animal rescue and I have my daughter and my family that helped me move forward. Also the belly dancing. The book absolutely helps me move forward. It’d always been ‘oh, she’s Prince’s ex-wife.’ This book shows who I am and what I’ve been through and what I believe in.”
Twitter: @JonBream • 612-673-1719
Tuesday: 7 p.m. University Club, St. Paul; $30 (includes book), subtextbooks.com.
Wednesday: 6 p.m. Mall of America rotunda, free signing with book purchase, mallofamerica.com.