Editor’s note: This is the first in an ongoing series of profiles of Prince fans. If you’d like to tell your story, please contact me at email@example.com.
Krystal was 29 years old and had been dancing professionally for a decade when she realized she was lost.
“As I got in deeper, I felt like a product,” she says, flipping back her long, dark hair as she gazes at me from across the cafe table. “I lost who I was.”
It wasn’t the first time she’d found herself in a dark place.
Krystal has a sweet demeanor and an open face, with beautiful dark round eyes. It’s equal parts easy to imagine her as an exotic dancer and impossible to imagine because there is no hint of the world-weariness that such a job would create in a kind-hearted soul.
The sensitive, artistic and introverted daughter of a Brazilian father and a German mother, Krystal was raised in St. Paul. Her father worked for the Minneapolis post office in the 1980s and sometimes sorted fan mail addressed to Prince Rogers Nelson. At home, there was always trouble between Krystal’s parents, who struggled with alcoholism and mental illness. As she lay in bed at night, she’d turn on the radio to drown out the arguing voices of her drunken mother and father.
The year was 1991, Krystal was nine years old, and Prince was always playing on the radio.
“I didn’t know who Prince was, but I quickly learned to recognize his sound,” she said. She knew that he was from Minneapolis, and had a similar skin color to hers. Most importantly, she sensed from his music that he “got it.”
“There was a dark undercurrent to his music that I recognized,” she confesses. “I knew from an early age that there was pain in the world.”
Krystal attended a school whose student population was 80% African American, an intentional move by her mother, who wanted to make sure that Krystal would “know that part of myself and not reject it,” she says, explaining that part of her father’s Brazilian heritage includes West African ancestry. But compared with most of the girls at school, Krystal had lighter skin and straighter hair, which made her stand out. To make matters worse, she hit puberty early and developed quickly. One day, she was sitting alone in the cafeteria writing a story in a notebook, when a girl grabbed it and proceeded to read it aloud to a group of girls who roared with laughter and mocked Krystal.
At night, alone in her room, Prince’s music was a beacon in the storm. “I felt that he was like me, and I knew he was successful, and he did it with his art,” she explains.
Eight years later, at age 17, Krystal was desperate to get out of her parents’ home. Still in high school, she moved in with a boyfriend, following the same path her younger sister had taken two years earlier. She supported herself and her boyfriend by waitressing, until one day, spurred by her interest in music and dance and the desire to make more money, she decided to try exotic dancing at a local club.
She was hooked instantly.
“I thrived off the attention,” she says. “I felt powerful, sexy and glamorous. And I was making real money.” A bad night meant $300; a good night was $1,500 to $2,000.
Tomorrow: A Struggle to “Save My Soul”