I’m kicking off the new year out here in the land of 10,000 shades of purple by announcing a new project — Crazy Amazing: The Year of Living Like a Prince. Yes, I will be living like Prince for a year. Yes, I do realize that I am a suburban mom and no, I will not be replicating EVERY aspect of Prince’s life.
While researching The Rise of Prince: 1958-1988 alongside my intrepid writing partner Alex Hahn, I couldn’t help but notice patterns in Prince’s behavior in his yearslong upward trajectory to overnight success (despite what many might think, Prince did not emerge out of nowhere in 1984 from a poof! of purple smoke, fully formed, wearing a studded jacket and singing “Purple Rain.”).
The habits I noticed were sometimes quirky and sometimes practical (quirky: see the Charlie Murphy skit about basketball and pancakes … practical: see Susan Rogers’ stories about working in the studio until a song was basically complete, however long that took). Sometimes the behaviors I noted were obvious no-brainers, and other times, they provided me with “aha” moments that would have thrilled even Oprah.
Knowing about Prince in far too much detail to be considered in the range of normal, combined with feeling an on-the-ground connection with “Prince the Real Guy” here in Minnesota, led me to wonder about the nature of success.
Here’s my operating theory: By definition, anyone who becomes a global superstar is doing something different from most. If you accept that, then it follows logically to ask: What does it take to achieve not just success, but EXTRAORDINARY success?
If any one of us were to replicate Prince’s habits, could we also be more successful in our chosen fields and endeavors? It’s a question that intrigued me. That’s why, on January 1, I began to volunteer myself in the interests of science. Call me a purple guinea pig. In 2019, I am going to live like Prince or die 4 U while trying. Each month, I will attempt to undertake one thing that I believe led to his extraordinary success. I will be doing brief daily posts to keep you up to date on my progress, or lack thereof.
January’s theme is “Life in the Fasting Lane.” Particularly when recording, Prince would go for long stretches without eating. I am experimenting with fasting, in an effort to see if it will boost my energy and stoke my creative fires the way it stoked his. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s entry for more on how my month is going!
When I announced this month’s theme of cultivating my alter ego, my friend Chamber Stevens messaged me, saying “good luck with your shadow self.”
Huh? My shadow side, what’s that? That’s how non-shadowy I can be. The symbol that I adopted as my name in April wasn’t sunshine surrounding a heart for nothing.
But then I reflected on the photo shoot I did as part of this month’s challenge, and how a sort of “evil twin” had emerged — although “evil” isn’t fair. My alter ego was fierce, confident and mischievous. Perhaps calling her my psychic twin would be more accurate. What my psychic twin brought to the table was power. Giving the camera those sexy stares was a little intoxicating, I won’t lie. Maybe Chambers had a point. He warned that I must be careful lest the shadow side of me knock me down.
I got scared. Maybe I want too much out of life, I thought. Did I want to open this particular Pandora’s box? Because even thought I know that my fear is keeping me away from some of the things I desire, I’m afraid of messing up the order of my life.
My shadow self had fun coming out to play, and in the weeks since then, she’s wanted to come out and play again, and again. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to play at my age and station in life.
You see, I’m a suburban mom. My husband and I have kids, we pay bills, we have responsibilities. Like many women, after marrying and becoming a mom some 16 years ago, I had divided my life into parcels. I had shoved what I had deemed unacceptable characteristics into a dark corner and went about my life.
The problem is, like water rushing down a hill during a rainstorm, the shadow self will find an outlet. The dark side will seep out in unexpected ways. And best that you be ahead of that rushing water and give it a outlet. If you don’t, it’s very possible that you might wind up dumping that dark energy on others in the form of anger or other negative emotions. Look at the news: It’s war and chaos. That’s the shadow side run amuck. That’s people projecting their darkness on whoever they deem “the enemy” to be. Men project their shadow on women, who then have that burden to bear. White people project their shadow on black people.
According to Robert A. Johnson, author of Owning Your Own Shadow (Harper SanFrancisco, 1994), “No one can escape the dark side of life, but we can pay out that dark side intelligently.”
Paying out the dark side in an intelligent way seems to be a key to satisfaction. Could my alter ego Aurora be a way to pay out that dark side intelligently?
I think she could be. I love Aurora. She’s necessary.
No one can be reduced to one side — dark or light — and it’s a mistake to try to ignore one in favor of the other. The universe requires balance. Or, as Johnson writes, “This is one of (psychologist Carl) Jung’s greatest insights: that the ego and the shadow come from the same source and exactly balance each other.”
Interestingly, to bring Prince into this discussion (and how can we not), Johnson touches on the nature of artists, positing that the more you build up the light side of the equation, the stronger your shadow will grow to match it. As an artist, when you create, you build up the light side of the equation. That is the right side of the scale. To balance it, on the left side of the scale, is destruction.
“To make a work of art, to say something kind to help others, to beautify the house, to protect the family — all these acts will have an equal weight on the opposite side of the scale and can lead us into sin,” Johnson writes.
When Prince died, his shadow side was exposed. His dark side was manifested in womanizing and addiction. Johnson attributes this imbalance in darkness and light to the difficulty that many artists experience in their private lives. All that dark has to go somewhere. However, he adds, “Broader talents call up a greater portion of the dark” thus using it in their creation. That, he posits, is the definition of genius.
Prince certainly could call up the dark, to the point that he once frightened himself, at least in the case of the Black Album, which he abandoned in favor of Lovesexy.
Excuse me while I go and listen to Prince’s “Dark.”
Was the construct of “Prince” any different from that of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust?
Before coming up with my alter ego’s talismans, I’d already taken some baby steps with her. In New York, I channeled the famous Princely gaze in an office elevator, in the airport and back home, in line at the post office. The puzzled and curious glances I got in return were reward enough, but I hadn’t considered that an alter ego could be more than a plaything. My reference point had been Prince’s image, but it’s taken me to mid-month to understand — yea, to know — that “Prince” the public persona was, in fact, an alter ego.
This is the part where celebrities can get messed up in the head. Chris Moon, the producer who co-wrote Prince’s first single, Soft and Wet, and who owned MoonSound studio in Minneapolis where Prince learned to record, has been sharing stories of Prince before he had a record deal on Facebook. People would be surprised to hear how intentional the branding behind “Prince” was, even back in the 1970s. Apparently, there was a lengthy process in choosing Prince’s name, as well as a strategic decision that Prince should be associated with a color based on Moon’s experience in advertising. And then there’s the story of Prince in his early days being seen on the street wearing jeans and looking unpolished, and two women passing him saying “Oh no, that can’t be Prince,” so that he never went out in public again without being fully dressed, groomed and in character. While this story and the fact that Prince dressed the part daily (and that’s why I followed his lead in February), I’ve started to wonder if Prince should have named himself something other than his own name, and whether or not he kept a mental distance from the character “Prince” that he played on stage — to great effect.
In The Alter Ego Effect, author and high-performance coach Todd Herman quotes legendary Hollywood agent Shep Gordon, who was asked at an event how he coached his clients to perform at a high level.
“I think each one is very, very different. I think there’s just one general rule that I used to try and give to every artist, whether they were chefs or they were entertainers. It’s that if you allow the public figure to actually be you, you’re never going to be happy. And you’re never going to be confident, because if you take the traits of who you are and develop that into a character that you understand, you’ll always know what that character should do, so when you’re in a press conference, you always know how to answer a question.”
“If it’s you personally, you never have the answers. It’s really tough, and when you take it personally, that’s when you start scarring. If a bad review is about that person, you change that person. If a bad review is about you, sometimes that wound can be very deep. So, I don’t think you can generalize, but if there’s any generality, I would say, if someone who’s in the public eye can understand that people aren’t loving you, they’re loving that character that’s been put in front of them. Even from my movie, I get people come up to me, “You’re the greatest. You’re unbelievable.” They don’t know me They know that guy. So, if you can keep that distance in your own brain, it’s much healthier.”
Living Like Prince means creating that safe separation between a public self, and a private self, and consciously distinguishing between the two. Because although a celebrity or entertainer or professional athlete has a clear use of the alter ego when they take the stage or get on the field or go in front of a movie camera, you have a use for this, too. You can step into your alter ego when you walk into a conference room for a sales meeting, or walk through your own front door and need to be a great mom, patient and kind and fun and loving, even after a long day at the office.
What I’ve learned is that while my alter ego is fun to trot out, she should be used sparingly. In other words, I don’t want to be her every minute of the day. But I want her qualities to give me some psychological separation from my everyday self so that I can step into the public eye and achieve what I want to achieve for myself.
Weekends are filled with errands — that’s normal. But this weekend, I had a less-than-normal mission on my to-do list.
“Find totem,” the item read. That’s because, to activate an alter ego, many performers and athletes use a totem that they wear or carry. In Prince’s case, it seemed he had a lot of totems over the years. You could argue that when he zipped up on his four-inch heeled, pointy-toed booties, that was a totem that turned him into “Prince.” Or perhaps it was his guitar. But I also tend to think that a cane, and sometimes a wand, was one of his key totems. And he used a cane throughout his career, from the glitter cane he played with during the Lovesexy tour, to the silver cane he carried in the last years of his life.
However tempting it was to consider striding around Chanhassen with a glitter cane or waving it out the car window at interlopers in the school pick-up line, I decided a ring would be the best totem. It’s easy to slip on to become Aurora, and slip off to be me again, and easy to keep in a pocket. When I found this one at the mall, I knew it was the one. It reminded me of a third eye ring that Prince wore in a portrait that hangs in Studio B at Paisley Park.
And next, because I’ve had a fountain pen for decades and only recently got some new ink for it, I decided that Aurora should have this fountain pen as her tool — just as Prince had his guitar.
With Aurora’s personality set, her totems at the ready, I’m ready to take her out for a spin in the world this week.
Last month, I wrote about giving yourself a Prince name. Since I published that post on a Friday and I’m all about celebrating Fridays, I decided it would be fun to offer myself as a Random Prince Name Generator for the day so that people could share their names and get a Prince name.
We wound up having a ridiculous amount of fun on Facebook that day. People shared names and I spewed out Prince-ified names in return. All totalled, I came up with about 35 Prince names. Whew! Here are a couple of highlights:
What I didn’t realize when playing the role of Prince Name Generator was that I would actually need a name for an alter ego the very next month. And in celebrating the fun of Friday and dubbing others with Prince names, I had inadvertently stumbled upon my alter ego: Aurora.
Aurora was birthed because it popped up when I plugged “Laura” into a “rapper name generator.” My mind loved that it rhymed with “Laura” and felt like it was in the realm of my given name while also having a je ne sais quoi that’s so essential to Living Like Prince. Emotionally, “Aurora” triggered a rush of childhood fantasies and dreams. When I heard the word “Aurora,” I heard a female narrator in my head say, “Aurora, which means `Dawn.'” followed by a tinkle of bells, which was a prompt to turn a page of a book. Unbelievably, I realized I had unearthed a voice embedded deep in my brain, thanks to a “Sleeping Beauty” record from Disney that I listened to incessantly as a little girl. If I’d given birth to daughters and not sons, the fact that Sleeping Beauty’s name was Princess Aurora would likely have been top of mind. As a boy mom, I was amused that my brain was able to retrieve that long-forgotten piece of data. Because I’m living like Prince, I then made the connection to the original fairy tale, where Princess Aurora sleeps 100 years until being awakened by the prince’s kiss. Prince? “Kiss?” Prince used the phrase “Welcome 2 the Dawn” on the back of many of his albums. Plus, Prince was a cosmic individual, and “Aurora” has a cosmic feel to it. “Aurora” it was.
Next up, I made a list of Aurora’s qualities, because how can I embody an alter ego if I don’t know who she is?
According to my manual for Alter Ego living, The Alter Ego Effect, my next step should be to find a totem. When I put on the totem or carry it onto the “field of play” (which can be an office, a club, a restaurant — wherever your alter ego needs to operate), I will be transformed into Aurora. The totem can be anything you wear or can carry. Most anything can qualify, as long as it has significance to you. It could be a bracelet you snap on, or a ring, a pair of sunglasses, a hat, a pair of shoes, a necklace or … a cane. Wonder who used that totem? Guess I’ve got my homework cut out for me this weekend.
You’d think that being a writer for all these years would prepare me for doing something I sucked at without much trepidation. If writers are honest, we all suck at times, sometimes more frequently than “at times,” and particularly so in our first pass at a story — or, as writer Anne Lamott succinctly phrased it, the “shitty first draft.” Still, none of my shitty first drafts could have prepared me for my first photo shoot.
I prepared for May’s month of Cultivating an Alter Ego by doing a photo shoot in downtown Minneapolis. In the weeks leading up to the shoot, I grew more and more terrified. I couldn’t have done this when I was 30 years old, wrinkle-free and ten pounds lighter? I’m getting older, my skin is sagging, the scale is not my friend. There was a mitigating factor in that the stakes were not high, because no one was asking for these photos. Sure, I could have buried them forever under the bed and buried the guilt over the expense. But I was driven forward by wanting to do the Living Like Prince project so badly that I would tempt fate, April weather in Minnesota and certain humiliation to get the photos I needed for the month of May’s challenge.
Twice, I postponed the shoot. To be honest, I was scared and putting off the inevitable wasn’t making me any less scared, but even more than being a big scaredy cat, I knew I wasn’t prepared. The week before the shoot, I was speaking with Leisl AuVante about something unrelated, and in passing, I mentioned the photo shoot and that I had no clue what I was doing. Leisl jumped in feet first. Had I finalized my looks? (I put some outfits together and sent her photos). Who was doing my hair? Makeup? What was the inspiration behind my look? (Um, trying to look better than I do on a normal mom-working-from-home day?) On the spot, Leisl went into model mode and demonstrated how to pose sideways to the camera, turn at the waist, place one or both hands on hips, tilt my chin down, and look up with only my eyes. I practiced in front of her mirror but I couldn’t get the facial expression right. I looked too much like normal, nice, suburban mom me. Leisl, on the other hand, struck a post and effortlessly looked like a card-carrying member of the Prince camp, which of course she was. I needed to adopt an attitude. I mean, I didn’t choose “sassy” as my 2019 word of the year for nothing. That’s when Leisl gave me a mantra to say when I looked into the camera lens. (I need to be thinking of something other than abject terror when I look at the camera? Another revelation).
“I’ll collapse your castle with one look, if you fuck with me.”
Leisl doesn’t mess around.
Now you know what I’m thinking in this photo:
Putting my body into this unnatural-feeling-yet-badass pose and telling myself that yes, I had the power to collapse people’s castles with a withering glance caused something inside me to shift. It a moment not unlike the Grinch’s heart growing three sizes, but I already have a big heart (sometimes, too big, I fear). Instead, it was my sense of self-confidence and power that tripled in size.
By the time the photo shoot was done, I was no longer suburban mom Laura. I was Aurora, the name I gave my Princely alter ego, and I was having fun.
It took humility to do a photo shoot, all the while realizing that I don’t look the same as I used to, but to accept it while also refusing to hide and not allowing shame to creep in. I felt unsteady on my feet, both figuratively and literally (I don’t think I’ve ever attempted to walk in heels as high as the Prada peep-toed booties that Leisl loaned me. I still have much to learn!). Being a model wasn’t an easy fit, but I realized that I had been avoiding a whole part of life by not stepping into the spotlight and yes — crushing the castles of the haters. I’ll never be good at modeling, and so what! I felt a sense of playfulness lift my heart and I asked myself: Why is this thing I’m so bad at bringing me joy?
The only explanation I could find was a Princely one, indeed: Doing something I sucked at was freeing. By humbling myself, I freed myself from the fear of being humiliated. Being a model is never going to happen for me (believe me, that’s no revelation) but putting myself in that vulnerable position in front of the camera opened up a whole new world. With each shot, I got a tiny bit better.
Wearing the mask of a superhero can give you the distance you need between your ordinary self and the self you aspire to be.
As mom of two little boys, I found myself on a first-name basis with a lot of superheroes (also, construction equipment, knowledge that comes in handy whenever I need to complain about a front-end loader blocking the road during road construction season in Minnesota). On any given day, I might walk into the family room to find Superman and Spiderman jumping off the couch with plastic swords while dueling with imaginary bad guys. Or perhaps I would be greeted by Batman (never Robin) and the Incredible Hulk who would instruct me to take cover behind a chair while they guarded me against marauding bad guys.
The boys had costumes with padded muscles in the arms and shoulders. They had masks, plastic swords, capes, and shields. They had a Fisher-Price Batcave with bat motorcycles and batmobiles galore. They were too young to watch many of the superhero movies that have a dark and violent side, but they loved superheroes. As kids, they were lorded over by adults all day long. As superheroes, they were in control. They had power. The act of exploring their superhero alter egos was a very healthy thing when it came to embodying the very best qualities of these characters, from bravery to persistence.
Prince, by his own account, was a childhood fan of Batman. I can imagine him running around the Northside neighborhood as the Caped Crusader. And the deep affinity for Batman continued throughout his life. But it seems that Batman was character that resonated with him until the end of his life. In his final shows at Paisley Park in January 2016 as part of the Piano and a Microphone tour, Prince took the audience on an autobiographical tour, including the theme from Batman. This is how Rolling Stone’s review published Jan. 22, 2016 described the moment:
“His voice was doused in heavy echo as he expressed the dreams and doubts of a child who sneaks down without permission to play his father’s piano. “I can’t play piano like my dad. How does dad do that?” he wondered, while attempting improvisations that, at one point, suggested Thelonious Monk teaching himself the theme to Batman.”
As an adult, Prince jumped at the opportunity to create the soundtrack to the blockbuster Batman film in 1989 by director Tim Burton. He set aside work on the Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic album and revamped some of the songs intended for that album to songs for the soundtrack. He seemed to revel in the opportunity to apply his skills to a movie based on a childhood hero.
It turns out that identifying with a superhero has benefits beyond hit records. Superheroes can be a way to create a healthy distance between who you are and the characteristics you want to embody. Identifying with a superhero can help you do hard things, and stay calm and cool in challenging situations. I never identified with a superhero, but I loved characters in literature, such a Jo March in Little Women. I loved Jo because she was a writer and reading while eating apples in a garret sounded right up my alley. I wasn’t a tomboy like Jo — I was much more of a girlie girl like her sister Amy. But Jo was spirited, and she loved horses and wanted to be a writer, and I wanted to be more spirited and be dedicated to writing, and I loved horses, too. I wonder if the fact that Jo wound up marrying a German professor who was much older might have subliminally influenced me to become a language major in college and also marry an older man. I also loved that she had two boys and reveled in being a boy mom. I thought I’d like to have boys, and when I became a mom to two boys, I thought of Jo March and her enjoyment of her boys. Ha! Be careful who you identify with! Jo’s inspiration made me see what I could be, and the qualities I wanted to embody, and in some very small ways, I did become Jo March.
You may not be a performer in the same context as Prince, but I’d have to agree that we each play a role on various stages in the course of a day. Or, as author Todd Herman puts it in The Alter Ego Effect:
You may not be “performing” in the context of a Beyonce, Ellen DeGeneres or David Bowie (or, hello! Prince. – editor), with thousands of people expecting a “show,” but if you think about “show” as simply a fulfillment of expectations, you’ll see the parallels very quickly.”
In other words, we each have roles to play on various stages during a day, and responsibilities to be performed in each role. Herman says we can equate the performance of those responsibilities with “a show.”
I went through my day today with the idea in mind that I was putting on a show in performing my responsibilities in various roles.
What shocked me was how many roles I played in a day, especially given my limited acting ability! Ha! I played the role of mom to a sick kid, at the doctor’s office. Concerned homeowner of an aging HVAC system speaking with the heating and cooling company. Pup mom at the park. Content consultant for a financial services company working from my home office. Member of a woman’s group. And an author and suburban mom living like Prince. But thinking of each of these roles intentionally made me show up for them. No hiding, no lurking in the background. No spectating in my own life.
The concept of an alter ego can be used to prompt you to show up as the “heroic” version of yourself, as Herman calls it. For beginners, he suggests choosing one stage or “field of play” in which to create your Alter Ego. I’m choosing the stage of this blog and Living Like Prince as the playing field for my Alter Ego, but you might choose parenting or your paddleball league. Wherever you want to see greater success, having the secret identity provided by an alter ego can help you do daunting things on your chosen stage.
All of us have many responsibilities, particularly as we get older. We take on roles, and roles come with expectations. We have a role to play in our family. In our school. On our team. In the organizations that we join. With different groups of friends, we might even take on a different role in each group. And as the roles and responsibilities become greater as time passes, we lose parts of ourselves, or bury them, or forget they existed. According to author Todd Herman in his new book The Alter EgoEffect, those parts of ourselves become The Trapped Self.
On the other hand, Herman writes, The Heroic Self is the part of us that’s doing what she wants, when she wants, for her own reasons, and “you get caught up in the flow of activity.” Sounds a lot like Prince when he was making music 20 hours a day, doesn’t it? Or me, when I’m writing. Or you, when you’re running. Or drawing. Or playing with your kids.
The word “alter ego” is Latin for “the other `I.'” This weekend, I’m going to spend time sketching out my “other `I’.” I love the idea of using her to, as Herman puts it, “create some distance between how you currently see yourself and how you’d like to perform.” Because as it turns out, the alter ego is used by many high-achieving athletes and performers. I’m writing a list of the qualities I want my own alter ego to have. I’m thinking of her name. I’m brainstorming a prop that when I wear or carry it (think of Prince and his canes), BOOM. I become my alter ego. We’ll work on this together next week. May is going to be quite a ride.
The terrifying yet exhilarating photo shoot I undertook in an effort to portray myself in a new light while attempting to embody even one iota of Prince’s mysterious persona was life-changing for many reasons. Mainly, it was so crazily out of character that it couldn’t help but change the way I felt. And, the photo session birthed my badass and mysterious alter ego — a side of myself that I’m cultivating this month, in the same way that Prince allowed himself to explore alter egos throughout his career.
When I returned home, still sporting my big Sheena Easton-style hair and dramatic 80s makeup, my husband and two teenage sons were waiting for me in the family room, because we were going to celebrate my birthday that night. Of course, I was late (what photo shoot ever operates on time?). The stunned looks on their faces were priceless! I hadn’t realized how different I looked until I saw it reflected in their faces. They nearly fell off the couch when I shot them a look that approximated this:
Family, meet the Alter Ego. Ha! That was fun. Realizing that I had at least approximated, if not mastered, the sly, Bambi-eyed glances of Prince for the camera, I decided to push the experiment to its logical conclusion by test-driving the Princely glance into real-life situations and everyday people. Yes, I dipped my toes into everyday-life-Prince-posing, in the interest of science. Over the next few days, when out in public, I did my best imitation of the head-tilted-down, eyes-looking-up, slyly smiling (no teeth! never any teeth!) Princely glance. I tried it while leaning against the back of an elevator in New York City, standing in the line at the post office and sitting in the airport waiting for my flight. I pretended I had a secret that was not only mysterious but amusing and that I was committed to slyly keeping the joke to myself while inwardly laughing at the fools around me who were sadly, not in on the joke.
What surprised me was that people noticed.
People immediately clued into the fact that something out of the ordinary was afoot. And that’s saying something in the New York City elevator, as no one in New York is “normal” (I mean that in the very best of ways). People would glance my way in an effort to read me. Then they would glance again. I had become an enigma! This was a thrilling development.
It was surprising how behaving this way shifted the attention in the space from whatever normal interaction was going on — be it conversations between colleagues in an elevator or talking on a cell phone in line at the post office — to me. I’m not someone who others normally have to struggle to figure out. The Princely posing turned out to be a brilliantly effective and stealthy way of shifting power to myself. And it was a huge “aha” moment when it came to Prince. Walking into a conference room of music industry executives and deploying his Princely mystique wasn’t a case of “that’s just how Prince is.” Oh no. Prince was far more strategic than that. Princely posing was a weapon he wielded to get what he wanted.
We’re entering the fifth month of 2019, and I’m stepping into the month of May feeling dangerously as if I may have gained some wisdom. April was a bumpy month. On a personal level, our family was rocked when my father-in-law passed away. As a result, I made a last-minute cancellation of plans around Celebration 2019, the annual event that Paisley Park hosts to celebrate the life of Prince. That sad event, combined with the challenge of facing down insecurities I never knew I had, makes me feel as if I have emerged battle-weary, yet wiser, from April.
Still, the experience of replacing my name with a symbol in April was exhilarating, and as the month continued on, my new identity led me into what felt like an organic exploration of other sides of my personality. The experience inspired me to level up this month by cultivating an alter ego. I want to explore a side of myself that’s braver, more assertive, and more captivating than every day Laura.
Prince was a pro at expressing multiple sides of his personality through his alter egos, from the characters he created on film, such as the Kid in Purple Rain or Christopher Tracy in Under the Cherry Moon, to developing the personas and music for groups including The Time and Vanity 6, to the persona of Camille, who you can recognize whenever you hear sped-up vocals in stellar songs including “If I Was Your Girlfriend.” Finally, Prince used pen names to write music, such as Alexander Nevermind, the writing and production alias Prince used from 1981-1983 and to pen songs including “Sugar Walls,” sung by Sheena Easton. The man took the concept of an alter ego and refined it until it was an art form.
There’s a long-neglected side of myself that’s sly yet fierce, mysterious and sassy. She struts around in sky-high heels. She wears satin trench coats and dangles a Prince love symbol from a chain behind her back. I bet a lot of women have an alter ego like this, hibernating in a Rip Van Winkle-esque slumber. It’s time to wake up and embrace the side of me that I’ve repressed. This month, I’ll use my imagination to push boundaries and comfort zones and channel the power of my alter ego.
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You have successfully subscribed to the newsletter! Now you deserve your exclusive bonus: SEVEN TIPS FOR LIVING LIKE A PRINCE 1. Fast for Clarity In January, I fasted for clarity, inspired by the fact that Prince famously would fast to stay trim. Whether or not Prince fasted because he was caught up in making music and forgot to eat or fasted intentionally isn’t clear, but during the month of January, I declared that my theme was “Life in the Fasting Lane.” I found that fasting gave me a lot of energy and mental clarity. The method of fasting I used was called Alternate Day Fasting. I would fast for one day (I was allowed to eat up to 500 calories), followed by a day when I could eat anything. 2. Dress Up and Show Up In February, I dressed up daily – no excuses! Prince famously dressed up for everything and turns out, there’s a method behind his madness. “Enclothed cognition” is a scientific phenomenon that explains why dressing the part makes you perform at a higher level, whether in sports, career or being a world-class musician. Despite the fact that February was the snowiest month in Minnesota history, I dressed up each day – hair done, makeup on, heels, dresses. I didn’t wear jeans for an entire month, because Prince didn’t either! I felt more productive and professional because of what I was wearing, even though I was often working from home in the middle of a snowstorm. 3. Adopt a Symbol In April, I made my biggest leap of faith to date when I changed my name to a symbol that I drew in art class. My symbol is unpronounceable, just like the Love Symbol that Prince changed his name to in 1993. I created a heart surrounded by rays, and I drew it in gold. To me, the symbol meant love and sunshine, which is what I aspire to be in the world, but you could say it’s a radiant heart or a symbol radiating love and positivity. Like Prince’s Love Symbol, my symbol is open to interpretation! I even had it printed on t-shirts, and at a couple of public events, wrote it on a nametag and introduced myself as my new identity. 4. Support Live Music One of Prince’s favorite sayings was “real music by real musicians” and he not only represented that in his own music and his bands but by doing it himself! He had a table at the Dakota Jazz Club in downtown Minneapolis, and over the years, was known to show up at Minneapolis nightclub First Avenue and local hangout Bunker’s Music Bar and Grill. 5. Be a Good Neighbor Prince was a loyal Minnesotan who did much to elevate the profile of his home state, not least by being one of the originators of the Minneapolis Sound. In the last few years of his life, Prince offered fans an unprecedented level of access to a star of his stature by opening the doors of his sprawling recording and studio complex Paisley Park for spontaneous performances and DJ dance parties. Lucky fans who responded to a last-minute invitation on social media might find themselves in an exclusive group of 40 or 50, listening enrapt as Prince played a marathon set of live music. 6. Don’t Be Quick to Judge Getting to know more about the man behind the outrageous costumes and provocative lyrics taught me not to judge. Now, when I meet someone, I make an effort to hear their story. The world needs a whole lot more people who don’t rush to judgment or avoid making contact because someone looks different or acts different. 7. If God Gave You a Gift, Share It Yes, Prince was a musical genius who heard music in his head, but here’s the truth: He had a choice about what to do with that music. He could have ignored it or procrastinated until the melody slipped his mind. He could have decided he was too shy to be a performer. Instead, when inspiration struck, he threw himself into his work, often composing and recording for 20 hours a day in a flurry of nonstop creativity. He learned how to be a performer despite his initial shyness because he wanted to share his music.
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