The Year of Living Like Prince is coming to a close. I can’t believe it. This has been one of the very best and certainly one of the most memorable years of my life. My greatest hope is that you might feel inspired to step outside your comfort zone in 2020. Pick one small thing each month that’s new or different or doesn’t feel like typical you, and see where it takes you! (It doesn’t have to fit a theme … just reach out for something new 💜). With my year of Living Like Prince nearing a close, here are 7 things I want to tell you.
I decided to spend the past 12 months living like Prince because of what I learned about how he lived when I co-wrote a biography about him.
Living Like Prince might seem like an unusual choice for a suburban mom like me. But I’m not only a suburban mom. I’m the co-author, along with Alex Hahn, of The Rise of Prince: 1958-1988, and in researching that book I realized Prince had left more than a musical legacy. He’d left a roadmap about how to live an extraordinary life. That intrigued me and I wanted to take that journey in 2019. I had no idea where it would lead!
Living like Prince changed me.
Living like Prince has taken me from having an enjoyable life to having an exhilarating life. It did that by pushing me outside my comfort zone. When you intentionally place yourself in a position where you’re outside your comfort zone — for example, by changing your name to a symbol, as I did in April — then you have to get creative. Why did I put this symbol on a nametag and introduce myself this way at the party? I had to answer, and in doing so, I began to create a new experience of living.
The year was NOT what I expected.
I thought that Living Like Prince was going to be about success, and how to achieve success because Prince was obviously successful. But it turned out to be about creative living. I learned that instead of striving for happiness, we should choose to strive for an exhilarating life. Exhilarating leaves happy in the dust: It’s next-level happy. There’s a quote in Prince’s memoir where he talks about how he wanted to tell people to create. Start by creating your day, and then create your life, he said. Day by day, I created my days with intention, whether the month called on me to be a spiritual seeker, form a band or dress up daily, and I wound up creating a more exhilarating life.
I wanted to quit.
People ask, did I ever want to quit? The answer is an unqualified “oh my gosh, yes!!” I thought about quitting on more than one occasion because there were times when this felt bigger than I anticipated. I even wanted to quit right away in the first month, when I tried fasting (Prince, in a 2014 interview, talked about fasting and its positive effects on him). I never want to replicate that month! But people were cheering me on, and that’s the great thing about community. Sometimes, the thought of Prince was enough to spur me on. Living here in Chanhassen as I do, I couldn’t help but think about how Prince had worked down the road at Paisley Park, 20 hours a day, day after day, for decades. If he was able to do that, just a couple of miles from where I sat, what excuse did I have not to follow suit, even in my own small way?
There were things about this journey that made me scared.
I felt exposed and vulnerable many times this year, notably when I did a photoshoot while posing as my alter ego Aurora in downtown Minneapolis. I was quaking in my four-inch heels! Then, doing media interviews was incredibly scary, but when I succeeded in not keeling over on live television I enjoyed a sense of accomplishment.
My favorite month was changing my name to a symbol.
My favorite month was April when I changed my name to a symbol because it was really interesting learning about what Prince’s symbol stood for, and even to explore the nature of symbols and how they communicate more about us than a name with letters might. What did I stand for? And how could I share that in a symbol that identified me? That was fascinating. Also, I won’t lie: It felt rebellious and fun to mess with people’s heads by insisting on being identified by an unpronounceable symbol.
My hardest month was saying “no.”
The hardest month was June when I said no to things that weren’t right for me. Like many of us, I’m a people pleaser and although I’d imagined that I’d be gleefully tossing out “no’s” like candy in a parade, it was really hard. But Prince said no to things that weren’t right for him, regardless of the reaction, so I had to follow suit. Doing so was hard, but ultimately liberating.
I’m ending the year by honoring Prince’s legacy of giving and the way he anonymously and quietly gave away millions of dollars during his lifetime. I’ve chosen Urban Ventures, a nonprofit based in an under-resourced neighborhood in South Minneapolis, with a music program and recording studio. Kids who would never be able to learn an instrument or learn how a recording studio works are able to get that exposure thanks to this amazing organization, in a community that Prince loved. My goal is to raise $10,000 and we’re not there yet. I know there are a lot of great causes out there, and I greatly appreciate you considering Urban Ventures for your charitable giving. To learn more or make a donation, visit www.urbanventures.org/prince.
Midway through October, my attempt to assimilate Prince’s 57-year spiritual journey into 31 days has left my mind spinning. And why wouldn’t it? Prince and his music bounced back and forth between the profane and the sacred like a ball bounding across the ping pong table in Paisley Park’s Studio B.
I needed to talk with someone who could provide clarity and insight into Prince’s spiritual life. Ideally, the person would have known Prince. She would be someone he trusted and respected. And she would have a great deal of life experience.
Or, afterlife experience.
Betty J. Eadie is the author of “Embraced by the Light,” the vivid and detailed account of the near death experience she went through following a surgery in 1973. After Prince’s death in 2016, Eadie wrote about their decades-long relationship on her website. That tribute caught my attention and made me wonder: Could Eadie provide me with guidance on how to be a spiritual seeker like Prince? I was eager to speak with her.
Eadie, a mother of eight, might seem an unlikely choice of spiritual mentor for rock star Prince. But spiritual mentor is exactly what Eadie became when the two met in the early 1990s, a particularly turbulent time in Prince’s life. He was extracting himself from his contract with Warner Bros., changing his name to a symbol and writing “slave” across his face.
Eadie, now 77 years old and living in Seattle, published “Embraced by the Light” in 1992. The book, published by a small press, slowly garnered publicity, and ultimately landed Eadie on the then-mountaintop of all talk shows, “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” “Embraced” was on the New York Times bestseller list for more than two years and Eadie became a household name.
In the midst of that hectic time, Eadie’s office received a package. Inside were photos and CDs sent by Prince.
“I put one (CD) in and listened to it and thought, `That is horrible music,'” Eadie laughs. Eadie, who was 16 years older than Prince, says that as a busy mother and author, she had only a vague idea of who he was.
As part of her book tour, Eadie visited Minneapolis, and while speaking to a darkened auditorium filled with thousands of readers, the doors in the back opened. Illuminated from the light streaming in from outside, Eadie saw the silhouette of a small figure followed by a group of people who took seats in the back row. She was mystified, but kept speaking. The next day, Eadie received an invitation from that small figure’s representatives: Would she like to visit Prince at Paisley Park? To appease her son — he served as her agent, traveled with her and exclaimed, “Mom, he’s one of the greatest singers of all time!” — Eadie agreed to shift her travel arrangements to accommodate a visit.
Upstairs at Paisley Park, Eadie says she found herself sitting knee-to-knee on a love seat with Prince. Her son sat on a second love seat, with a coffee table in between them. Eadie was facing Prince’s right side, where he had written “slave” across his cheek.
“I couldn’t avoid looking at it,” she says. “With that`slave’ on his cheek, he looked so pathetic and wounded-looking and sad.”
Prince said, “You got my music?”
Eadie replied, “Yes, I did.”
He said, “Well, what do you think of them (the CDs)?”
Eadie noticed her son sucking in his breath sharply. He knew how open and honest his mother was.
“It’s not really my type of music so I can’t really comment on it,” she said.
Her son exhaled.
“I write it for the kids,” Prince replied.
“I know you do,” Eadie said to Prince, gathering her courage. “But is that the type of music you should be writing for them? It’s painful, hurtful, suggestive and it’s not the kind of music I want the kids to listen to. As talented as you are and as much as I know you love youth, why don’t you write things from your heart that are uplifting?”
Eadie knew she’d said the wrong thing, at least from a social niceties point of view, and she held her breath. Then, something unexpected happened: Prince began speaking of his business with Warner Bros., his family and his upbringing. He poured his heart out.
“He looked right in my eyes when he did so and I could see the pain in them and it even brought moisture to my eyes,” Eadie says. “I could sense this was a man who was hurting so much.”
Prince’s “miserable” family life growing up was part of his anger, Eadie says. “He was exposed to abuse and it embittered and angered him,” she says. “The very things that hurt him were what he was writing about and trying to make them okay and make sense of it all,” she says. But, she adds, the greatest pain he had was the feeling that others in power had taken advantage of him as a young musician.
Eadie says the Prince she encountered that day was nothing like “Prince” the rock star, which she describes as a stage persona.
“Was that the real Prince? No, that wasn’t. He was very vulnerable. He was tender, wounded and he needed a mother’s love. That was what he felt he could receive from me because I am motherly,” Eadie says. “With him, the minute I saw he had this hidden part of him I wanted to hold him and say, `Everything is going to be okay.'”
Prince told her that he “put himself into music to get rid of the pain,” she says. She told him that while it’s good to get rid of pain, and millions of others can relate to similar events so they gravitate to your music, it was time to shift his music and message.
“Is that what you want, that they (your audience) keep listening to pain?” she asked Prince. “Now that you’ve built a great reputation and following, why not bring them closer to love?”
“Get that `slave’ off your face. You’re no one’s slave,” she told him. She counseled Prince to remember that what you put out in the world will come back to you — “so make sure it’s good.”
Prince was on the edge of his seat, Eadie says, “as if he was hearing it all for the first time.”
They had spoken for an hour and a half. Near the end of the conversation, Prince told Eadie that she was like family to him — like a mother.
“He thanked me for being open and honest with him. We had to go because we had a flight out, but I could tell he was not wanting us to go. He felt an attachment, and I began to feel an attachment to him. He needed someone and at this moment I was the person he needed to talk to,” she says. “What I saw was a wounded soul and someone who needed someone and I happened to be the one at the time. I was glad I was there with him.”
As they stood up, Eadie says, they realized they were the same height.
“We laughed and we looked down at our shoes. I had four-inch heels on because I’m short, and he had the same four-inch heels, although his were more platform style than mine,” she says.
Prince escorted Eadie all the way downstairs from his upper-level suite. As they prepared to part, Prince reached for Eadie and gave her a “warm and beautiful” hug, Eadie says, noting that it was only later that she was told that Prince not only never embraced people; he never, ever walked people to the door.
“When I left he felt like an enlightened person,” she says. “He was more in control of himself and didn’t need people’s approval.”
Later, after Eadie had returned home, Prince called with more questions about how best to give to others.
“He always felt he gave, but whether it was the right way or not was debatable based on his emotions at the time,” Eadie recalls. “He said that maybe it was more about him than about wanting to serve.”
The second time Prince called, he had a proposition. He was going on tour, and he wanted Eadie to go with him.
“Go with you and do what?” Eadie asked.
Prince replied, “I’ll sing and you’ll give your presentation. They need to hear you.”
Eadie laughs at the recollection. “Now, in my mind, Prince’s songs and what I have to share are not compatible.”
Prince told her, “I will buy a book for everyone who comes and hand them out. That way I’m giving back.”
As enticing as it might have been for the sales of her book, “I just couldn’t do it,” Eadie says. Back in those days, Prince had changed his name to a symbol and was the object of a lot of negativity. And negativity from the general public was something Eadie understood all too well.
“This was the early days of `Embraced (by the Light).’ It was a forerunner of the most personal account of a near-death experience. People attached all kinds of negativity to it and I was getting it (criticism) left and right. I thought, `Now all I need is to go out on tour with Prince!'”
Eadie told Prince that she was thinking of the songs she’d heard on that first CD she’d listened to, and she told him that she couldn’t do it – it didn’t seem like a good fit with her message.
Prince replied, “Well, I’m going to change my music.”
Prince told Eadie that he was going to write a song for her, and that’s when he wrote `Dolphin,’ a song about reincarnation that appears on the 1995 album, “The Gold Experience.” The entire album captured Prince’s state of transformation, Eadie says, adding that she told him he needed to be a “bridge walker,” a term for a person who has the ability to bridge the gap between human existence and the spiritual world.
Of “The Gold Experience,” Prince shared with Eadie that some of the songs on the album represented the kind of songs he used to write, while others represented the kind of music he was currently writing.
“That was his change and he wanted to demonstrate the old Prince and the new Prince,” Eadie says. Prince went on to write other songs inspired by “Embraced,” including “Into the Light,” on 1996’s “Chaos and Disorder” album.
Over the years, Prince would call when he faced a dilemma and needed to talk things through, or late at night, just to “talk normal,” says Eadie. (“He told me that he was so famous that nobody talked normal to him,” she recalls. With a chuckle, she remembers thinking, “How famous are you?”).
Eadie and Prince stayed in touch over the years and at the end of his life, they were in contact again about the possibility of Prince writing songs for the movie adaptation of “Embraced.” Prince was elated at the prospect, she says. She believes that it’s likely he had written some songs for the movie before his death, and she is in touch with his Estate in that regard.
Looking back now, what resonated with Prince, says Eadie, was her book’s message of God’s unconditional love.
“We each are valued and have our own path in life that we can serve Him or serve others. It’s never about us,” she says. “The more we do to help other people, the greater our spirit becomes. What we leave with when we die is that growth.”
The pain we feel from the choices we make is hell on earth, Eadie says. But at any time you choose, she says, you can let go of that pain, adding, “We are free to do that at any time.”
“It was challenging to live up to his image and he wanted so much to change,” Eadie says. “`Embraced’ was a part of his change.”
By day, Erica Thompson works as a features reporter at the Columbus Dispatch in Columbus, Ohio. By night (and weekends, and seemingly every spare moment), Erica labors on her passion project, a book about Prince’s spiritual journey entitled, “Willing to Do the Work: The Spiritual Mission of Prince.”
In this month of spiritual seeking through our theme of “Love God,” a valediction that Prince used frequently, I had to talk with Erica. Anyone who’s invested huge swaths of time in an effort to understand the spiritual journey of an often inscrutable artist could certainly shine a light on the path ahead. Might Erica provide us with some shortcuts on the spiritual path of Living Like Prince? Advice on what to bring on our journey? Read on as this purple pilgrim shares tales of her progress.
(Laura) When were you first introduced to Prince’s music?
(Erica) It goes back to being a junior in high school and watching “Purple Rain” and getting inspired — and getting my mind blown. I knew who he (Prince) was because my mom played him in the house … I went out and picked out (what was then) his latest album, (2001’s) “The Rainbow Children,” and that was my entry point.
In college, I started out as an English major and a flute performance major (editor’s note: shades of Lizzo!) … I had a biography class in undergrad, and that’s when I started to think that I wanted to put together his spiritual life … When I went to get my master’s in journalism, I decided I would do something on him. Other students were doing things like a historical analysis on newspapers and I’m doing Prince’s spiritual journey. When I turned in my thesis it was 40 pages long, and I decided, I want to turn this into a book. Ten years later, I’m still doing it — and it’s 400 pages!
You’ve worked on this for 10 years! You were writing it during Prince’s lifetime, then?
I wanted to finish the book and I wanted him to see it. And I thought I would get to know what he’d think about it. In 2013, I spoke with Omarr (Prince’s younger half brother) and he said he thought Prince would really like it, that he would tell Prince about it and maybe he would call me. That never happened.
Sometimes I get clues along the way that it’s happening how it’s supposed to happen. After he passed, more people have opened up to talk to me. I have done so much more research. If I had published the book before he passed, I wouldn’t have understood some of the religious systems he was into other than Christianity. Of course I wanted to interview him for this book, but now I’m seeing it wasn’t meant to be for me, and the reason was for me to focus on my interpretation. I don’t think my interpretation is the only correct one, but my goal is to show people and have them make up their minds.
What have you learned from your research that has been most impactful to you personally?
Two things have been especially impactful. The first is how to approach spirituality. I was raised as a Christian and a lot of Christians are raised not to explore other religions because they don’t want to put any other gods before their God. I was naïve before this project because I thought it would be a simple Christian “born again” story. But seeing how Prince pursued so many other spiritual systems encouraged me to do the same. It made me feel you can have your core belief and call yourself a Christian, and still feel like it’s okay to explore chakras or the third eye and still know that I have a Christian foundation.
Second, the perception that some have, and I think is true, is that a lot of his spiritual songs had coded messages for black people. Some people look at his songs as Negro spirituals … He’s communicating to black people that way with messages of spiritual liberation and economic liberation. It affects me personally as I’m a black person and I know Prince is talking to me and he’s encouraging me because we have a common experience. For example, “Beautiful Loved and Blessed” says, we’ve faced so much oppression in this country and we’ve internalized so many beliefs about us to say we are inferior — and Prince is saying `No, you’re not inferior.’ It’s an encouragement about the power and intelligence that black people have.
If a Prince fan (editor’s note: who shall remain nameless) asked what three things she should pack for a spiritual journey, what would you tell her to bring?
Number one would be the Bible, and I say that because that’s Prince’s foundation. He grew up going to Christian-based churches. Going through his lyrics, there are so many that point to scripture, which is the bedrock for him.
Second, I would pack a notebook because I think Prince would want us to write for ourselves. He’d want us to write how we’re inspired and channel things for ourselves and explore things for ourselves. I think Prince wants us to have agency. He wants us to empower ourselves.
The third thing is music. You could approach that in different ways. Someone I interviewed said, “If you want to know about Prince, listen to his music.” You could take “The Gold Experience” or “Emancipation” if you wanted to get into his Eastern spirituality side. Or “The Rainbow Children” to get into his Jehovah’s Witness doctrine. Or whatever of his music inspires you.
Do you have any advice for us as we aspire to be spiritual seekers like Prince this month?
One of the aims of my book is to inspire people to examine their own spiritual journeys. We can relate to a lot of what he went through, but of course he took a unique path, and I don’t know if the average person studies as much as he did. But it’s not like Prince did something no one else could do: We just have to be willing to do the work.
Thank you, Erica! You can follow Erica’s journey at www.apurpledayindecember.com.
In the early 2000s, Prince began experimenting with delivering music direct to fans via his NPG (New Power Generation) Music Club. For $100 a year (what a deal!), members could get preferred seating at concerts and access to soundchecks before shows (in Princeworld, a soundcheck is not a brief check of sound, but rather, a full, improvised show before the concert that could last 2+ hours). And, members had access to new music that flowed as freely as nearby Riley Creek, going direct from Paisley Park to fans.
Contrary to popular belief, Prince was not Internet averse (that inaccurate impression is largely based on one quote from 2010 in which Prince stated that the Internet was “over.”). In reality, Prince was an Internet pioneer who had some truly prescient ideas about how an artist could use the Internet to deliver music direct to fans, effectively owning the distribution channel. The NPG Music Club, which also was the name of the physical space inside of Paisley Park pictured above, was one of Prince’s very best inventions in an inventive career. According to webmaster Sam Jennings, who worked with Prince to launch the NPG Music Club, the club started on Valentine’s Day 2001 with monthly “editions” that delivered multiple new song downloads per month, plus a downloaded radio show curated by Prince and the NPG that featured new music, commentary and comedic skits.
On Sept. 18, 2001, NPG Ahdio Show #8 was released. In those awful days following 9/11, many people were looking to celebrities to make statements. As far as I can tell, this was Prince’s musical statement. Featuring some of his most spiritual songs, the show seems intended to address the gaping wound, pain and sadness created by the tragedy.
In an article for the Washington Post on April 27, 2016, webmaster Jennings wrote, “Prince’s goals for his own online business were simple. As the creator of the music, he wanted to control the distribution chain himself with as little dilution as possible. `Let the baker bake the bread,’ he would often say.”
What Prince shared in September 2001 is bread for anyone seeking spiritual solace.
Thanks to the encyclopedic resource, Prince Vault, we have the tracklisting of NPG Ahdio Show #8. From this, I made my own playlist, minus the tracks from Lovesexy, because that album is essentially created as one single song, and thus the songs are not separate tracks. I’ll be singing along to these songs all weekend long.
Eye No – Prince (intro only) The Plan – The Artist Anna Stesia – Prince Elephants & Flowers – Prince I Wish U Heaven – Prince Love… Thy Will Be Done (Prince Mix) – Martika (intro only) Pearls B4 The Swine – Prince 7 (Acoustic Version) – Prince and the New Power Generation Space (Universal Love Remix) – Prince Still Would Stand All Time – Prince Into The Light – The Artist I Will – The Artist The Holy River – The Artist Outro (including New Power Generation (Pt. II) and Positivity) – Prince
There’s no shortage of real-life accounts of people giving up their phones. Some give them up for Lent, some mimic intermittent fasting and give them up for a prescribed number of hours per day. I’ve been taking a more Princely approach, which is to avoid doing what the crowd does. When they scroll through their feeds, I’m laying some cards on the dining room table and re-learning solitaire. Here are 5 secrets I’ve learned about limiting your smartphone use:
Don’t worry about limiting your accessibility. Limiting my smartphone use means I’ve been less available on an “anytime, anywhere” basis. While removing myself from constant accessibility caused some angst at first, as days pass, I’ve been surprised to discover that no one requires it of me. What a relief! For years, I’d put pressure on myself to reply promptly to texts and emails, imagining that’s what was expected. Plus, being less accessible gives you that aura of aloofness that is so very Princely. Now, it’s common for me to reply to a Facebook or text message hours after it was sent. Not once has anyone complained. The need to be available 24/7 was all in my head. Freeing!
Connect your text messages to your laptop. I have an iPhone and MacBook Air, and the ability to see my texts on my laptop has been life-changing. Now, I check texts when I sit down to work, and not when I’m standing in the kitchen with pasta simmering on the stove. Only once has this strategy backfired, and it resulted in my decision to invoke the “I’m not a rock star” clause. I messed up a time zone difference on my calendar, and as a result, missed a work meeting. My colleague texted me but I didn’t see it, as I wasn’t on my laptop (I’m a contractor and work a few hours each day). It was only when I logged on an hour later that I saw my colleague’s text and realized my mistake. Now, on the weekdays, if I’m not at my laptop for a long stretch of time, quickly scan my phone for urgent texts.
Put your phone to bed early. Think of your smartphone as a particularly demanding and grouchy toddler: It needs to go to bed early. The *one* thing I was doing right even before this month started was charging my phone in the kitchen each evening. Normally, I’ve got it plugged in on the kitchen counter by 7 p.m. and I don’t check it unless I hear the “bing” of a notification. Along the way, I missed some DMs and group conversations, but honestly, that never bothered me. I go to bed early, and my sleep is sacrosanct!
Investigate alternative methods for listening to music and podcasts. Not streaming music or podcasts using my phone and beloved Bose speaker has been the thing I’ve missed most — by far! The ability to carry my music anywhere, in the car, my office, out on the back porch — I MISS IT. I miss The Purple Current. I miss Gretchen Rubin’s “Happier” podcast. Heck, I even miss The Dave Ramsey Show, a finance-oriented podcast I got temporarily hooked on, which generally features Dave yelling at people about how stupid they are to have credit cards. I miss you, Dave! While we have a stereo in our family room, and I’ve used it to play CDs, it’s not the same. (I keep forgetting to load up my car with CDs, which is highly annoying). When I move down to my office, I can’t hear the stereo. If I was going to commit to this long-term, I’d definitely investigate other ways to stream music and podcasts. (Are speakers for laptops still a thing?).
Keep your brain engaged in other ways. There are lots of ways to relax and pass the time that aren’t phone-driven. (Really! There are! Remember the 70s? 80s? 90s? Aughties?). This month, I’ve relaxed with a coloring book. I’ve walked the dog. I’ve taken baths. I’ve read a book (printed on paper, no less!). I’ve started a puzzle on the dining room table (will I finish? That is the question!). And I’ve played solitaire with real, printed cards. Each and every one of them has been satisfying. Not a single one of them gave me Instagram-envy of someone else’s house or clothing. And that my friends, is the real victory of being untethered from your smartphone. You get to focus on being utterly YOU, unencumbered by comparisons and concerns about what others think of you, or what others are wearing or achieving. It’s a Princely victory, indeed.
Given that freedom-loving Prince advocated for partying when facing the very-real-in-the-1980s threat of nuclear war, it might seem counterintuitive to assert that Living Like Prince is about restraint. After all, the title track to 1982’s “1999” has Prince hedonistically declaring that if he’s going to be vaporized via nuclear annihilation, his top priority is to “listen to my body tonight.”
But yet — practicing restraint is exactly how I’ve spent a good portion of these first seven-plus months. Living Like Prince is about what I don’t do as much as what I do: Not eating every other day during January; not wearing sweats on a Target run in February; not using my given name in April; not acquiescing to things that deep down, I know aren’t right for me, in June.
August is no exception. Saying no to my cell phone is a “no” to the constant distraction (“bing!”) of notifications. By practicing restraint, I’m making room for something else to take the place of those minutes (hours?) of mindless scrolling.
Prince prioritized music-making. And as such, he had to show restraint in other areas. No device was going to rob him of his creative time or suck the life out of his creativity with its constant, mindless distractions.
As a recovering people pleaser and over-accommodator, I respect the way Prince stood firm on not having a phone, even if (especially if?) it inconvenienced others. (People are resourceful! If they need to reach you, I can assure you, they’ll find a way. They’ll figure out who’s with you and call that person). My first thought, which was that Prince was paranoid about his privacy, might be partially true, but it’s not the whole story. Prince was a rebel and his rebel nature expressed itself by being fiercely protective of his creativity and his dedication to making music in the face of any societal expectations. Could Prince’s lack of a phone at least partially account for his continued creativity and work ethic up to the very end? That might be stretching it a bit far, but it’s hard to deny that when you’re in “consuming content” mode — and consuming is exactly what mindlessly scrolling Instagram or binge-watching YouTube is — you’re not creating.
In a 2013 interview with V Magazine, writer Vanessa Grigoriadis says of interviewing Prince, “I ask how tech-averse he really is; does he have an iPhone? `Are you serious?’ he says. `Hell, no.’ He mimics a high-voiced woman. `Where is my phone? Can you call my phone? Oh, I can’t find it.’”
No, Prince wasn’t going to let some device run his life. Prince was notorious for denying his audiences their cell phones as well. You pull out a cell phone at a Prince concert, and you risk being unceremoniously removed from the show, end of story. But hey — he wasn’t asking anything of others that he wasn’t asking of himself. Grigoriadis describes a tense moment when entering the theater for the Prince and 3rdEyeGirl concert she attended in California:
“Both shows stretch to a delicious two hours, as the crowd, in blowouts and Vegas-style cocktail dresses (it’s worth dressing up for Prince, even in California), screams and sings along with glee. The only tense moment comes when we file into the theater and a security guard says, `No cameras, no cellphones—don’t even take them out of your pocket. Tonight, we’re not asking, we’re just escorting.’ I ask her what that means. `If we see you with your phone out, we’re not going to ask what you’re doing—you’re just gone.'”
I really need to implement this with my kids.
Grigoriadis goes on to share a moment at the end of the concert that’s especially poignant.
“At the end of the show he says, `Thank each and every one of you for leaving your cell phones in your pocket. I can’t see your face when you’ve got technology in front of it.'”
That, my friends, is the rationale for this month in a Princely nutshell. With a phone in front of your face, I can’t see you. I can’t connect with you. Disconnection, I believe, is at the heart of what ails our society. (Relatedly, if you have a child who’s even vaguely interested in medicine, point her/him toward orthopedics as there will be a heck of a lot of people with neck problems as the first crop of “digital natives” begins to age).
Will you let an electronic device boss you around?
Some 13 days into the month of August, and I already know my answer. In Prince’s immortal words: Hell no.
This month’s theme has me quaking (and not “Housequake”-ing), in my boots (or sandals, since it’s high summer). In August, I’m giving up my cell phone.
Dammit, Prince. Why couldn’t you have carried a cell phone like the rest of us?
Yes, it’s true, Prince had no cell phone, a fact that he discussed with Arsenio Hall in an interview on the Arsenio Hall Show in 2014. I debated whether or not the lack of a cell phone was part of Prince’s success, or simply a quirk of his personality or even paranoia about privacy. There’s an argument to be made either way. Certainly, security must have been part of the reason, as celebrity phones do get hacked with some frequency. I don’t have the same public pressures on me, and security and privacy are not of the same level of concern. I shouldn’t have to give up my cell phone, right?
On the other side is a simple truth: One of Prince’s defining qualities was his ability to be in the moment. And, he famously (notoriously) refused to allow phones at his parties at Paisley Park. He wanted people to be fully present for the event, not viewing it through a phone. What better way is there to stay in the moment than to keep the phone screen at bay?
I have to do it. The fact that it scares me definitely means I have to do it — this much I’ve learned from seven months of living like Prince.
Should this month end badly, thankfully, there is a villain to blame. Dear friend and fellow Prince fan Christine Trejo suggested this month’s idea after the experience she had when her son needed a cell phone and she needed to go away for a weekend. She left it behind with her son.
“I felt a bit lost without it at first but then it felt really freeing,” she told me.
Her story made me think of Prince’s 2014 interview with Arsenio Hall. Arsenio asked Prince how he managed without a cell phone, and Prince said simply, “Everyone around me has one.”
My friend Christine experienced the exact same phenomenon.
“I was surprised when my friend’s phone rang with my mom on the phone,” Christine told me. “She called my cell and was given my friend’s number. This happened several times over the weekend. It made me realize people are resourceful if they really need to get a hold of you.”
Despite my fear and trepidation at the prospect, I know that Christine is right: It’s Princely to be cell-phone-free. And, it’s a way to make Prince’s ability to stay in the moment concrete and practicable, something I’ve been struggling to figure out how to implement. Thanks for solving my dilemma, Christine. I’ll text you in September!
In the pursuit of living like Prince, I knew that I couldn’t end July’s month of play without hosting a gathering. Prince was an inveterate party-thrower who loved to bring people together, whether that was at the open-to-the-public parties he threw at Paisley Park or the celebs-only bashes he’d host at his rented home in Los Angeles. While I thoroughly enjoy getting together with friends over a glass of wine and talking jobs and kids, I wanted to come up with a party idea that was unexpected, a little bit silly and guaranteed to take us all outside our comfort zones. Simply put, I wanted to have fun for the sake of having fun.
When I was reading Meredith Sinclair’s excellent book Well Played, which is chock-full of practical ideas for bringing playfulness into your life, I hit upon the idea of hosting a movie night and showing “Purple Rain,” which had the built-in benefit of not only giving everyone something fun to do together, but would also provide a playful theme. But, I knew I had to take it one step further if I wanted to make the evening something outside the ordinary. To amp up the frivolity, I enlisted the services of a friend who’s also a talented hairstylist and makeup artist to transform any guest who was willing into Apollonia, Prince’s stunning co-star.
As part of stepping out of a comfort zone, I didn’t want to invite a group of people who all knew each other. While I made sure that everyone had at least one connection, I wanted to give my guests the fun of meeting new people and making new connections. Guestlist made, I finished the Evite and hit “send.” To be honest, I was anxious about how the guests I’d invited would respond. Movie night is one thing, but once you’re out of college, an invitation to come over and get your hair and makeup done like an 80s movie star is quite another! Much to my relief, when the rsvp’s came in, eight people responded “yes.” The party was on!
That day, I dusted off my cocktail shaker and whipped up a batch of Purpletinis (blue Curacao + red cranberry juice + sour mix + vodka + 7-Up = purple deliciousness). Then, I popped up a bunch of Orville Redenbacher’s finest and scattered some Milk Duds over the top, a combo that was reportedly Prince’s favorite movie snack. (Consider yourself warned: when they hit the warm popcorn, the Milk Duds get melty and gooey and combined with the salty, crunchy popcorn, and you will be HOOKED!). I scattered purple candles around the room, bought a giant bunch of purple gladiolas and decorated with whimsical Prince artifacts like my Prince Funko Pop dolls.
The eight guests arrived, all flying the purple flag by wearing their purple best. They looked amazing! As it turned out, the date I’d picked for movie night turned out to be the 35th anniversary of the opening night of “Purple Rain,” a happy coincidence that bonded us right off the bat. Once everyone had gathered, I asked each person to introduce herself and tell how she was connected to me, or to Prince. We thoroughly enjoyed hearing everyone’s stories!
A few guests brought playful additions to the party. One offered artist-made, Prince-inspired loungewear which guests could purchase, a second the Prince-inspired bracelets she makes and a third contributed her talents by offering up acupuncture ear seeds and placing them on each guest for whatever ailed us. The seeds were blinged out with crystals and looked cute on everyone’s ears.
We settled in to watch the movie while everyone took turns getting glammed up. My guests were great sports and everyone happily jumped in and got their hair and makeup done. It was great that everybody got into the spirit! Whenever someone’s transformation into fabulous Apollonia circa 1984 was complete, the others would cheer their approval. And naturally, we were enthralled by the real Apollonia’s performance of “Sex Shooter.”
I’m happy to report that the proverbial good time was had by all. Today, in the warm violet afterglow of last night’s party, I’m reminded that it’s always a good thing to bring people together for laughs, a dash of glam and a Purpletini.
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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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