For former protege Apollonia Kotero, Prince was a king

Published 6:34 am Saturday, June 8, 2019

NEW YORK — Former Prince protege and longtime friend Apollonia Kotero said the Purple One had major plans for her before his untimely death in 2016, including new music, a possible film and even a book to follow-up his upcoming memoir.

He had even given Kotero and her Apollonia 6 bandmates the trademark to the group’s name to keep the legacy alive.

“My first thought was like, ‘Damn, I gotta hit the gym now,’” Kotero said. “We gotta rehearse. We gotta go back in vocal classes. Get this (expletive) party started, man. I was excited. He was happy. He had so many plans.”

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But things changed once Prince died, sending Kotero into a “rabbit hole of severe depression” — as she put it in her first interview since Prince died on April 21, 2016.

“I just physically couldn’t cry and I was feeling ill, really ill. I just didn’t know if I was going to make it,” she recently told The Associated Press by phone in Los Angeles. “It sounds strange for me to be saying it for the first time publicly. I’ve never discussed this, other than with my loved ones. I didn’t think I was going to make it. I’d never felt that way before. I never suffered such severe depression.”

Kotero co-starred in 1984’s “Purple Rain” and was in the trio Apollonia 6 with Brenda Bennett and Susan Moonsie, former singers in Vanity 6. Kotero said she’s still in touch with her bandmates and she’s finally speaking publicly since it has been three years since Prince’s death.

“Prince and I never dated — we’re family, we were friends,” she said. “There’s a different type of respect that he had for me. He had that for me for 33 years. We had our difficulties, and I always stood up to him. I believe that’s what he respected, that I wasn’t a pushover. I said no to him for a lot of reasons professionally.”

Kotero recalled some of her last conversations with Prince, saying they talked about “family, his parents, politics, love, death, dementia, our marriages.”

“We discussed the issues that we had. All of the things that we didn’t discuss before,” she continued. “I just looked, like, ‘Man, we’re growing up. We’re old folks now.’ He gave me the look like, ‘Ain’t no old folks here.’”

She said when he asked her to be in the “Purple Rain” sequel, “Graffiti Bridge,” she turned him down.

“He sent me the script. I remember I read it. I said, ‘Oh my god, this is horrible,’” she recalled. “I said it, ‘This is a piece of (expletive).’”

She said she worked on a real sequel and pitched him the story when she visited Paisley Park in 2014.

“He liked it. It was a little bit dark because he dies in it. I gave him two reasons why he would die and he just gave me this blank look. It was just kind of, I mean, the irony of it,” she said.

Kotero said Prince wanted her to write a book after he finished his (Random House will release Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones” on Oct. 29).

“He said, ‘I want you to stop telling the priceless stories because you’re going to write a book, your biography,’” she recalled. “He said, ‘Yes, you’re going to release yours within the year after mine.’”

She also said in his vaults, Prince left her a house music album and began working on an Apollonia 6 film.

Kotero credits her faith in God for pulling her out of her depression after Prince’s death. Writing a lengthy letter to Prince — posted to her Facebook page four months after his death — was also therapeutic.

Now, she’s ready to get back to her career.

“My passion is work, singing, acting dancing, producing, writing. I’m a songwriter,” she said. “I’m feeling better about life. My life has changed. Prince changed my life when I first met him and he had me in his film. He changed my life again when he was taken away from us too soon.”

“I really believe that when God created Prince, he composed the most perfect song,” she said. “That comes from my heart. I really believe that. He is music.”