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Prince performing at Madison Square Garden in 2011. (Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
While Prince had been famous for nearly four decades, there was more than a little of an air of mystery around him.
Sure, the 5-foot-2 “Purple Rain” singer was known for his big hair, heels, style, and talent, but there was a reason why he lived behind the gates of Paisley Park, the sprawling estate featuring a 65,000-square-foot studio complex in the Minneapolis suburb of Chanhassen. And why events held there carried a strict no-cellphone policy. Even reporters who interviewed him there were instructed not to bring a camera, mobile phone, or tape recorder.
Despite his stringent rules, tidbits about the supersecret star’s life have trickled out — and they’re as incredible as his musical talent was. Here we rounded up some of the most interesting little-known facts about the Artist Once Again Known as Prince, and we hope you enjoy reading them as you try to digest his sudden and sad passing…
1. His name really was Prince. Prince Rogers Nelson to be exact. Prince’s dad was a jazz pianist and songwriter who went by the stage name Prince Rogers. He gave the name to his son “because I wanted him to do everything I wanted to do,” he said, according to the 2003 book Possessed: The Rise and Fall of Prince.
Paisley Park Studios circa 1990 — as you can probably tell by the cars. (Photo: Getty Images)
2. He went door-to-door for the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Prince was introduced to the religion by the musician Larry Graham. In 2008, the “1999” singer told the New Yorker he attended meetings at a local Kingdom Hall and, like his fellow witnesses, he went door-to-door now and then to proselytize. “Sometimes people act surprised, but mostly they’re really cool about it,” he said.
3. He was a Ping-Pong ace. In 2014, the Associated Press reported that a Ping-Pong table was a centerpiece outside the recording studios. He’s described as a “pretty deft player.” His footwear for the game? “White shoes with acrylic heels lighting up blue with every move.” Of course.
Related: Prince’s Most Iconic Looks
4. He also had game: While he was barely over 5 feet tall, he was a baller. In an episode of Chappelle’s Show, Charlie Murphy talked about partying with Prince in the ’80s. The superstar challenged him to a pickup game of basketball. “This cat could ball,” said Murphy, who noted that he played in a “Zorro-type outfit.”
Prince, at a basketball game in 2004, had some strong shooting skills of his own. (Photo: Getty Images)
5. He would wear platform flip-flops with socks and yoga pants: “It’s perhaps worth noting that [his feet] are wearing a pair of flip-flops with huge platform soles teamed with socks,” a writer from The Guardian noted in 2015. “The socks and flip-flops are white, as is the rest of his outfit.” It’s a style that he long appreciated. In his 2008 New Yorker profile, it said, “Prince padded into the kitchen, a small 50-year-old man in yoga pants and a big sweater, wearing platform flip-flops over white socks, like a geisha.”
6. He didn’t use profanity. While his 1992 Love Symbol Album came with a parental advisory label, he gave up swearing in his music — and in his personal life. He explained it in a 2014 interview with Essence, “Did you ever hear Muhammad Ali curse? Would you curse in front of your kids? To your mother?”
7. He didn’t eat meat — we don’t think. He has been described as both a vegetarian and a vegan in the press, and the former is more likely to be true. In 2011, PETA’s one-time Sexiest Vegetarian Alive consented to HeavyTable.com’s “What’s in My Fridge?” feature (again, with lots of conditions, including that his fridge couldn’t be photographed), and that alone was a fascinating read. DunkAroos, the kangaroo-shaped cookies, 18 varieties of mustard, and a gallon of maple syrup were among the things he stocked up on. However, he offered no explanation as to why there was braunschweiger, a smoked liverwurst, in the fridge.
8. He had his own private hair salon. In an interview with the U.K.’s Daily Mail, his ex-wife Mayte Garcia said that their home had its own hair salon, which she was never allowed to use. “The salon wasn’t for me, it was for my husband. Prince needed his space,” she said. He was once sued for giving a makeover to a Los Angeles mansion he rented from NBA player Carlos Boozer for $70,000 a month. He installed “beauty-salon chairs” in one of the bedrooms.
Prince, with ex-wife Mayte Garcia, cared about his locks — a lot. (Photo: Getty Images)
9. He lost a son. In 1996, a son he had with Garcia passed away shortly after birth and was a bit of a mystery. “Boy Gregory” was the name on the baby’s birth certificate. Officials later determined the infant died of a skeletal abnormality known as Pfeiffer’s syndrome seven days after he was born.
10. He hadn’t cried since he was a teenager. He had a troubled relationship with his father and was thrown out of his house at least once. A 1991 profile in Interview reported that he pleaded to be allowed to come back home — while standing in a phone booth crying for two hours. He later noted it was the last time he had cried.