As we near the first anniversary of the death of musical icon Prince, his first wife Mayte Garcia is looking back at their love story in her new book, The Most Beautiful: My Life with Prince. In it, she describes the rise and fall of both their professional and personal partnership, the death of their newborn son, a miscarriage and how she managed to move on after these devastating losses.
Garcia's book is a tantalizing glimpse behind the curtain of the life of a notoriously mysterious man. We spoke with the former Mrs. Nelson about fan reaction to the book, recovering from loss, how she became a mother again and her hopes for the future. We've edited the interview for clarity and length.
SheKnows: There are some Prince fans who are a little bit heated about this book. What compelled you to write it? How did you decide on the timing? Is it similar to the one you had planned [before Prince's death]?
Mayte Garcia: It didn't change. I always wanted it to be respectful and with love. It's not a tell-all, it's a love story. I respected his privacy, but I said it and I'll keep saying it, when I was with him it was the most he was open to people. You can't be mysterious and have a kid, you know? You can't not socialize when your kid wants to go have playdates. It was something that we were wanting to do, and people that are online making comments, unfortunately, they don't know him. It's my story just as much as it was his. I'm not telling stuff that didn't happen without me being there, so it's a joint thing, and I think it's coming from a respectful, loving place... You're not gonna make everybody happy.
SK: You did address some of those internet rumors. One of them was about the annulment. Was it a legal annulment or just a spiritual thing?
MG: It was a spiritual thing that he was trying to do, and I actually addressed it on Hollywood Exes when Prince was alive because I was like "I'm not allowing him to let that go down in history because that didn't happen and I get what you were trying to do, but…" People turned it into this big thing, which is not possible. You can't annul a marriage, especially after having two children. Back then there weren't iPhones and things you could just pull up because let me tell you, I would have been like "Hold up; let's look at the definition of annulment real quick!" It would have been completely different.
SK: For many years, your son's name — Amiir — was kept a secret. How does it feel to finally be able to say his name publicly?
MG: It's so liberating. I didn't have my closure… I feel we didn't [release the baby's name] because [his death] was so shocking and so hurtful. It was his way, but for me I felt like not honoring that and putting a name to him was for many years hard in my heart. And the minute I said it, I actually said it at the memorial, it just felt so great. Yesterday I did Good Morning America with Michael [Strahan] and he said it, and it just brought this warmth around my soul. Because it's like, "Yeah, he did exist, and he was beautiful, and he was made from love, and yeah, that was his name." So there's a place for him now.
SK: You've mentioned that Prince seemed far less supportive after your miscarriage than after the loss of Amiir. Why do you think he reacted that way?
MG: I think out of fear and just not wanting to get hurt again. I know you know, men kind of react differently to [things] than how women react, and I think that was just his way of dealing with it. I'd been very, very loved through the first pregnancy, and with this one, I could tell he didn't want to get hurt… It was very painful for both of us.
SK: How do you begin to move on from that, from the loss of two children and then your marriage, and in such a short period of time? The rug was just pulled out from under you. How do you pick yourself up and move forward?
MG: Family, friends. I just had faith that things were gonna get better. I'm not going to lie to you and say I strived forward. I had many years of deep depression, but I always had my animals, which kept me going. It's something I was passionate about. And reading, reading a lot. I read so many books. I read Embraced by the Light, I'll never forget Iyanla Vanzant, her books. It helped me. And time, of course. Time heals.
SK: Now you're the mom to the beautiful Miss Gia, and you adopted her as an infant. The story of how the two of you came together is really remarkable, as you explain in your book. How has what you went through with Amiir affected what kind of parent you are today?
MG: I just wake up every day appreciative that I have that title of being her mother and there's that relationship. I don't take it for granted. It's hard. She has little temper tantrums and I'm like, "How do I deal with this?" Like, let me go Google real quick how to handle a tantrum. I think having Amiir just gave me an appreciation for that, the awareness of it being such a gift… I have this thing, if it's after 9:00, I'm not going. I'm so tired. I put her to bed and they're like, "Hey, let's go have drinks!" And I'm like, "No, let's not. Let's just sit on the couch."
SK: Do you still have a relationship with her biological mother?
MG: Not an ongoing relationship, but there's definitely open communication. I'm also friends with the entire family. They're very loving, very supportive, respectful. Once it happened, they embraced it. They're great people.
SK: Tell me about your MS diagnosis. That was a big surprise. How has that affected your day-to-day?
MG: I'm just more aware of my health. I just woke up one day and felt like someone put Vaseline in my eye, and I couldn't get rid of it. It's crazy because I kept going to different specialist doctors, and they kept saying, "You've got great vision." And you know those little tests where they can see your peripheral and the lights? I kept passing it. It took two doctors and me finally going to a little mall doctor, and I went in and I said, "I don't know why, but I've been to two specialists and I can't figure out what's going on with my eyes." And I remember her saying, "This has nothing to do with your eyes. This has something to do with your brain. You need to see an optic neurologist." So it took me 2 to 3 weeks, and I went in. And I'll never forget, the guy was like, "You probably have optic neuritis, which is a side effect of MS." And I was like, "What are you talking about?" Because I've always known MS to be, you'll probably end up in a wheelchair, just a horrible, horrible disease. I went the next day, and they said to me if you have more than five lesions, it's probably the beginnings of MS. I think I had four. I quickly went to the neurologist and I wanted to do the spinal tap and stuff like that, but my neurologist thought it wasn't necessary. She just said we caught it really early. There's a lot of women who have it and don't realize that they have it. So she recommended me to start taking a medication. It's kind of like putting on a seat belt. I don't like it, I don't like the medication, but knock on wood, I haven't had a symptom or anything. I do notice fatigue and I do notice headaches, but it's controlled. I work out, I eat healthy, I try to keep a positive mind frame about it, and educate myself and educate others as much as possible. I definitely want people to know that if there's anything that's off in their bodies to go get checked, because if it's caught early on it can be controlled, and you can live a long, healthy life.
SK: So what's ahead for you? After the book, what are your future plans?
MG: I'm still acting. I love doing that, but my passion is turning more into animals and finally getting a [shelter] facility — I want to get a facility where half of it is gonna be a nonprofit and the other half is gonna be a grooming facility, [pet] day care. I love selling dog sweaters. Just a place of animals' haven and love. I would love to spend my life there. It's my passion. I love animals. Not just dogs. Cats, I just love it. The older I get, the more I want to do something I'm really passionate about. And maybe another book. You never know!
If you're trying to find your way through loss, Garcia recommends the following books to help you on your journey:
- Embraced by the Light: The Most Profound and Complete Near-Death Experience Ever by Betty J. Eadie
- One Day My Soul Just Opened Up: 40 Days and 40 Nights Towards Spiritual Strength and Personal Growth by Iyanla Vanzant
Garcia's book, The Most Beautiful: My Life with Prince is currently available in bookstores and for download.