Yani’s first ever act of true defiance was in the summer of 1984 at the tender age of eleven, when she fell in love with Prince.
Her parents, especially her mother, thought he was a “freak” and a “weirdo” and a “pervert.” They would beg Yani to give Michael Jackson a chance, but she was too busy painting her room lavender, saving allowance money to see Purple Rain weekly at the Cheltenham Square multiplex, sitting in front of her record player trying to decipher the garble at the very end of Side A on the soundtrack, plastering her purple walls with posters of his Purple Majesty and purchasing cassette tapes of all of his albums from Strawberry Records (even Dirty Mind, which she bought three times and which her mother liberated from its hiding place in her top dresser drawer three times—in fact, Yani didn’t get a copy that escaped confiscation until she was past legal voting age, and even then, she felt like she was doing something wrong as she stood in line with the CD case featuring a mustachioed man in tight, black underwear, a fitted, pointy-collared bolero jacket and neck bandana).
Yani wasn’t hearing anything her parents had to say—although she did agree to go to the Jackson Victory Tour, the pinnacle of her mother’s attempts to brainwash her to embrace Bubble’s guardian—because her love for Prince was so absolute and unwavering.
Here are a few things that Yani had to overlook in order to nurture this now 24-year love:
• Ruffles, Edwardian collars, stilettos, backless pants, high-waisted pants, no pants and various other fashion atrocities, worn without a hint of irony.
• The clear fact that Prince would never, ever love a brown, Black girl like herself.
• The Sheena Easton era (although “Sugar Walls” remains a classic).
• His insistence on keeping a foot in cinema (she saw Under the Cherry Moon 22 times, but likes to blame it on youth).
• His poor handling of his one known love affair with a brown, Black girl, Nona Gaye (at least her telling in Essence cast Prince in a terrible light that Yani still has to blot out of her memory).
• Hinting in his early career that he was bi-racial, prompting his mother to give an exclusive interview to Jet that included quotes such as, “We’re Black!”
• His insistence on not spelling out certain words (okay, Yani actually likes that…Prince, she would die 4 u).
• The Diamonds & Pearls era, and especially the dancers, Diamond and Pearl.
• His rap interlude in “Gett Off” (“Peter, Paul, Almond Joy, let me tell you, baby, I’m a talented boy”).
• The unfortunate interpretive dance sequence, done in a one-piece red jumpsuit and George Washington-ish low ponytail, that he does throughout the “Scandalous” video.
• His sweatsuit phase.
With so things to overlook, Yani’s left pondering how Prince pulls it off—what is it about a 5’3″ man who has maintained a chemical treatment in his hair since the late 70s that can keep her so enthralled? Amazing music, sure, but Yani loves a Bob Dylan song as much as the next person and she’s never harbored an illicit thought about fine ass Jacob’s daddy. It got her thinking about “types” and how we all make such a big deal about what ours is. She knows hers pretty well and it doesn’t include jheri curls, finger waves, eyeliner or traipsing around France with a sidekick named Jerome.
What is it about those people that we love no matter how much they go against our idea of who we think we should be loving? Also, if Prince were a woman, would he have been able to be promoted as a sex symbol while maintaining such a rigid disregard for any gender or fashion norms?
One more thing: If you’re reading this on Saturday, the actual date of Prince’s birth, turn to VH1 Soul and watch the all-day marathon of his videos.