Rock and Roll Book Club: Mayte Garcia's 'The Most Beautiful: My Life with Prince'

Mayte Garcia's book 'The Most Beautiful'
Mayte Garcia's book 'The Most Beautiful: My Life with Prince' (Jay Gabler/MPR)
Interview with Mayte Garcia
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Prince's first wife, Mayte Garcia, is coming to the University Club of St. Paul tonight for a reading and book signing of The Most Beautiful: My Life with Prince. In her new book she gives readers an inside look into how she met the legendary musician, their relationship that followed and the tragedy that ultimately tore them apart.

Garcia recently spoke with Jill Riley and Brian Oake about the process of writing her book and how, even though she and Prince both went their separate ways, a bond always remained. Here's their conversation as transcribed by Simone Cazares; click above to listen to an edited version of this interview. Garcia will be at the University Club of St. Paul tonight, and tomorrow she'll be signing books at the Mall of America Rotunda.

Jill Riley: So, Mayte, when you decided to write this book, what was your goal?

Mayte Garcia: It was to show how beautiful of a romance and love there was. I mean, with beauty and love there comes sadness and stuff like that, but it's a journey and I wanted people to have this journey with me. For the last 20 years, actually, people [have been saying] you need to write a book because your life, it's been amazing, exciting, and also makes you think about fate and if it really does exist.

Brian Oake: You know, when people think about you it's hard from them to not think about Prince because he was such a giant star and famously private, which seemingly made people want to know more about him, but obviously you had a life before you met Prince. Without giving away all the best parts of the book, so people will come down and check it out tonight, what was your life like growing up? How did you find your way into dance?

Mayte Garcia: Well, I was an army brat. I was born into the military. Crazy enough I was born with crooked legs and I wore casts at a very young age and my mom was very diligent about me wearing those casts — and I turned out to be a dancer, which was crazy. They were very supportive of my dancing. I was a classically trained ballerina; being in the military you have to travel a lot, and we traveled. By the time I met Prince I was an established belly dancer. By the age of eight I was on a show back in the '80s called That's Incredible. It was a big deal back then, and I was known as the world's youngest professional belly dancer.

Brian Oake: That's Incredible was a show that I watched every single week. Former Minnesota quarterback Fran Tarkenton used to be one of the hosts on there. That's wild.

Mayte Garcia: He actually put the quarters on my belly. That's pretty funny.

Jill Riley: What!

Brian Oake: That's a crazy story. Wow, I love that.

Mayte Garcia: Yup, I used to flip quarters.

Jill Riley: So you being a professional belly dancer, I mean, that led you to your meeting with Prince. How did that all come together?

Mayte Garcia: Well, we were camping in Spain, and we were on a tight budget and we had enough money to go see a Latin band — Celia Cruz and Tito Puente — or Prince, and my my mother was the deciding factor. The name of the tour that Prince did was called Nude, so she was like, oh, we're going! If you knew my mother, you'd understand. I remember looking at her and being like, It's not going to be nude, mama, and she was like, "I don't care, we're going!" And I was like, okay. So we went to go see him and during the show he played kind of an Arabic obscene song, and my parents knew that the more people I danced for, the [better] my résumé would be. They were like, you need to perform for him. You need to get a tape for him and maybe you could even be in his music video. I was like, you guys, stop dreaming, this is crazy...but crazy enough, two weeks later, Prince's tour came into Germany and my wonderful mother got that tape to him, and I met him minutes later.

Jill Riley: So what was your relationship like, what sort of friendship developed out of that?

Mayte Garcia: Well, we were sort of like pen pals. He would write me and then I would write him and then he would send me music and then I would send him videotapes of my shows because my father was an avid videographer. He loved doing it and was also doing it professionally. I would send him my shows because I was dancing professionally all the time, and I started to notice that my dance style and the music was starting to trickle into his style, and we just kind of went back and forth writing each other and calling each other and I would go visit him — then later I'd go join the band. But I was 16 at the time.

Jill Riley: So was it the Diamonds and Pearls Tour that you joined?

Mayte Garcia: That's the one. I actually met him in the Graffiti Bridge era and by Diamonds and Pearls we were friends, but I didn't join until the Love Symbol Album.

Brian Oake: At what point does a working relationship turn into love and a decision to get married?

Mayte Garcia: Well, it was all him. I was about 18 years old when I realized, "Oh no, I think I like this guy." For me, I was very professional. If you read the book, you will see that my life was very sheltered. My father was no joke in protecting me and yeah, it just flourished into a friendship, friendship turned into a romance, and he proposed. He planned the wedding and it was all his doing.

Jill Riley: So, Mayte, with the book you write about the romance, you write about the good times, but you also write about some really difficult topics. The death of your son is a big part of this book. Was it really difficult to revisit that, or did it feel therapeutic to write it down and tell that story?

Mayte Garcia: You know, it's interesting. For years I had kept it in and I did a reality show a couple years ago and I remember a therapist saying to me, "You're a mom who lost a child." Once I heard that, it kind of felt a little healing, but I also felt this heavy heart. With the book, I meet a lot of people at book signings and people tell me that they've been writing their [stories] and I'm so lucky to have written it, expelled it and shared it in a way. It's been very healing, just understanding my pain and acknowledging it. I just have had women come to me and tell me they can relate to this, because miscarriage happens to a lot of women and it is something that should be talked about. [Talking to me] is kind of their way of sharing and expelling this pain, so for me it's been beyond cathartic and I'm happy that I shared it. I did it as tastefully as possible. It took months to find the right words but I think I did a good job, by the reaction of people.

Jill Riley: Mayte, what does it feel like to come back to Minnesota?

Mayte Garcia: You know, I've been coming back a lot this year and it's bittersweet. There will always be a a special space in my heart for Minnesota because I will always consider Prince family. Our son was born there, and it's a place that I hold dear to my heart.

Jill Riley: what was it like going back to Paisley Park after Prince's death?

Mayte Garcia: I can't even find the words to describe it. It felt distant but familiar, very familiar. Walking in I kind of smiled, I felt his energy and I know this was his haven. This is where he created and lived and expressed himself and I mean so many things happened in that building. I'm glad people are there and get to share it and I know that he wanted that as well.

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