The Most Beautiful: My Life With Prince
Hachette Book Group
When a famous person dies, it’s inevitable that the bookshelves are soon filled with tell-all biographies. If the person in question is eccentric, then those books are going to be even more prevalent, as people naturally have curiosities about celebrity—especially weird celebrities, and Prince Rogers Nelson most certainly fit that bill. (Go look at the ‘coming soon’ section of Amazon, and you’ll find a ton of Prince books timed for the anniversary of his death.) Thankfully, The Most Beautiful: My Life With Prince isn’t the cheap, tawdry post-mortem ex-spouse tell-all one might expect—and thank God for that. Instead, we get a guarded yet intimate portrait of a deeply complicated man and the devoted woman who loved him.
Mayte Garcia was her own woman well before she met Prince. She became a successful belly-dancer in her childhood, even appearing on the television variety show That’s Incredible! at the age of seven, where she performed a complicated saber dance. When she meets Prince in Germany, she’s still underage, but he’s enthralled with her, and most importantly, he’s impressed because she made her own name for herself and was insistent on not losing that identity. Furthermore, she’s strikingly beautiful, exotic, and extremely intelligent; that she becomes his Priscilla Presley whilst in the same German city isn’t lost on the reader; unlike Presley, Garcia refused to be molded and sculpted into something she wasn’t. Prince doesn’t want to do that, and one has a feeling Garcia wouldn’t let him. (Whilst Prince was a lover of women, he was also deeply respectful of them; “On The Couch” tells the tale of a beleaguered Prince who has angered his wife, making him sleep on the couch.)
Initially, Prince is a very respectful suitor; aware of her young age, he is nothing less than polite—almost wholesome in his approach to courting—and soon the courting turns into a proper relationship. She becomes his creative partner, even as she is somewhat reticent about her own lucrative dancing career being sidelined. She’s an independent woman, and though she became one of his stage show’s most impressive dancers, she was never just a dancer. When he proposes, it’s a romantic whirlwind, and when they marry, they do so in typical Prince fashion. They agree on a small, intimate, sedate affair, with just close friends and family, and no big frills—but then, to her surprise, he spends tens of thousands of dollars to fill the entire chapel with flowers—a minor upset to her because they had agreed to keep the audience small, and yet she felt if he was willing to be indulgent, they should well have had a large, upscale event.
And yet, soon came tragedy. The Most Beautiful’s most gut-wrenching revelation comes from the most painful part of their relationship, and it is this incident that soon torn them apart; their marriage would ultimately be a casualty of their painful, heartbreaking loss. A full-term pregnancy ended in the birth of their son, Amiir, who died shortly thereafter, a result of horrible birth defects; Garcia is upfront about his conditions, and the descriptions are truly horrifying and tragic, and it didn’t help that the “reclusive” Prince soon dragged her in front of Oprah Winfrey on national television to address the gossip and rumors that had been spreading—which they don’t; Prince insists on a cover-up. Garcia is soon pregnant again, but soon ended in miscarriage. Embedded in these tragedies is deep, deep guilt; Prince’s growing interest in Christian Science meant that during the pregnancy, he eschewed basic prenatal care that would have detected any abnormalities. Always a religious man, he took comfort in God’s Will, even as problems started to arise and their obstetricians grew concerned about certain test results.
Prince desperately wanted a family—she humorously describes the days after their wedding as being peppered with Prince incessantly asking her if she was pregnant yet—and this one-two punch tore him apart. He delved deep into Christian Science, seeking an answer to the question of why this happened. Sadly, it’s here that Garcia and Prince start to split; when faced with the death of a child, it’s not uncommon for couples to alienate and fall apart, and it’s at one of his meetings that he meets Manuela Testolini, who quickly becomes his new girlfriend. Garcia immediately senses the worst and is saddened, but there’s almost a sense of resignation that their relationship is over.
In the intervening years, Garcia would later work in Hollywood, performing in a number of reality shows. She would soon adopt a daughter of her own, and she always bore a special love for her ex-husband. Her one great regret is not introducing his daughter to him, an act that one feels would have been an act of closure. Like the rest of the world, she was stunned and heartbroken over his death; throughout the book, any hints of wrongdoing or frustrations feel tempered with a loving forgiveness, as if suddenly the petty arguments, disagreements, and even the divorce itself are forgiven. Besides, with Prince gone, what’s the point of holding on to resentments that can no longer be addressed?
For all of its revelations into the private life of Prince, The Most Beautiful is still quite guarded; Garcia and Prince may have parted, but she’s not selling the secrets for a quick buck; she loved the man, and she respected his legacy enough not to turn out a cheap, tawdry autobiography of a man who could not defend himself. It is indeed a shame that Garcia had to write it—this was her exercise in coming to terms with the death of the love of her life—and one wishes the circumstances were such that she wouldn’t have to have written it at all.