I don’t remember the first time I heard Prince’s music, and I can’t tell you the names of all his albums. The majority of his songs that I know and love are those that topped the Billboard charts years before I was born. I don’t even think I’ve seen the film Purple Rain in its entirety. But I can tell you that when I found out he died today, I felt it.
It was the kind of sadness that immediately takes ahold of you and doesn’t let go; instead, it lingers, leaving you utterly confused and defenseless against the power of your emotions. But while I'm sad, a huge part of me doesn't actually believe he's dead. After all, that’s usually how it goes when monumental and iconic celebrities die. But with Prince, much like with Michael and Whitney, it’s different. He was otherworldly and ethereal—godly, even. It’s as if his very being transcended reality.
I had never met Prince before. The closest I ever got to him was when I attended the 2011 NAACP Image Awards with my roommates, who also happened to be my close friends. I was living in Los Angeles at the time and one of them had gotten free tickets to attend. She asked us all to go and, of course, we accepted her invitation.
Our seats were basically in the nosebleed section, so we occasionally had to squint our eyes in order to get a really good look at who was on stage at any given time. And as I soon learned, awards shows aren’t actually as fun and exciting as one might think. Granted, it was the NAACP Image Awards and not the Grammy’s, but it kind of just felt like any other awards ceremony. However, once Prince walked out to present, everyone sitting in close vicinity to us screamed at the top of their lungs, and my friends and I were no exception. (I’m pretty sure we all screamed “PRIIIIINCE!” in unison.) He had this undeniable aura, even from afar, that I’m sure everyone could feel as soon as he stepped onto the stage. That moment still sticks out as one of the most exciting that I can remember, and I didn’t even get a chance to meet him. Simply being in his presence was memorable enough.
Prince was bold and unapologetic for who he was, and those two qualities are truly admirable in any person. Life is hard enough as it is, but it’s even harder when you have to go through it being so different from everything that society expects you to be. But he reveled in being an other, and this fact is most evident in his lyrics, style of dress, and how he spoke about, well, anything. His whole persona was essentially a not-so-subtle “Fuck you” to society, and he proved that it was okay to be both black and ostentatious—a person, especially if that person was also a man, didn't have to sacrifice one for the other. He shattered gender, racial, and sexuality norms just by living in his truth, and I only hope that I can be as daring as he was in my lifetime.
No, I didn't have the pleasure of meeting Prince in the flesh, but I didn't need to in order to know and genuinely appreciate his brilliance, both on and off stage. None of us did. His spirit and magic will live on for eternity, long after we all depart from this life. And although there will never be another like him, we can all live truthfully as he did, or, at the very least, strive to. And one thing’s for damn sure: We don't have to apologize for it.