Monday would have been the singer Prince’s 63rd birthday in the year which marks the fifth anniversary of his death and Apollonia Kotero says she’ll celebrate the way she always does.
The former Prince protégée and his costar in the 1984 film “Purple Rain” told CNN she misses her beloved friend whom she never expected to lose.
“Many of his ‘Purple Rain’ family, my cast, we always thought that he would live forever so we’re still in disbelief,” she said. “We’re not in denial, but we’re still in disbelief that he’s no longer with us. Yes, the legend is with us through songs and stories, but you know, physically he’s not picking up the phone and calling and making me laugh.”
Prince died from an accidental overdose of the opioid fentanyl in April 2016. He was 57.
A convincing pair
Kotero was the lead singer for Apollonia 6, a girl group Prince assembled in 1983. As an actress and a singer, Kotero headed the group and also played his love interest in “Purple Rain.”
The pair were so convincing on screen Kotero says she understands why people continue to believe they were a couple in real life, despite the fact she was actually in a relationship with Van Halen front man David Lee Roth at the time.
“It’s because of the great chemistry we had on film. It was powerful,” she says of her and Prince in “Purple Rain.” “And because I didn’t step out with the gentleman that I was dating at the time, David Lee Roth, in public.”
She says Prince asked her to keep her relationship with Roth private at the time to keep fans focused on the love story they shared in “Purple Rain.” But while he and Kotero were never a couple, she said they developed a deep friendship over the years. Kotero introduced the singer to many of her Hollywood friends including filmmaker Kenny Ortega.
Like many, Kotero was shocked and devastated by his passing — especially as she now says he was in the process of “righting his wrongs” when he died.
“With someone like Prince and many artists, being creative artists, they’re not diligent businesspeople,” she said. “They rely on managers and lawyers and they don’t sign contracts.”
According to Kotero, she co-wrote Sheila E.’s hit “The Glamorous Life” with Prince as well as “Manic Monday” which was a chart topper for the girl group The Bangles, but never received credit or compensation for it.
And she says there are other artists who found themselves in that position with Prince as well.
“I always floated lyrics to him and a lot of the times, a lot of us artists were uncredited,” she said. “So what Prince was doing [at the time he died] was doing due diligence. He said ‘You’re going to get paid and you and [Apollonia 6] members Susan [Moonsie] and Brenda [Bennett] will get paid for the money for Apollonia 6, because we never, we didn’t even know that we went platinum. We never made any money because of the issues that he had with Warner.”
Prince famously feuded with Warner Records (previously owned by CNN’s parent company) for control of his music.
CNN has reached out to reps for Prince’s estate and Warner Records for comment.
Despite that, love of music is one of the things that cemented her bond with Prince.
Kotero said she sees artists like Janelle Monáe, whom he mentored, Bruno Mars and the Avila Brothers as helping to carry on his legacy.
Kotero also said she believes had he lived, Prince would be making music to address social justice movements like the one in his beloved Minneapolis which sprung up after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police.
“He’d be speaking through music,” said Kotero, who added that years ago the pair were pulled over by a Minnesota officer for no reason while driving. “He would definitely be speaking powerful songs through lyrics, powerful mind bending lyrics that would probably just have you drop on your knees and in tears.”
And while he didn’t celebrate his birthday because of his Jehovah’s Witnesses faith, Kotero said Prince would often call her on that day and remind her of that fact when she wished him happy birthday.
“I would tell him “I got a cake, I got candles, I got some ice cream’ and then he would just laugh,” she said, wistfully. “I told him I was celebrating and I do plan to celebrate on Monday. I’m going to get a cake and celebrate his birthday.”