Mayte Garcia - "The Most Beautiful: My Life With Prince" (Review)

04/17/2017 03:30 am ET Updated Apr 21, 2017
Cover Art: Randee St Nicholas / Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Mayte Garcia’s memoir The Most Beautiful: My Life With Prince is a gentle and moving account of Ms. Garcia’s relationship with the legendary musician.

The Most Beautiful arrives with certain degrees of controversy. As a longtime Prince “fam", I have read many comments in Facebook groups devoted to him implying that Ms. Garcia has written this book to “cash in” on the death of her ex-husband, or considering her a “sellout,” violating the privacy that Prince notoriously cultivated while he was alive.

Those accusations are unfounded.

For anyone who has read the top credible and well-researched biographies of Prince (particularly those by Per Nilsen, Alex Hahn and Laura Tiebert, and Matt Thorne) there is nothing in Ms. Garcia’s book that blows a hole in perceptions of who Prince was.

Readers not as familiar with ‘Prince history’ might find some behaviors disconcerting, but nothing here is scurrilous or salacious. Even when describing the most frustrating and painful aspects of her relationship with Prince, Ms. Garcia writes with clear eyes, grace and dignity.

The daughter of a career military man and a professional belly dancer, Mayte Garcia had a passion for dance practically from birth. Despite being born with inverted legs that required special casts for her bones and joints to develop correctly, by the age of eight, Mayte was a student of classical ballet and the world’s youngest professional belly dancer.

In 1990, Mayte and her family traveled to Barcelona, Spain. Part of the trip would involve a Prince concert, which Mayte was reluctant to attend given a previously frightening experience at a Michael Jackson concert. She expected similar problems at a Prince show, but after some convincing from her sister, Mayte relented and went.

During the concert and upon hearing one of Prince’s songs with an Arabic feel, Mayte’s mother insisted that Mayte make a videotape of herself dancing to send to Prince, thinking he might hire Mayte for a music video. Mayte thought the idea was far-fetched, but eventually made the video.

A week later, the family was at a second Prince concert in Mannheim, Germany. At just the right moment, Mayte’s mother was able to give her daughter’s videotape to someone who immediately delivered it to Prince.

Prince, having already noticed Mayte from afar, wasted no time watching the tape. Within ten minutes, Mayte was backstage meeting him. From there, a genuine connection and friendship begins, leading to their marriage in 1996.

It is easy to see why Prince was drawn to Mayte Garcia beyond her physical beauty. Fans may have dismissed her as “just another Prince protégé; simply around because she fits the physical type Prince liked,” but she did not deserve this label.

While Ms. Garcia doesn’t make overt mention of it, her serious commitment to the art of dance gave her a discipline and focus that mirrored Prince’s devotion to his music. It is undoubtedly part of why they connected so deeply and it served her well in understanding and appreciating his genius.

Ms. Garcia subtly gives some fascinating insight into that genius and creative process, particularly in the section where their developing relationship serves as a backdrop to the creation of 1992’s o(+> ( ‘Symbol’) album and several videos that were created along with it.

I greatly appreciated the details of how fragments, thoughts and scattered notions that would seem like absolutely nothing separately would eventually coalesce into a complete whole.

Less than a year into their marriage, circumstances surrounding their deep desire for children gradually tore the couple apart. The book’s most powerful section, detailing Mayte’s pregnancy and birth of their son, Amiir, is written bravely and harrowingly, and the outcome has reverberated for years and years.

It is also here where readers may become less understanding of Prince and his choices. Decisions are made that render him stubborn and thoughtless at least, and insensitive or cruel at most.

Ms. Garcia confirms the long standing perception that Prince appears to have been genuinely stumped as to how to cope with negative emotions, especially when dealing with other people. Instead, his coping mechanism was retreating to making music and purging anything dark or negative there. Alone.

Throughout the book, Ms. Garcia shares their mutual understanding of spiritual concepts. Yet, despite a profound and transcendent connection with Mayte and a seemingly curious and wide open spiritual philosophy, Prince maintained a connection to dogmatic aspects of religion and an underlying belief in a God to be feared.

The battle between light and dark, sacred and profane, intense sexuality and God’s punishment over that intense sexuality was always present in Prince’s music. It is clear that religious fear and Prince’s lack of effective coping skills left him susceptible to extreme forms of dogma in the aftermath of Prince and Mayte’s most trying hours as a couple.

He felt he was being punished for sins, or was “wrong” as a human being. This ultimately proves to be the unfortunate sadness of his marriage, and possibly, his life.

The price he and Mayte paid is, of course, the focus of The Most Beautiful, but as a ‘fam’ who followed him for years, the effect on his musical legacy was concurrent and ought not to be diminished.

Prince identified a majority of the music from his 1996 masterpiece, Emancipation, with this period. Given his preference to shut away certain memories, the result is that three hours worth of tremendous material that had potential to sit among Prince classics would rarely (if ever) be played live in concert. One of his most complete, well thought out and passionate works –- particularly because of his love for Mayte -- almost immediately became an obscurity.

Beyond the pain, details of Prince and Mayte’s relationship are alternatively sweet, funny, cosmic and a little weird. Prince had a very unique way of looking at things, and could be quite controlling, but Ms. Garcia is not the wallflower some people would like to paint her as. There are several stories she tells of challenging Prince when necessary and “holding back” when she felt she simply needed to be a loving partner.

Even when detailing how their relationship comes to a confusing end, Mayte Garcia is respectful and protective of her late-ex-husband and deeply reverential regardless of any anger. Despite all, her love for him endures and continues.

I am grateful she chose to share her story, and I believe anyone interested in Prince will be as well.

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