From Sex God to Doorstep Bible Basher

Love Gives Pop Legend a New Purple Patch

The Mirror/April 10, 2004
By Nick Webster

On the quiet suburban streets of Minneapolis, he cuts a remarkable figure. Dressed in a tailor-made suit and trademark stack heels, he steps lightly out of his purring limo and, surrounded by four bodyguards, approaches the modest picket-fenced homes.

And to each astonished resident opening their doors to the peculiar group, multi-millionaire superstar Prince quietly asks: "Would you like to talk about Jesus?"

Welcome to the new world of the man who once outraged a nation with the song Sexy MF and who changed his name to a symbol. Gone are the wild parties, the womanising and the bizarre all-purple lifestyle. Instead, 45-year-old Prince's hedonistic excesses have been replaced with door-to-door preaching and Bible study classes.

Credit for this remarkable transformation, the Daily Mirror can reveal, is down to his mother's dying wishes, new wife Manuela Testolini, who, at 27, is 18 years his junior, and his baptism as a Jehovah's Witness.

It is Manuela - the fan-turned-employee-turned-spouse - who has stood by his side as he embraced his new faith and it is she who has helped him return to the musical spotlight after years of obscurity.

This month sees the release of his critically-acclaimed new album Musicology and he recently made a triumphant return to performing at the Grammy awards.

The bid to recapture his position among the pop elite is music to the ears of Canadian-born Manuela.

Prince - who has romanced a string of women, including Sheena Easton, Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles, Madonna, Kim Basinger, Kristin Scott Thomas and Carmen Electra - has never been a big fan of monogamy.

But now, in middle-age, he seems to have adopted it with Manuela.

But the way he and Mani, as she is known, met and married is a strange combination of fairytale and stalker fantasy.

She grew up in a tiny two-bed apartment in a run-down block on the thundering Don Mills Road in Toronto, Canada.

She was a plain teenager who, as a high school student, was known as an avid Prince fan.

Her passion for the diminutive musician continued at York University in Toronto - where she studied for a degree in art - to the detriment of her social life.

Fellow student Sorayah Kassim-Lakha remembers her regularly playing her hero's hits, particularly If I Was Your Girlfriend and I Wanna Be Your Lover.

"Mani was always very quiet at college," Sorayah says. "She didn't go in for parties and stuff like that.

"She was only ever interested in her art and in Prince. She was obsessed with him. It's all she ever talked about."

Mani was a frequent visitor to the internet fan club, a forum devoted to her then hero and now husband.

She admitted to being a "lurker" - someone who watches what others say but seldom joins in conversations.

One of the UK fans who did talk to her online was Antony Golding from Bolton, Lancs.

"It's all a bit surreal," he says. "She was just a fan who posted a couple of messages and then suddenly she was working at his Paisley Park recording studios... and then she was his wife."

Manuela graduated from university in the summer of 1998 and soon after she landed her dream job working with the singer. That year, she received a brief credit on Prince's New Power Soul album.

Twelve months later, she became his assistant. Rumours quickly began to circulate that she was more than just a member of staff before his marriage to first wife Mayte Garcia was annulled in May 2000.

Less than three years earlier, Mayte had given birth to the couple's son Gregory, who tragically only lived a week before dying from the rare bone condition Pfeiffer Syndrome, a genetic skull deformity.

Soon after the annulment, Prince, who was once worth £100million, took Manuela with him to Bible study classes with the Jehovah's Witnesses.

After a hush-hush romance, superstar and fan tied the knot in a Jehovah's Witness wedding in Hawaii on New Year's Eve 2001.

A year later, in a private ceremony at the Kingdom Hall in Chanhassen, Minnesota, Prince and Mani were baptised into their new faith in front of the 167-strong congregation.

A small bathtub-sized pool was hired for the occasion. Wearing knee-length robes with swimsuits underneath, they became full members of the church by being immersed in the pool.

Ronald Scofield - one of the elders of the Chanhassen Congregation, Prince's new place of worship - says it was a special day for all.

"Every time one of our members gets baptised it's exciting. But this was exceptionally exciting because it was someone who has made a lot of changes to their life.

"We have watched Prince since he started studying the Bible and noticed a dramatic change. It's something to be very proud of."

The death of Prince's mother, jazz singer Mattie Shaw, was a turning point for the star, who has sold more than 100million albums.

Her dying wishes were for him to become a Jehovah's Witness, as she had been for most of her life, and to see him married. He tied the knot with Mani weeks before his mother passed away and six months after the death of his father, pianist and bandleader John L Nelson.

As part of his new life, Prince and Manuela pay weekly visits to the residents of Minneapolis. At times, Scofield accompanies the couple and their bodyguards.

He admits it can take a good few minutes before stunned homeowners recover from the shock of finding a superstar at their door.

Speaking publicly about Prince's new beliefs for the first time, Scofield confirms: "He's so well known that when he turns up on people's doorsteps, it really surprises them.

"To see him in a Christian lifestyle is very pleasant. He's doing very well and spiritually he seems to be making a great deal of progress, too.

"We go on Bible studies together and work in field service, the door-to-door ministry that Jehovah's Witnesses are known for. When you get past the initial shock of actually meeting Prince, he is very persuasive. He uses the scriptures very well."

After a decade of seclusion, the man christened Prince Rogers Nelson is back to being plain old Prince and playing the hits that made him famous such as Purple Rain, Let's Go Crazy and Little Red Corvette.

And no longer is he synonymous with Paisley Park and Minneapolis.

These days, he and Manuela spend much of their time in Los Angeles or the sprawling £3million grey stone mansion he bought at 61 The Bridle Path in an upmarket area of Toronto. At first, mystery surrounded the purchase of the luxury home by a firm called Gamillah Holdings, until it was discovered that the company's president is one Manuela Testolini.

While the couple are away touring the US, builders are constructing a large gatehouse and a new fence, complete with tennis court and pool.

Though it seems a world away, the estate is just a five-minute drive from Mani's parents' tiny apartment.

Despite the age gap and the star's colourful past, Prince has been welcomed with open arms by the Testolini family.

In January, residents of the village of Calabogie - on the outskirts of Ottawa - couldn't believe their eyes when he and Mani arrived in a gleaming limousine for the modest wedding of her sister Daniela to businessman Michael Dykeman. Onlookers say Prince and his wife happily mingled with the other 80 guests during the reception at the Dickson Manor ski lodge.

The singer admits that along with a new wife, he also has a new set of values. "There's no more envelope to push," he says. "I pushed it off the table. It's on the floor. Let's move forward."

Prince also says that TV viewers are now bombarded with dirty music videos.

"Back when I made sexy tunes, the sexiest thing on TV was Dynasty and if you watch it now, it's like the Brady Bunch," he explains.

"My song Darling Nikki was considered porn because I said the word masturbate. That's not me any more."

But with the new tour and album to sell, maybe the wife and new beliefs are just another marketing tool being used by one of the world's ultimate showmen.

Among those with a view about the "new" Prince is Minneapolis gossip columnist CJ, who has followed his career for years, much to the annoyance of the artist himself who wrote a song about her called Billy Jack Bitch.

"A lot of credit is being given to Manuela," she says.

"Both his parents died recently, too. And that's the last barrier to realising that you, too, will die. Maybe that's the reason for the change in personality.

"He was always capable of monogamy but the man got bored quickly. The traumatic death of his baby changed all that. It affected him in a big way.

"People are curious as to why he's changed. The joke here in Minneapolis is that it looks like they finally got the medication right."

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.