In 2008, photographer/video director Randee St. Nicholas was working with her longtime friend and subject Prince on his event-specific biography, 21 Nights. True to form, before that book was even finished, he was pitching her on another idea: a decade-spanning photo book. “Don’t worry,” she told him at the time. “We’ll do that.”
Nine years later, after the first anniversary of Prince’s 2016 death, St. Nicholas got to work. She had just spoken to 1,000 Prince fans at an event hosted by his recently opened Paisley Park complex in Minnesota and was overwhelmed by their thanks. “They came up afterward and said, ‘We feel like we got to know him better,’ ” says St. Nicholas. “I thought, ‘I need to do this book.’”
On Nov. 19, St. Nicholas will release My Name Is Prince, a 384-page coffee-table collection that covers the final two-and-a-half decades of the Minnesota-born artist’s life, including his 21-night stint at London’s O2 Arena and his 2008 Coachella performance.
Alongside such photos, St. Nicholas includes short anecdotes, such as the time Prince flew her to Japan for a shoot without an end date, only to have his managers arrange for her to leave in the middle of the night because he was over budget. Immediately upon returning home, she got a phone call from Prince asking her whereabouts. After learning that she had secretly returned stateside, he abruptly hung up.
“I was laughing, I was crying. I was remembering what a brat he could be,” says St. Nicholas of revisiting memories. “Believe me when I tell you he was with me the entire time.”
Through such stories, St. Nicholas deftly gives a rare inside look at the infamously private Prince’s personality and friendship — something the public has perhaps gotten a greater grasp on since his passing. “He was really clever at putting people off guard,” says St. Nicholas. “He loved to just mess with your head and see what your response would be. And if he decided to talk, then you could talk to him for hours about every fascinating subject.”
My Name Is Prince arrives a few weeks after The Beautiful Ones, an estate-approved memoir that Prince began before his death. Though St. Nicholas’ book will not be released by the estate, she says multiple members of his team have seen and approved of it. Specifically, she says, the estate praised her for capturing Prince’s ability to bring out the best in everyone he let into his life, oftentimes pushing them to new creative heights.
“Whatever value we have, he saw it,” she says. “In one profound little body was this guy who was completely 100% true to himself — and therefore, 100% true to you.”