Shortly after his death last April, Prince’s friends and family members began to drop hints and details about a secret side of the legendary pop star, one that the public was rarely allowed to see: his philanthropic and charitable works. Now, Prince’s ex-wife Manuela Testolini has given an interview to Rolling Stone about his extensive network of charitable projects, which often included a major food or clothing drive in every city he visited on tour.
Testolini—who now works with her own organization, building schools in Malawi—worked for several years as part of Prince’s Love 4 One Another, which helped fund and organize jobs programs, women’s shelters, community gardens, and numerous other public projects. “He would see a family on TV that was having trouble—they didn’t have health insurance and had trouble meeting the needs of a sick child—and instead of saying, ‘Wow, that’s really sad,’ he would leave a note on my desk saying, ‘Call this TV station and find out where these people are so we can help them.’ It was ongoing.”
Testolini says Prince generally kept his name out of the charitable work, so as not to distract from the cause. But he would occasionally break that rule to give people in need a good time, inviting the residents of a homeless shelter to one of his concerts, or licensing multiple version of his song “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” to a Minneapolis conference on empowering young women. Later, he encouraged her to found her own charity, frequently asking her, “In a perfect world, what would you do?”
Testolini and Prince amicably divorced in 2006; last year, she dedicated two newly built schools in Africa in his name.