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Prince's stylist recalls the music legend

Kim Berry traveled the world with international music icon Prince Rogers Nelson for 29 years, as his trendsetting cohort, hairstylist, friend and confidante, until his untimely death in April 2016.

If anyone knew the real Prince, it would be Berry. In a recent telephone interview with the newspaper, Berry said it best. “Who knows you better than your hair stylist?”

Berry spoke to the newspaper from Los Angeles, where she was preparing for her trip to Minnesota. She’ll be in Chanhassen during Celebration 2019, from April 25-28.

The third-annual event honors Prince and his music. Fans from around the world will be in Chanhassen and the Twin Cities for the four-day event. There will be tours and programs at Paisley Park, a special Prince concert at the Minneapolis Armory, and a variety of fan events in local clubs, bars and restaurants throughout the Twin Cities — even a Purple Breakfast event at the Chanhassen Perkins restaurant.

Berry’s visit is part of a nationwide media tour to promote her newly published book, “Diamonds n Curlz: 29 Years Rolling With Rock Royalty Prince.” According to a press release, her book launched April 16 as an e-book and print edition on Amazon.com. She’ll be appearing at various events and locations during her time in the Twin Cities and books will be available.

Her book includes personal accounts of her life on tour with Prince, and the man behind the image and music. “I want fans to feel proud that we lived during an era of great music. Prince was the soundtrack of our lives,” Berry said in a press release. “I want the book to serve as a healing agent for peace to all who have never truly received closure after his death, nearly three years later.”

MEET KIM B

It’s easy to see why Prince liked Berry and included her in his carefully curated circle. Over the telephone, she is bubbly, upbeat and upfront. She talks fast and likes to laugh.

“What he liked about me was, I was so real,” Berry said. “I’m not a ‘yes’ man. He used me to gauge the ‘neighborhood kids.’ He’d say, ‘Listen to this beat. I’d sit in studio and if he saw my head bobbing, he knew it was good. He was open to all the ideas anyone had, to make sure he was making music that was good. He didn’t trust many people, maybe to a fault. He knew what he liked and the people he kept people around. He was a shrewd business man.”

As Prince’s personal hairstylist for almost three decades, Berry traveled extensively and primped him for stages all over the world. She also collaborated on what would become iconic looks for countless appearances, photo and video shoots.

COLD CALL

Here’s how they met: Berry was 19 years old, a recent graduate of beauty school, and dating a bodyguard. He happened to be friends with Prince’s hair stylist.

Berry and the stylist, named Tanya, got to talking about hair styling and favorite hair products. Eventually the conversation veered into what it was like being Prince’s hair stylist. “I think I’m going to go home,” Tanya confessed to Berry. “I’m tired of living out of a suitcase.”

Tanya quit and Prince hired another stylist. However, one day, out of the blue, Berry got a phone call. It was Prince. He asked her to grab her portfolio and gear. He had her picked up and taken to where he was staying in Los Angeles.

“While an assistant looked through my portfolio, I set up a salon in the room with my brushes and hair products. Then we get a phone call. It’s Prince. He said, ‘I’m not going to make it (to meet you). But my flight is leaving in an hour, and I’ll have a limo come and pick you up.’”

Berry was stunned. When she hesitated, Prince asked, “Is there a problem?”

“Oh my God,” Berry recalled thinking. “This is really happening.

“We flew into Minneapolis on Christmas Eve, it was snowing and we got to Paisley Park. They took me up the back stairs to his hair salon. I saw his ‘Purple Rain’ outfit, his jewelry laid out.”

After an hour of waiting, Prince walked in and said hello.

“He was so little. And then he saw my nails (they were manicured and long) and said, ‘Yeah, you gotta leave those nails,’” Berry recalled. “And then he breaks out and gives this really big laugh from his gut.

“He said, ‘Go back to the hotel. I’ll see you in the morning.’ I get into the car and I called my mother. ‘Oh my God. Who lives like this?’ I told her. She said, ‘You do. You do now.’”

INTERVIEW

Turns out, Berry traveled with Prince and his entourage to four different cities and never styled his hair once.

“Finally, we get to New York City, and we’re in a private suite, and his brother tells me to get a salon together.”

She received a set of instructions: “’Black out the windows; don’t touch his ears; don’t look him in the face; don’t spill water on him.’”

“Then Prince comes in and I do a color, cut and perm, and the whole time I’m thinking, ‘Kim, you were built for this. He’s your first client right out of the box. And (Berry laughs) I did everything they told me don’t do. I was nervous, but Prince just rolled with it. When we were done, someone came in and told him, ‘The car is waiting outside,’ and he just disappears. And, I’ve been rolling with him for 29 years.”

BRAIDS

Berry was delighted to talk about the braids Prince sported for the cover of his album “Rav Un2 the Joy Fantastic.”

“We were walking through Paisley, and his hair was feathered, looking fly,” Berry recalled. “But then he said he wanted to wear some braids. I always carry my combs and brushes with me wherever I am because you never knew when he’d have an inspiration. So we just stopped where we were in the atrium. I asked, ‘Do you want cornrows?’ No, he wanted regular braids.”

“And the photographer Steve Parke took some photos of me braiding Prince’s hair. Just big chunky braids. I think I said, ‘Now you need some ribbons.’ I was joking, but he liked the idea and from that time on, he had ribbons or fabric that matched his outfits in his braids.

“He had that style for every concert after that for about eight months. People were asking, ‘what’s going on with those braids?’ It reminded me so much of Farina, the little guy from ‘Our Gang and the Little Rascals.’”

Women all over the world would show up at his concerts with the same braids. “I’d be at the side of the stage thinking, ‘No, don’t encourage him.’” Laughing at the memory, she conceded, “He was a trendsetter.”


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