Aside from making great music and having excellent hair, Purple Rain rocker Prince was well known for one thing: having high-profile romances with a string of gorgeous, talented celebrities. Prince’s love life was legendary, with rumours that he dated Madonna, Carmen Electra, Misty Copeland and Nona Gaye, just to name a few, through his decades-long career.
However, here we’re sticking to only the known facts, and running through all the girlfriends The Artist Formerly Known As Prince had from the beginning to the end of the 80s.
Susan Moonsie – 1981-1985
Susan Moonsie was one of Prince’s first significant romantic attachments, with the pair becoming inseparable after they met at a disco in 1980, when she was aged just 16. On meeting, Moonsie shared lyrics for what would soon become Drive Me Wild, one of the tracks on Vanity 6’s only album.
Originally, Moonsie was set to be both the frontwoman of Vanity 6 and the romantic lead in Purple Rain, but passed on both due to her shy and retiring nature. Moonsie instead became a member of Vanity 6, and dated Prince all the way up until 1985. Throughout that time, Prince had numerous other partners, which Moonsie was apparently both aware and accepting of.
In a later interview, featured in the book Prince and the Purple Rain Studio Era Sessions by Duane Tudahl, Prince’s sound engineer Susan Rogers said of the relationship: “Susan was smart enough to know, this was not a man you’re going to keep for yourself”.
Vanity – 1982-1984
Prince had a lot of proteges over the years, but Vanity was one of his first. When she first met Prince in 1980, she was going by her birth name Denise Matthews, and was working as a model. However, Prince harboured a longstanding dream of putting together a girl group who would sing sexy songs in scandalous costumes, and he picked Matthews personally to be the frontwoman of his new project.
At Prince’s suggestion, Matthews re-named herself Vanity, and even sang back-up on his 1982 album 1999. She then launched into a solo career, becoming the frontwoman of vocal trio Vanity 6, and allowing Prince to craft her image and career trajectory. Prince and Vanity began dating in 1982, but their relationship came to an abrupt end two years later, putting paid to plans for Vanity appear in the film Purple Rain.
As for why Prince and Vanity broke up, the reason came down to one major difference between them. Vanity ended her relationship with Prince in 1984, due to his inability to commit to a monogamous lifestyle. Speaking to People magazine following the break-up, she said: “I needed one person to love me. Prince needed more.”
Susannah Melvoin – 1984
In 1979, Prince assembled another band, putting together rock group The Revolution and helping them to develop a sound that blended funk, soul and psychedelic elements. For a time, Wendy Melvoin took over on rhythm guitar and back-up vocals – which is how her sister Susannah got introduced to Prince.
When she was just 19, Susannah ended up on tour with Prince, after Wendy encouraged Susannah to share her demo with him. Susannah was supposed to head out on tour with Quincy Jones, but he instead encouraged her to take the opportunity to share a stage with Prince. After Prince and Susannah embarked on tour together, it didn’t take long for their friendship to deepen into a relationship.
By 1984, Prince and Susannah were dating, and Prince even wrote Nothing Compares 2 U about her (the song would later be popularised by Sinead O’Connor, with whom Prince famously feuded). Prince and Melvoin were even engaged for a time, but had broken up by late 1984.
Susanna Hoff – 1984
Unlike many of the women who Prince dated in the early 80s, Susanna Hoff was already a bona fide professional by the time she crossed paths with The Purple One. As a co-founder of influential pop-rock band The Bangles, Hoff had already released her first album and found moderate success by 1984, when Prince wrote the song Manic Monday for the band.
According to rock and roll legend, Prince gifted the song to Hoff in order to woo her, and his plan definitely worked. Not only did the song become one of three hit singles off The Bangles’ sophomore album Different Light, but Prince and Hoff became thicker than thieves for a brief period.
However, Hoff says she never formally thanked Prince for the song that helped launch The Bangles’ into the mainstream, and has since called it one of her biggest regrets, saying: “I feel so sad just thinking that. As an adult, I wanted to thank him and I just didn’t get around to it.”
Sheila E – 1984-1989
Sheila E and Prince met in 1977, at a concert where she was performing alongside her father, musician Pete Escovedo. Prince was instantly smitten, later saying to Sheila that he and his bassist “were just fighting about which one of us would be the first to be your husband.”
Prince also vowed that Sheila E would one day join his band, which she eventually kind of did: E provided backing vocals on Prince and The Revolution’s Let’s Go Crazy and Erotic City, before becoming a success in her own right.
Sheila E’s contributions to Prince’s music coincided with their romance; they began dating in 1984, when her band opened for him on his Purple Rain tour. They dated on and off throughout the mid-to-late-80s, and even became briefly engaged in 1987, but broke up in 1989 during the Lovesexy Tour.
Sherilyn Fenn – 1985
Many of Prince’s partners in the mid-to-late 80s were already established celebrities in their own right by the time they started dating, but that wasn’t the case for Sherilyn Fenn. Fenn and Prince dated in 1985, shortly after Fenn’s first film appearances in 1984. For the first few years of her career, Fenn exclusively starred in TV and B-movies, and didn’t get her big break until 1991, when she played Curly’s wife in Of Mice & Men.
Though Prince and Fenn’s romance was over by late 1985, as Fenn moved on to dating Johnny Depp, Fenn was still heartbroken following Prince’s death at the age of 57. After he passed away, she told People magazine: “He changed my life. I will miss him greatly. There will only ever be one Prince.”
Kim Basinger – 1989
1989 saw the release of Tim Burton’s Batman, co-starring Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale and featuring a soundtrack by Prince. This is how Prince and Basinger first crossed paths, with Basinger reportedly being immediately smitten with The High Priest of Pop.
Though they at first denied rumours of anything romantic, together they recorded Prince’s EP The Scandalous Sex Suite, with Basinger contributing spoken word and vocalisations that led to critics theorising that audio was recorded while the two made love.
During this time, Basinger even left LA and set up shop in Minnesota, in order to spend more time with Prince. Speaking in an interview with The Daily Beast about their relationship, Basinger later said: “It was a really special moment in time, and I have great memories…If there’s someone I connect with, we’ll go on these rides together. So that was a neat time in my life.”
In addition to the many well-documented relationships that Prince cultivated across the 80s, he also formed attachments with numerous other women, though many of these were never officially confirmed to be romantic. Maybe the most enduring rumour of them all was that Prince and Sheena Easton began a relationship after meeting at a Sunset Sounds recording studio in LA, before collaborating together on several hits.
However, Easton always maintained that their relationship was purely platonic, stating in an interview after his death: “You know, I didn’t know him as well as people would make it out to be. People thought, ‘Sheena Easton and Prince – they must be having an affair’. But I did know him well enough to know he loved to write and produce.”
Easton wasn’t the only collaborator of Prince’s with whom he had a rumoured romance. Cat Glover, who choreographed and appeared in several Prince music videos as well as his concert film Sign o’ the Times, also constantly found herself under the tabloid microscope, with journalists speculating that she was secretly pursuing a relationship with the singer.
Also in the club of women rumoured to have dated Prince in the 80s is singer and actress Apollonia Kotero, who first connected with Prince when she auditioned for the lead in Purple Rain. Following that, Kotero toured with him as the frontwoman of Apollonia 6, and slowly grew closer to him during this time. Though she admitted to having “a little mini crush one time”, Kotero later claimed that their relationship developed into something more akin to brother and sister, saying: “We were family. We trusted each other.”