An Ode to Prince's Protégés

His legend will live on.

Nose, Hairstyle, Guitarist, Musician, Plucked string instruments, Guitar, Musical instrument, String instrument, String instrument, Guitar accessory,
(Image credit: Getty Image)

Prince died Thursday, but he leaves behind a vast legacy of music, performances, and protégés. The music icon was intent on working with and helping other artists from the very beginning of his career, and continued to mentor young performers through his three decades in the spotlight. When I spent time with singer Janelle Monae a couple of years ago, she raved about her mentor and about how much his influence and trust had affected her career. Here are nine protégés who prove just how influential Prince really was:


Vanity's (real name Denise Matthews) biggest hit was her 1982 tune "Nasty Gal," which was written and produced by Prince. The model met Prince at the 1980 American Music Award and he invited her to join a girl group he was forming. "He wanted me to call myself Vagina. He said people would know me nationwide," Matthews told People magazine. "I said, 'No kidding.'" They settled on the nickname Vanity and the band was called Vanity 6.

The pair dated and she helped him write the script for the 1984 film Purple Rain, according to the People profile. Matthews was slated to play the lead female role, which was based on her life, but they broke up before filming began. Matthews died earlier this year


Apollonia Kotero replaced Matthews in Purple Rain after Prince put out a casting call. She also stepped into the lead role in girl group Vanity 6, which was renamed Apollonia 6. She has said they were "platonically romantically involved." She now mentors talent for her multimedia production company, Kotero. 

Sheila E

Sheila Escovedo, who goes by her stage name of Sheila E., met Prince at his concert in 1978. She was a performer and he approached her and said he recognized her. They became friends and began performing together. In 1983, he invited her into the studio to make a record. They later began dating and eventually got engaged.

Andy Allo

Allo performed on Prince's 2013 track "Extraloveable" and performed with him during his 2012 Chicago residency. "He's kind of taken me under his wing and taught me a lot," Allo told Ebony.

Janelle Monae

Monae counts Prince as a mentor, and it shows in her funky style. Monae told me Prince insisted she produce their duet "Givin Em What They Love": "I'm still pinching myself in disbelief. [Prince] doesn't do a lot of collaborations, let alone let people produce him. But he wanted me to be in control of the mixing and mastering and editing. The trust he's given me means a lot."

Carmen Electra

Tara Leigh Patrick was given the nickname Carmen Electra by Prince. She met the icon when she auditioned for an all-girl band he was putting together in 1990. He later signed her to his record company and she even opened for him on tour. 

Sheena Easton

Sheena Easton had hits in the 1980s, but her style turned more sultry when she began working with Prince. They collaborated on hits like "The Arms of Orion" and "U Got the Look." She told Entertainment Weekly about his death: "His talent was breathtaking, his heart was kind, and all of us have been blessed to have had a glimpse into this sweet and magical soul."

Bria Valente

Valente reportedly met Prince in their shared hometown of Minneapolis. Prince released Valente's debut album, Elixer, as part of his Lotusflow3r and MPLSOUND three-disc set released in 2009.

Prince and protege Bria Valente

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Time

Prince put together this pop-funk band in Minneapolis in 1981, a crew made up of Cynthia Johnson, David Eiland, Jellybean Johnson, Jimmy Jam, Monte Moir, Terry Lewis, who were all originally part of the band FlyteTime. Prince added to the mix his childhood friend Morris Day, and Jesse Johnson, and Jermoe Benton.  A rivalry eventually drove Prince away from the band, of which some members went on to form the group The Family.

"If you know anything about Prince, that is his whole thing: He is about control. Me and him don't particularly get along now," Jellybean Johnson later told The Washington Times.  "He's a genius, and he made me famous. I will always respect him for that. But some of the other stuff? I can't." 

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Kate Storey

Kate Storey is a contributing editor at Marie Claire and writer-at-large at Esquire magazine, where she covers culture and politics. Kate's writing has appeared in ELLE, Harper's BAZAAR, Town & Country, and Cosmopolitan, and her first book comes out in summer 2023.