a year after his death, prince’s secret charity work is coming to light
The icon’s former wife opens up about the depth of his generosity.
When Prince passed away last April, his friends and fans began sharing personal accounts of his talent, creativity, and immense kindness on the internet. It quickly became apparent from these swapped stories that among his many accomplishments, the pop-icon was an established, although often secret, philanthropist. In the wake of his death, close friend Tamron Hall remembered: "He didn't want people to know all of the ways he helped other people... He did it as this silent angel including how he helped me, in my life, on many occasions."
For a sense of the scope of his generosity, some of these donations included $1 million to Harlem Children's Zone, $250,000 to Eau Claire Promise Zone — a group supporting preschoolers and their families in struggling areas of Columbia, S.C — and another $250,000 to the Uptown Dance Academy.
In a recent interview, Prince's former wife Manuela Testolini has given even more insight into his incredible charity. Speaking to Rolling Stone she remembers he always spoke about "social change and telling people not to be complacent." The two actually met when Manuela was working with nonprofit groups to help them secure funding; Prince's organization, Love 4 One Another, had come forward to help finance a Toronto women's shelter that was facing closure. She eventually went on to work for Love 4 One Another.
During this time the organization built community gardens and supported shelters and transitional family housing in the cities the star was touring. She explains that if Prince were playing a show in a city during winter, the organization would hold a coat or food drive in the city. He would also ask her to reach out to specific individuals he had seen on the news who were struggling or needed financial aid. She also echoes accounts about the star's disinterest in recognition for his efforts, "It made it about cause, rather than about Prince."
While his concerns covered many causes, she notes he was particularly interested in empowering and supporting women. "He surrounded himself with powerful women in his band," she says. "He knew that he had the power and the chance to make an impact by leading by example."
Text Wendy Syfret
Photography Herb Ritts, Prince, 1991