The way Prince and Mani, as she is known, met and married is a strange combination of fairytale and stalker fantasy.
Manuela graduated from university in the summer of 1998 and soon after she landed her dream job working with the singer. That year, she received a brief credit on Prince`s New Power Soul album. Twelve months later, she became his assistant. Rumours quickly began to circulate that she was more than just a member of staff before his marriage to first wife Mayte Garcia was annulled in May 2000. Soon after the annulment, Prince took Manuela with him to Bible study classes with the Jehovah`s Witnesses.
After a hush-hush romance, superstar and fan tied the knot in a Jehovah`s Witness wedding in Hawaii on New Year`s Eve 2001. A year later, in a private ceremony at the Kingdom Hall in Chanhassen, Minnesota, Prince and Mani were baptised into their new faith in front of the 167-strong congregation.
The death of Prince`s mother, jazz singer Mattie Shaw, was a turning point for the star, who has sold more than 100million albums. Her dying wishes were for him to become a Jehovah`s Witness, as she had been for most of her life, and to see him married. He tied the knot with Mani weeks before his mother passed away and six months after the death of his father, pianist and bandleader John L. Nelson.
Despite the age gap and the star`s colourful past, Prince was welcomed with open arms by the Testolini family. In January, residents of the village of Calabogie - on the outskirts of Ottawa - couldn`t believe their eyes when he and Mani arrived in a gleaming limousine for the modest wedding of her sister Daniela to businessman Michael Dykeman. Onlookers say Prince and his wife happily mingled with the other 80 guests during the reception at the Dickson Manor ski lodge.
And then, five years later, it was suddenly ended in divorce for Prince and Manuela. It`s thought that Manuela Testolini Nelson was the one who initiated the divorce proceedings. It was the second divorce for Prince, who had ended things with his first wife Mayte Garcia in 1999.
It`s no wonder Manuela Testolini thinks North Americans are easily distracted by stardom. She is an entrepreneur and philanthropist, runs a children`s charity and champions living a green lifestyle. But instead of inquiring about her most benevolent causes, not five minutes into our interview, I ask about what I really want to know: "What was it like being married to Prince?"
"It was a roller-coaster," says Testolini. Married in 2001, the duo met in Prince`s native Minneapolis while Testolini was working for his charity, Love4OneAnother. They lived together in Toronto but ultimately divorced five years later.
"It was a very eye-opening experience to see what show business was all about," remembers Testolini. "It was never my desire to be in the spotlight, but it was a great experience because it allowed me to start my own business."
31 December 2001
24 May 2006
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