Kim Berry met Prince when she was just 18 years old. She went on to style his hair for 28 years until his death.
Years ago, Berry was introduced to Prince’s then-hairstylist. She learned from her, purchasing the same products and observing her as she worked. When that hairstylist quit, Berry stepped in. She walked up to Prince’s table at a Beverly Hills club and laid down her portfolio. That night, Prince called her and asked if she was willing to travel; a limo was en route to take her to the airport.
“I called my mother and said, ‘Oh my god! I just talked to Prince! He’s sending a limo to come pick me up! What do I do?” she recounts, "My mama said, 'You’re gonna get on the plane and go to Minnesota.'”
Prince's first request? Berry had to remove her long, curved nails. “He said, ‘You got the job, but you gotta leave those nails at home. I started popping them off right in front of Prince. He cracked up and said, ‘You’re gonna work out.’”
Prince and Berry worked together to create some of his most memorable looks. “Nothing was off-limits. He had a beautiful, thick mane of hair,” she says. “He would tell me what he was feeling and ask me, ‘What do you think about this? What do you think about that?’ He wanted dark hair for awhile, and one day I said, ‘Why don’t we try some highlights?’ He was always open for whatever I was bringing to the table.”
One of Berry’s favorite hairstyles was his short cut. “For '1999,’ we did his hair long and straight and everything. After, he said, ‘Well this was nice, but cut it all off.’ I said, ‘Cut it all off? We just grew it all out!’ We cut it off short and it was just banging," she says. "He loved it.”
One product Prince loved was a two-dollar Queen Helene hair gel. “He would not let me switch to anything else,” she laughs. “He would not let it go, all the years we worked together. Even if he didn’t use it, it had to be sitting on the table. He’d ask me, ‘Where’s the gel?’”
At the time of his death, Prince was working with Berry on a haircare line. “He was real big on natural hairstyles, natural hair products -- stuff that didn’t have a lot of chemicals,” she says. “He was always reading, and wanted to know what was going to affect his body.”
Berry is in the process of finishing the line they worked on together.
Since Prince’s death, Berry has been busy working in Los Angeles as a celebrity hairstylist; she counts Katt Williams and Jimmy Fallon as clients, and is working on a book about her time with Prince.
So what does she miss the most about her former creative collaborator? “That laugh,” she says. “He laughed from the bottom of his belly. He would start cracking up, and the next thing you know the building would erupt in laughter. That’s what I’m going to miss about him.”
She also learned an important lesson from Prince. “He kept to himself and stayed under the radar,” she says. “The dude moved in silence. That taught me a lot: You can get stuff done and you don’t have to tell everybody your business.”
Makeup artist Donna Gregory met Prince and Mayte Garcia, before their marriage, via a photographer acquaintance. She went on tour with them, doing makeup for Mayte and the New Power Generation. (She also did Mayte’s sister’s makeup for Prince and Mayte’s wedding in 1996.)
“When I did the tour, I would... set up [Prince’s] makeup,” she says. “I did it a specific way: I put the towels down, tissues on top of towels, put the products in a certain order that he would use them. He said, ‘I like the way you set up my makeup, this is the way I always want it.'”
Gregory, a self-taught makeup artist who worked with Aveda founder Horst Rechelbacher, remembers one magical experience with Prince on set. “He said to me one day, ‘I think I want some gold thrown in the air [at the shoot]. There was a store downtown that did theatrical supplies, so I bought all they had,” she says. “I had to stand on a tall ladder, and I would fling it in the air and it would fall and the dancers would look up. Prince said, ‘Throw a dash on me!’ Standing on that ladder and hearing his music, it was magical.”
Gregory remembers watching Prince write “Slave” on his face. “Prince did that himself. He was controlled by the music industry for not putting enough albums out," she says.”
(Photo by Jon Brooks)
When news broke of his passing, both Gregory and Berry returned to Paisley Park to visit the fence along with other mourners. "[Berry] called and asked if I could take her out to Paisley Park," says Gregory. "We hugged each other tight when we first saw each other. I remember when she walked up to the closed fence to the parking lot, Kim was quiet for awhile, then she said, "This door has never been closed to me before.'"
If you’re interested in hearing more stories about Prince, Berry and Gregory are meeting up with photographer Allen Beaulieu at Studio 1414 in Minneapolis on Wednesday, April 19. The event is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 (you can make a card payment at the door).
(ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP)