Yes, I was that person.
I was walking through an aisle of CDs with Uncle Jae, trying to look for new music or, if I couldn’t, buy Michael Jackson albums. Going through each alphabetized artist, I came across an album with a collage of a man with luscious locks that were the same length as mine, black midriffs and suits I never imagined myself wearing, and eyes that locked into mine as if he was saying: “Buy this now.” Uncle Jae looked over my shoulder and pointed out who the man was: Prince. Even though Uncle Jae explained how great of an artist he was, I remember grabbing that album and repeatedly saying, “He looks like a girl!”
Back then, I wasn’t familiar with gender fluidity. Masculinity and femininity existed in my mind. I wasn’t convinced that a person could portray as both male and female or neither. Seeing Prince in midriffs and eyeliner wasn’t normal for me. I didn’t understand why Prince was popular with the way he wore shining suits and ruffles. While I didn't openly judge friends and classmates who wore clothes like Prince, I teased them about how ridiculous they looked. Overall, my mind was fixed: a man should dress in men's clothing and a woman should dress in women's clothing.
This was around the same time I tried to find the mystery singer who sang “Purple Rain." I first heard the song on the radio, V101.1, when I was still in high school. The singer was crooning “I never wanted to be your weekend lover” and “I only wanted to see you laughing in the purple rain” and I was transported to a concert. I wanted to put that song on repeat, and as soon as V101.1 changed to the next song, I wished they would play the song again. For a while, I started hunting down who sang PR and asked everyone if they knew it. I hummed parts of PR, but nobody knew what I was singing. With no answer to who sang PR, I gave up and moved on with my life.
Until the Super Bowl came on.
NFL announced that Prince was performing their Halftime show for 41st Super Bowl. I remembered watching the commercial, where Prince walked towards the stadium entrance and strummed his guitar like the rock star I tried to picture him as. I turned to my mom and asked her who Prince was, as if Uncle Jae's explanation wasn't convincing. She shrugged: "Yeah, I do. I don't understand what he is singing about, but I like When Doves Cry."
I rolled my eyes but I gave him a chance. The Super Bowl finally came on, and I waited for Prince's performance. Mom and Dad watched the game in their room, while my brother Alec and I watched it in our living room. I walked in and out of the room because I only watched for the Halftime show. My parents had the same reason, but also because Prince was performing. A couple hours later, the game finished the first half. The Halftime show finally began. I was about to take another trip out of the living room until I heard "We Will Rock You" chanted in the background.
I rushed back to the room and there he was, Prince. He sang "Let's Get Crazy" and played an incredible guitar solo with exploding lights. A crowd gathered around his iconic symbol. Prince sang cover songs like "Rollin' On The River" and "Best Of You." The way he commanded the stage with his guitar and rain pouring down on him, I was glued to the screen. I was dancing and lip-syncing along with him. I forgot he wore a bright blue and orange suit, a black cloth wrapped around his head, and eyeliner. Next he sang the mystery singer's song. "Purple Rain." It was as if Prince answered my year-long question with a guitar riff and falsetto notes. I found the mystery singer during the Halftime show. When he finished, Prince raised his guitar in the air like he won the entire Super Bowl. That was the day I discovered Prince, my mystery singer behind "Purple Rain."
After the Super Bowl, I started to understand why Prince was Prince. Watching Prince perform on a big stage like a football stadium taught me a lesson: never judge a book by it's cover. As corny as it sounds, I really learned, and now accept, Prince. It took me a long time - until the Halftime show - to understand Prince's androgynous appearance. He used androgyny with confidence and gave no care about what people thought of him, including me.
I listened to other hits such as "I Wanna Be Your Lover," "Kiss," "Raspberry Beret," and, my personal favorite, "Little Red Corvette." Ironically, I begged my mom to buy his The Very Best Of album, the same album I made fun of with Uncle Jae. At least Prince gained a new fan.
When I heard about his passing, I couldn't believe it. I tried to process the news during class, then blasted "Little Red Corvette" and "Let's Go Crazy" through my eardrums. Looking back to that memory, I have more respect and love for him. He taught me that dressing like a woman or man shouldn't be looked down upon by gender norms. He proved me wrong: wearing eyeliner didn't take away his music. It made him look more badass. He left me with a single drop of Purple Rain, reminding me how great of artist and person he was. Prince helped me accept gender fluidity. Prince is, truly, a legend.