The singer, rapper, actress, New Orleans resident and model known as Robin Power Royal was known by another name until she met Prince—she became one of the Purple One’s many female muses in the late eighties and early nineties. Now promoting a double CD–DVD package of erotic/spiritual music called Sexy Passion and The Art of Love and Sexuality, on sale at the Louisiana Music Factory, she’s never looked back, but she maintains the icon is still with her in spirit, decades after she starred in his 1990 movie Graffiti Bridge.
Though she’s been in the public eye before, during and after her time with His Royal Badness—you may remember her as the Biker Shorts Girl in Young MC’s “Bust a Move” video, or the woman whose “ass is put to sleep” by Ice Cube’s sexual prowess in his video for “It Was a Good Day”—she was kind enough to talk to OffBeat about her Prince era, which began when she had just graduated high school. “I met him because I slept outside at one of his concerts in Chicago, which is where I’m from,” she says. “He played four nights and I was in the front row for every single one.” Prince noticed her up front and started bringing her some very Princely gifts, one per gig, which he made a point of handing to her from the stage: a guitar pick, a tambourine, a carnation and a pair of lace panties. Revolution guitarist Miko Weaver was dispatched to invite her to the after party at the Park West nightclub, and infamous bodyguard Chick Huntsberry got her in despite her age. Prince did little that night but hide behind columns and play peekaboo with her. “He didn’t know how old I was at first,” she laughs now. “I assume somebody told him I was 17.”
They disappeared from each other’s lives for a few years after that encounter; while Robin moved to Los Angeles and pursued her hyphenate career, dancing on “Soul Train” and appearing in movies like Coming to America and House Party.
What she didn’t know was that the Purple One had never forgotten her. “I only found out years later that he’d seen the ‘Bust a Move’ video, called a conference at Paisley Park, and told his people to FIND THAT GIRL.” When she finally reconnected at an L.A. party at the age of 21, he pretended he was meeting her for the first time. And then she entered full-time muse duty: He renamed her Robin Power—“right at the same time he named his band the New Power Generation,” she notes—and he quickly shoehorned her into the Graffiti Bridge film, which was already in preproduction, as the girlfriend of Morris Day’s character. “He always had several other young ladies at the same time,” she remembers. “As a bisexual, I was more than cool with it. He liked to be surrounded with beauty.”
For the movie, Prince produced a song for her called “Number One,” which was supposed to be the leadoff for an album by her band, Robin Power and the Uptown Dames. It never materialized, partly because she auditioned an 18-year-old dancer for that band named Tara. When she introduced Tara to Prince, he renamed her Carmen Electra, and soon she starred to take Robin’s place in the hierarchy. “He disrespected me in the business,” she says. “I deserve respect. I had to put my foot down.”
She struck out on her own again, but Motown and Capitol wouldn’t put her album out unless Prince was attached to the project. Nevertheless, she has nothing but fond memories of the Purple One: “Our relationship was creative, magical, sensual… everything I dreamed it would be.”
They remained friends, but the last time she spoke to Prince was in 2001, when she called the singer to tell him she’d been “speaking with angels.” “Things are happening I really don’t understand,” she told him then, “but God told me to follow the music. So I called you.” “I don’t believe in angels anymore,” she claims he replied. “His son had passed on,” she remembers, referring to Boy Gregory, his child with ex-wife Mayte Garcia, who had died at just one week old. “He was a Jehovah’s Witness at that point. I could recognize the difference in him. I asked him had he spoke to Morris or Jerome [from The Time], and he said, ‘Robin, every time I pull out the Bible, everyone runs away.’” For her part, Robin has kept her muse name and dedicates her erotic dancing, modeling and singing to what she calls “the god of love. There are many different gods. People don’t realize that.” And like her muse, she likes to lead with her still-fit body before getting her audience into matters of the spirit: “They think what I do is so sexual, then I tell them about the god of love and music and creation, and I say, ‘You weren’t expecting that!’”