"He created this persona of being mysterious and almost mystical," Charlene Friend tells PEOPLE exclusively

By Melody Chiu
Updated December 01, 2020 06:11 PM
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Credit: Globe; Charlene Friend

Even at the height of his fame, Prince was an enigma to not just his fans, but also his loved ones.

His shocking death from an overdose has only raised more questions about his secret life and hidden drug use, and now his ex-lover Charlene Friend is opening up exclusively to PEOPLE about the musician’s mysterious personality.

“They way he lived his life was like a Pandora’s box,” says Friend, who dated Prince in the ’90s. “He created this persona of being mysterious and almost mystical.”

According to recent reports, prescription pills that were discovered in an Aleve bottle at the late legend’s Paisley Park home could have been counterfeit drugs containing the powerful narcotic fentanyl.

During her years with Prince, Friend never saw him do drugs, but his death answers at least some of the questions she had at the time – including how he stayed up for days “without sleep, food or even water.”

RELATED VIDEO: Prince Dead at 57: Iconic Singer Dies at Paisley Park Home

“He would be shaking all through the night,” says Friend, who adds that Prince’s half-brother Duane Nelson once told her the star lived on a “cocaine diet.”

For much more on Prince’s hidden drug use and Charlene Friend’s memories of the late icon, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

“It was shocking to me to hear that,” she says. “He hid it so carefully. I never saw him take even an aspirin. He seemed so health-conscious, always taking vitamins like echinacea and goldenseal.”

According to Friend, the questions and rumors swirling about Prince’s sudden death won’t be slowing down any time soon.

“Even his death has become something of a mystery in the way that it’s still unfolding,” she says. “I’m sure in the months to come, even more information will come out that people will find unnerving and unsettling.”

Reporting by JOHNNY DODD