"No matter how much time goes by, he's everywhere," says Apollonia Kotero of her late friend Prince.
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UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: USA Photo of APOLLONIA and PRINCE, Prince performing on stage - Purple Rain Tour, with Apollonia (Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns)
Prince and Apollonia
| Credit: Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

It's been six years since Prince's death from an accidental prescription drug overdose in 2016 but for his longtime friend Apollonia Kotero, the memories will never fade.

"I got to a restaurant and 'Purple Rain' comes on or I get in my car and 'Take Me with U' comes on," says Kotero of two of the music icon's biggest hits. "No matter how much time goes by, he's everywhere. I see him in everything."

Friends for nearly four decades, Apollonia and Prince first connected when she auditioned for the romantic lead in Purple Rain.

"He was very gentle and very shy," recalls Apollonia, who now hosts a podcast, Apollonia Studio 6. "I remember he had spaghetti. And I never knew in that moment that my odyssey with Prince would last a lifetime."

Entertainers Brenda Bennett, Apollonia Kotero and Susan Moonsie of the female singing trio "Apollonia 6" in a scene from the movie "Purple Rain" which was released in 1984. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Brenda Bennett, Apollonia Kotero and Susan Moonsie as Apollonia 6
| Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Kotero, who later toured with Apollonia 6, the singing trio Prince created for Purple Rain, stayed close with him over the years, through frequent late-night phone calls ("he never slept," she recalls) and visits to Los Angeles or his Minnesota home.

"We were family," she says. "We trusted each other." And though they never dated, "I had a little mini crush one time," she admits. "He was performing 'Computer Blue' and he was oily and shirtless and for a moment I was like, 'He's really sexy,' but then I got myself together. We had great chemistry. But our romance was only onscreen."

The pair also occasionally acted more like brother and sister. Says Kotero: "He was a prankster! He'd put salt in my desserts. And he was competitive! He challenged us, but he also brought out the best of us. He was a perfectionist."

Purple Rain (1984) Directed by Albert Magnoli Shown from left: Prince (as The Kid), Apollonia Kotero (as Apollonia)
Prince and Apollonia in Purple Rain
| Credit: Warner Brothers/Photofest

Prince, who loved Bruno Mars and the Ancient Aliens documentary series, also showed Kotero his vulnerable side.

"The fame became a challenge for him," she says. "He was modest. But he became alive on stage and became the Prince we all know and love."

The last time Kotero would ever see her beloved friend, at a party just weeks before his untimely death, she recalls a more subdued Prince.

"He was a little quiet and he didn't look the same," she says. "Out of the blue he said, 'Some people think I look too thin,'" but then he shrugged his shoulders. When we said goodbye, I told him I loved him, and he told me, 'I love you too.'"

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Mark Von Holden/Invision/AP/Shutterstock (10310797d) Apollonia Kotero poses for a portrait in front of a photo of Prince at Warner Music Group in Los Angeles on . Kotero, who recorded Prince's "Sex Shooter," is one of several artists who spoke with The Associated Press about their experience working with the artist. The song is included on a posthumous album of Prince's music, "Originals," due out this month Apollonia Kotero Portrait Session, Los Angeles, USA - 31 May 2019
Apollonia Kotero
| Credit: Mark Von Holden/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

In the days following his death, "I became severely depressed," she says. "It was horrible."

Thanks to the help of therapy, Kotero was able to move through her grief — and hold close the pieces of their friendship that stand the test of time.

"Prince gave me beautiful gifts," she says. "He is my legacy. And he will live on forever."