Entertainment Music Prince's Longtime Friend Apollonia Kotero Opens Up About His Private World and Her Devastation After His Death "No matter how much time goes by, he's everywhere," says Apollonia Kotero of her late friend Prince. By Aili Nahas Aili Nahas Aili Nahas is the West Coast Deputy News Editor at PEOPLE. She is also the TV deputy in Los Angeles as well as the Weddings Editor. Aili has spent nearly two decades in the entertainment industry and 12 years at PEOPLE. People Editorial Guidelines Published on April 27, 2022 03:35 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Prince and Apollonia. Photo: 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." Brenda Bennett, Apollonia Kotero and Susan Moonsie as Apollonia 6. 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." Prince and Apollonia in Purple Rain. Warner Brothers/Photofest Unreleased Prince Album Camille Will 'Finally' See Release Thanks to Jack White's Record Label 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.'" Apollonia Kotero. 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."