My Cousin Prince
Like every Prince fan, April 21, 2016 is a day that Emilie Clark will never forget. The next morning she awoke to the sound of turtle doves cooing outside her Las Vegas home and could not shake the overwhelmingly sad feeling she had. Unlike fans who’ve followed Prince’s career from the start Emilie, 25, wasn’t born until 1991. “The first time I heard him was a clip of Little Red Corvette that was in a commercial for a CD collection of 80's music. I was in 2nd grade at the time.” She recalls that around 2005 she started hearing his music on a local radio station and at that point she was on her way to becoming a fan.
After his passing, Emilie found herself reading every article about Prince she could get her hands on, watching the videos that suddenly flooded the internet, and immersing herself in his music. As she learned more about Prince she couldn’t shake the feeling that his appearance and personality seemed very similar to her own. Her curiosity piqued, in May she embarked on a mission to find answers. What could she, a self-taught writer from California possibly have in common with the legendary musician from Minnesota? Her only major accomplishments to date were winning first place in the pitch/treatment category of the 2013 Beverly Hills Screenplay contest and seeing a short story about her beagle, Cooper, published on the PetSmart Charities’ website.
She started by accessing an ancestry website and researching Prince’s last name, Nelson. She spent countless hours sorting through dozens of names, locations and dates without success. She awoke in the early hours of May 21 and unable to go back to sleep found herself once again in front of her laptop. Her breakthrough came moments later when she discovered that Prince’s paternal great uncle, Ed Nelson, had married Hattie (Mitchell) Nelson, a first cousin to Irene (Carmichael) Clark, Emilie’s paternal grandmother. “All I could do was stare at the screen. What I had just discovered was that Prince and I are fourth cousins!” Seconds later, her heart hit the floor as she realized she would never have the chance to meet him. “My discovery was both exciting and heartbreaking because Prince is gone. Prior to this there were different occasions where I could’ve crossed paths with him. The closest I got was during his residency at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas in 2006. My family planned to go one of his shows but tickets were sold out. I remember sitting at a traffic light with my Dad when a sky-blue Bentley passed by. The windows were tinted so we never saw who was behind the wheel. Since then, I learned that the driver was very likely Prince.”
Having now discovered that she and Prince are fourth cousins, Emilie decided to write about her ancestry. Inspired by the 2016 remake of the mini-series “Roots” and another television show, “Unsung Hollywood” she embarked on a project she is titling, “Prince: An Unsung History”, a docudrama based on her genealogy research. “It’s a work in progress and it means a great deal to me. I want to do something in memory of him. What I hope to accomplish with my project is telling the one story about Prince that people have yet to know, and that’s the story of our ancestors.” Emilie reached out to the county historical societies in Hennepin (Minneapolis) and Carver (Chanhassen) Minnesota, and both have expressed interest in obtaining her research, which she plans to share with them.
Emilie thinks of Prince and the relationship that might have resulted had she been able to tell him of their connection. She hopes to visit Paisley Park and someday meet others in his immediate and extended family. Of Prince she says, "To many people he’s a brother, friend, hero, and mentor but to me I'll always think of him as my cousin Prince.”