The date was Aug. 8, 2015. Carter, then a reporter for Buzzfeed, was attending the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Convention in Minneapolis. The opportunity to interview the entertainment icon ranks as a career highlight for Carter, who has covered the industry for nearly two decades.
Since Prince’s death Thursday, Carter has penned a Prince tribute – her first byline for ESPN’s new site dedicated to the intersection of sports, race and culture. She also has participated in a variety of interviews, including MSNBC and ITV’s “Good Morning Britain.”
Carter discusses her memories and the legacy of Prince with Front Row.
You were one of the last people to interview Prince. How did that opportunity come about?
I am a member of the National Association of Black Journalists – I’m actually the Arts & Entertainment Task Force Chair for the organization — and I attend our annual convention that we host every summer. I was one of 10 journalists invited to sit down with Prince at Paisley Park – his home – for what was a surprise free-for-all discussion about anything and everything. I was caught off guard with the interview. It wasn’t my expectation to have a sit-down, but man, was it a highlight of my career.
What were your impressions of Prince when you met and interviewed him?
Honestly, the first thing I knew about him was that he was an avid watcher of ESPN! Here’s how I knew: One of the 10 journalists to walk in with me was [Pardon The Interruption co-host] Mike Wilbon. We walked in together and the first thing I heard Prince say was something to the effect of, “Oh, I know who you are.” I was jealous! But I thought that was a neat fact, especially since at that time I was considering coming to work for ESPN’s The Undefeated. And as an entertainment journalist, I loved hearing that this music icon – and one of my favorites – was an avid watcher of a network I wanted to work with.
He even welcomed you into the famous “dove room” at Paisley Park. What was that like?
The doves were everywhere! They were in cages sprinkled all throughout his home. The thing I heard him say (after his ESPN acknowledgment and as he was shaking my hand) was “turn up the lights so the doves can see.” That’s actually when I noticed the doves. The doves! They were so real!
– Kelley Carter
What is your favorite memory as a fan of Prince and his work?
There are so many! One is that Prince used to host a post-Oscars party most years. It was always a secret when he’d do it and you wouldn’t know if you got invited until the show was going along. In 2009, I got my invite! And it was one of the coolest experiences ever. It was in a small, intimate event space and maybe there were several dozen people there. [Actresses] Penelope Cruz, Taraji P. Henson – they both were nominated that year, and the like. He performed until the wee hours of the night and it was such a pleasure to be in that space.
How would you sum up Prince’s legacy on music, culture, etc.?
Prince was a highly influential musical icon. There are many, many people who wouldn’t be here today or be the type of artist they are today if there were no Prince. I’ve covered many celebrity deaths over the years — Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston included — but this one hits harder. Prince felt very contemporary, he was not a nostalgic act or a throwback at all. His death leaves a void and all of the TV and print and digital media attention being paid to his death is certainly warranted.