Celebrities Prince Couldn't Stand

The legend still known and beloved as Prince will always be remembered for being a musical genius, a glitter-covered eccentric, and a charismatic and creative performer, who sadly died far too young. He was basically nocturnal, rarely ate, loved watching and playing basketball, and threw incredible parties at his Minneapolis estate, Paisley Park, complete with live music and guest lists filled with his famous friends. 

But as much as we want to honor Prince's musical legacy, his generosity, and the struggles that made up his tragic real-life story, let us not forget his Purpleness was also known for being temperamental, petty, and the definition of a diva. Prince could throw more shade than a skyscraper, a talent which led to some highly entertaining feuds with A-list celebrities. Many started out over musical differences and spilled into deeply personal grudges, although there is also the occasional redemption story. From rookie pop stars to long-time rivals and an unfriendly ex, here are the celebrities Prince couldn't stand.

Prince hated hearing Katy Perry and Ed Sheeran everywhere

A little thing like death couldn't stop Prince sharing his views on music with the world. In October 2019, three years after Prince died, writer Dan Piepenbring published the memoir he'd been collaborating on with His Royal Purpleness, titled The Beautiful Ones. It's not just another straightforward rock star narrative — we're talking about Prince after all. The book incorporates the musician's cartoons, unseen photos, and handwritten notes alongside memories from his life written in his personal code (e.g. using the number 2 instead of "to.")

There was one very clear message, however. Prince wrote that music execs, "keep trying to ram Katy Perry and Ed Sheeran down our throats and we don't like it no matter how many times they play it." This posthumous takedown must have been painful for Perry. Back in 2009, when she was known as "the singer behind 'I Kissed a Girl,'" she cited Prince and his movie Purple Rain as career inspirations in a tweet. And in the aftermath of Prince's death in 2016, she tweeted, "And just like that...the world lost a lot of magic... Thanks for giving us so much." Way to ruin teenage dreams.

Prince and Justin Timberlake disagreed over the location of sexy

Justin Timberlake's assertion that he was bringing "SexyBack" in July 2006 convinced a lot of people. The record was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks, and landed JT the Grammy for Best Dance Recording. But one person took issue with his claim. During a performance at an Emmys after party in August 2006, Prince told the crowd: "Whoever is claiming that they are bringing sexy back, sexy never left!"

Timberlake fired back at the 2007 Golden Globes, mocking Prince's height when accepting an award on his behalf. And barely a month later, in February 2007, he directly called Prince out in his verse in Timbaland's song "Give It to Me." He sang: "We missed you on the charts last week/ Damn, that's right, you wasn't there/ Now if sexy never left then why is everybody on my s***?" 

Even after Prince died, his fans refused to let Timberlake off the hook. In 2018, they called him out for holding a listening party at Prince's estate, Paisley Park, which included alcohol, despite Prince's teetotal rules. Timberlake conceded, acknowledging Prince as, "the pinnacle of musicianship" on The Tonight Show.

Madonna and Prince tried to out-diva each other

Shoulder pads and backcombing notwithstanding, even the '80s weren't big enough to hold Madonna and Prince. After dating for two months in 1985, the pair began a long-lasting pattern of verbal sparring.

Madonna reportedly used the infamous celebrity line, "Don't you know who I am?" after their breakup, and insulted Prince's height, his outfits and his eating habits. They buried the hatchet long enough to record "Love Song" for her 1989 album Like a Prayer, and Prince also played guitar on two tracks. But in 1992, his competitive nature pushed him to trump Madonna's $60 million record deal with their shared label Warner Bros. He won that round, signing a contract worth around $100 million, although he later fell out with the label in spectacular fashion.

But the feud mostly settled into friendly-ish bickering. Prince's backup dancer Cat Glover recalled to GQ that Prince tried to persuade Madonna to star in his 1990 movie Graffiti Bridge, but, "he couldn't deal with her by himself." One meeting derailed into insulting each other's shoes. Glover summarized, "This is what happens when you get two big egos in one room. It was jokey and serious. They're the same way."

Pink and Prince clashed over masters

Most people have said something they'd like to take back. But most of us didn't say it to one of the most talented musicians in the world.

Pink does have that dubious honor. She and Prince met backstage in the late '90s, when she was 19 and had just signed a record deal. Living up to her bold image, the rookie singer asked the legend to collaborate with her. Prince responded by asking if she owned her masters — the original copies of an artist's songs. He'd spent the early '90s campaigning to get his back from Warner Bros.; they finally gave him the chance under a new deal signed in 2014.

When Pink said no, he told her to come back when she did own them. Not one to take a slight lying down, Pink told him he was, "'a rude f***,' and then I went onstage." However, she later realized he was trying to teach her a lesson, adding, "But I loved him, I totally loved him." Of his death, she told Australian radio station Nova FM: "Prince is everybody's genius... the world lost a lot of sparkle this year."

Boy George loved Prince but the feeling wasn't mutual

Prince could be incredibly cutting — but sometimes it was what he didn't say that hurt the most. 

Boy George isn't shy about expressing his love for the musician: "I was such a fan of his music: he did so many things that I loved," he told the Associated Press. In 2015, he even joked that he'd slept with Prince during a live recording of The Voice UK. But although Prince was known to cover Culture Club in jam sessions, he didn't match George's level of affection.

The one time they met was awkward. George told Andy Cohen that it happened when Prince invited him over to his table at a Versace party, then ignored him for 10 minutes until he excused himself. "But I loved Prince, Prince was just amazing," he added.

There may have been a second, supernatural meeting. At a Minneapolis gig after Prince's death, Culture Club had a blazing row over an arrangement of "Purple Rain," which George thinks displeased His Purpleness. "I think Prince was messing with us... at the end of the song everything broke; the entire sound system broke down," George told Harry Connick Jr. in 2017.

Prince and Adam Levine made up over 'Kiss'

Prince did not see imitation as the sincerest form of flattery. He was famously against other artists covering his songs. In a 2013 interview with Billboard, he specifically called out Maroon 5's cover of "Kiss," which was included on a deluxe version of the band's 2012 album Overexposed. Prince said, "Why do we need to hear another cover of a song someone else did? Art is about building a new foundation, not just laying something on top of what's already there."

In deference to musical royalty, Maroon 5 removed the song from iTunes and Spotify. Frontman Adam Levine didn't take the barb personally. He explained to Howard Stern in 2017 that he'd met Prince years before the "Kiss" spat. A mutual friend invited Prince to "a very casual party" Levine was hosting, turning it from a relaxed jam session to a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that ultimately moved to Prince's house. Levine added, "My experiences with him were genuinely really beautiful and special." In 2014, Levine had another crack at a Prince song, playing "Purple Rain" live. Prince was apparently less annoyed about live covers of his songs, and he offered Levine the ultimate lukewarm praise: "You getting it."

Prince and Michael Jackson had a not-so-friendly rivalry

As two superstar musical talents transforming pop music, Michael Jackson and Prince could have been allies. Instead, they became rivals. In 1982, Prince's then-most commercially successful album1999, was dwarfed by Jackson's Thriller less than a month later. In 1983, Jackson accidentally set Prince up for humiliation at a James Brown concert: Prince fell off the stage, then tried to run Jackson over with his limo afterwards, according to Quincy Jones. Jackson reportedly enjoyed re-watching the video of the infamous performance when he needed a laugh. Prince got his onstage revenge in 2006, playing a bass solo into Jackson's face at a Vegas show, prompting his rival to call him "a meanie."

The album and movie Purple Rain gave Prince's ego a boost in 1984, and when Jackson asked him to collaborate on charity single "We Are the World" in 1985, Prince declined. He also turned down Jackson's offer to feature on the song "Bad" two years later. They were even competitive outside music: Prince challenged Jackson to play ping-pong and basketball, mocking him mercilessly when he lost.

Prince's attitude softened after Jackson's death in 2009. He told French newspaper Le Monde, "We are always sad to lose someone we love."

Prince iced out Dick Clark on live TV

Prince rarely granted interviews — and when he did, he refused to let the interviewer record the conversation or take notes. This wasn't just an A-list ego trip: he was difficult even when he was relatively unknown, as Dick Clark found out when he interviewed Prince live on American Bandstand around 1980.

According to Dez Dickerson, guitarist for The Revolution, Prince had a mood swing in the greenroom, and told the band not to answer any of Clark's questions. Dickerson described the incident to GQ as "totally calculated" and "excruciatingly uncomfortable." Prince shed some light on his motivations in a 1980 interview with the Star Tribune, based in his native Minneapolis. He said he felt Clark had insulted his hometown, adding, "That really gave me an attitude."

The interview stuck with Clark, who 15 years later described it as, "one of the most difficult interviews I've ever conducted, and I've done 10,000 musician interviews." But he wasn't fazed by Prince's stunt. He told a Star Tribune reporter, "He's an extraordinary performer... Though once you're off-camera, he's like everybody else — very normal." Not something Prince was accused of very often.

Prince turned down free music from The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne saw the funny side of being rejected by Prince. He told City Pages that the band's encounter with the prickly Purple One went down at the 2006 Brit Awards. 

Prince was scheduled to perform a set of four songs, reuniting with former The Revolution bandmates Wendy and Lisa, and Purple Rain singer — and former fiancée — Sheila E. Wayne Coyne and the band were, as he put it to City Pages, "hanging around" when Prince and his two security guards arrived and went to his dressing room. Coyne said the band worked up the courage to give Prince's bodyguard a stack of CDs to pass on to him, adding, "We were so thrilled at the possibility of him hearing our music." 

Unfortunately, Prince was less enthusiastic. A short time later, the bodyguard tracked the band down and handed back the CDs, saying, "Prince doesn't want these." Luckily, Coyne said he and his bandmates found it "hilarious." Relating the same story to the Independent, he said, "We loved him so much for being too cool for us."

The Kardashians were not on Prince's guest list

Prince officially debuted his anti-Kardashian stance in 2011. He invited Kim onstage during his Welcome 2 Tour — then immediately kicked her off when she refused to dance. A few years later, he doubled down on the hostile sentiment when he took over an episode of New Girl.

Shortly after Prince's death, New Girl star Zooey Deschanel told Conan O'Brien about shooting Prince's guest episode, which aired in 2014 and was, of course, his idea, as a fan of the show. It involved the gang going to a Prince party, where Jess (Deschanel) gets some love advice, pancakes, and a makeover from the singer.

No Prince party is complete without celebrities, and some members of the Kardashian family shot cameos for the episode. However, Prince put the record scratch on that. Deschanel remembered that after finding out about the Kardashians' involvement, he had all the scripts and call sheets burned. Vanity Fair reported that in a separate interview, her co-star Lamorne Morris didn't mention the Kardashians by name, but confirmed that upon watching footage of a certain famous family, Prince said, "They would never be invited to a Prince party."

Prince and Rick James hated each other from the start

The crazy real-life story of Rick James includes a lot of hate aimed in Prince's direction. Both musicians released their first albums in 1978, but their rivalry really started two years later when James invited Prince to open for him on his Fire It Up Tour. It was dubbed the Battle of Funk and it turned into war.

James's saxophonist Daniel Lemelle said the two would watch each other's performances from the wings. James accused Prince of stealing his moves, his look, and his idea for a girl group. He claimed the musicians in Prince's band were snobs and that he once forced cognac down Prince's throat, making him cry. In his autobiography (via Rolling Stone), James wrote that he started working for Eddie Murphy because he wanted to give the comedian a hit song "and stick it in Prince's ear." In 1982, Prince angered James so much by refusing to sign an autograph for his mother that James assaulted him.

Prince definitively won the Battle of Funk, and not only with his music career. The night of that fight in '82 he met James's ex, Denise Matthews, who became Prince's girlfriend and protege under the stage name Vanity.

Sinead O'Connor accused Prince of trying to punch her and other women

Sinéad O'Connor's 1990 version of "Nothing Compares 2 U" is so famous that many people don't even know the song was written by Prince in 1984. Prince hated other artists covering his songs, let alone being more successful with them, and O'Connor recalled a very tense meeting with him.

Since 2014, O'Connor has told three separate interviewers that after her cover came out, Prince invited her to his house in Malibu and turned violent when she refused to become one of his proteges. She accused him of trying to punch her, and said she had to run away from him at 5 am, knocking on the door of a neighboring house.

In one of those interviews — with the Carver County Sheriff's Office after Prince's death — O'Connor also claimed Prince beat up The Revolution guitarist Wendy Melvoin and worshiped the devil, all under the influence of hard drugs. It wasn't the first time Prince had been accused of assaulting a woman. In 2003, his ex-girlfriend Charlene Friend countersued him after they got into a property dispute, claiming physical and mental abuse — allegations Prince's spokesperson denied. The lawsuit never came to anything, but it's one of the many secrets Prince tried to hide.

Keith Richards out-snarked Prince

If there's one person more frank in his musical assessments than Prince, it's Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. His bandmate Charlie Watts told the Guardian that he and Mick Jagger loved Prince's 1980 album Dirty Mind, but, "Keith hated it." The Stones invited Prince to open for them on their 1981 American tour. When he played the L.A. Coliseum in his trademark bikini bottoms, the fans threw drink cans at him and his band, booing them offstage.

Watts maintained his admiration for Prince, but Richards grew even more hostile. In 1988 he told the LA Times, "I think he's very clever at manipulating the music business and the entertainment business... I don't see much substance in anything he does." Richards hadn't warmed up by the time he published his 2010 autobiography. He called Prince overrated, mocked his height, and claimed he insulted the Stones fans with his presumptiveness. He wrote, "Prince has to find out what it means to be a prince... He's a prince who thinks he's a king."

Only after Prince's death did Richards appear to mellow. He called Prince, "A unique talent. A true original... a great guitar player." Is it really better late than never?

Prince didn't get Jean Paul Gaultier

Learning that Prince was offered the part of flamboyant talk show host Ruby Rhod in The Fifth Element makes perfect sense. The character and the musician are both supremely confident, fashion-forward even for the future, and their respective cheek microphone games put Lady Gaga to shame.

It was thanks to an unfortunate misunderstanding with French fashion legend and the film's costume designer, Jean Paul Gaultier, that we didn't get to see Prince in the Federated Territories. Gaultier met Prince in Paris to explain the costumes in what he described to the Brooklyn Museum as "my broken English." He said that Prince didn't say a word as Gaultier led him through the sketches, enthusiastically attempting to bring his vision to life. When Gaultier got to the part about a "faux cul" — a fake butt — Prince looked shocked and abruptly left.

Gaultier later learned from director Luc Besson that Prince had mistaken the French phrase for a much less innocent English one (the first word starts with "f" and the second word is "you.") Also, he found the costumes "too effeminate." Gaultier wasn't too bothered. "That was... a big faux pas," he shrugged on The Graham Norton Show.