Caran Menardy is known throughout Harlem for her colorful hair and appearance, but April 21 she is known for her purple blazer, a white ruffled blouse and a purple Afro wig.
Last year, street vendor Menardy celebrated the life and legacy of Prince after his passing, and she plans to make it an annual event.
Menardy’s usual position outside of the Apollo Theater becomes her canvas as she covers everything in purple and Prince apparel and paraphernalia.
The morning of Prince’s death, Menardy had the urge not to go to work, but she fought through. She sells hats, jewelry and sunglasses when the weather permits.
“I was trying to set up my table and I saw some employees running out of the Apollo Theater, and they were looking up at the marquee,” said Menardy. “So I looked up, too, out of curiosity. When I looked I saw, ‘In loving memory of Prince.’”
Although Prince was Menardy’s second favorite artist after Michael Jackson, the news stopped her in her tracks.
“I walked away from the table and I shut everything down,” said Menardy, a mother of three. “I ran home and got music, a boom box, my DVD collection of Prince and came outside. I was just out there feeling sad by myself. I was sitting there in disbelief, depressed, and all of a sudden I saw news vans.”
Menardy had recently reconnected with her love for Prince weeks before his death.
“It’s crazy because the month before Prince died, this funny feeling came over me,” said Menardy. “All of a sudden I missed watching all of his videos. I started to collect Prince DVDs. I had no idea Prince was going to die.”
The St. Lucia native was introduced to Prince’s music when she came to New York at the age of 14. Her sole purpose when she came to the United States was to meet Michael Jackson.
“Michael Jackson is No. 1 in my heart,” said Menardy. “I always knew my two favorite artists were Michael Jackson and Prince, but Michael Jackson was more of my childhood. When I came to New York I started to learn about Prince. When I began watching [Prince’s] performances and listening to his music, he became the second, next to Michael, in my heart. Some people said they were rivals, but I never really cared because they were just too different.”
To Menardy, Michael Jackson and Prince filled two different voids in her life.
“I always knew I liked Prince because he is different and unique,” she said. “Everything about him took me by storm, because I loved the look and everything about him. Michael had his own category. I had two spots in my heart for Prince and Michael, they’re each in their own bracket.”
Although Michael Jackson and Prince were different in style and artistry, Menardy loved them equally and visited both of their houses after their passing.
“I bought a plane ticket [to Minnesota] and booked a hotel next to Paisley Park,” said Menardy. “I spent a whole week at Paisley Park. I was there every day. I brought flowers, sat at the gate, and I just spoke to Prince. I told Prince I always wanted to meet him and I never got a chance to, but now I’m here. I felt his presence. He knew I was there.”