By Heidi Stevens
You tell people you’re living like Prince for a year — not a prince; the Prince (the 100 million record-selling, Grammy-winning, shape-shifting, pop icon Prince) — and they give you a little side eye.
“It’s not an obvious choice for a suburban mom like me,” Laura Tiebert acknowledges.
But it’s an inspired choice. And an inspiring one.
“I think Prince really left us a legacy, not just in terms of the music he left, which, of course, is an incredible legacy,” Tiebert said. “But also in the way he lived his life. That, to me, is sort of his secret legacy. This gift he left hidden in plain sight.”
In 2016, Tiebert and her family moved from Chicago to Prince’s hometown of Chanhassen, Minn. Her husband, Andrew Tiebert, had been working for the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Foundation and he was recruited by the Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota Foundation.
And off they went with their two sons, who are now 13 and 16.
Tiebert was thrilled to live so close to the musician she’d listened to and loved for four decades. She had just tracked down the location of Paisley Park, Prince’s private estate and production complex, when the artist passed away in April 2016. That’s when she contacted a Prince biographer she admired, Alex Hahn, and asked if he’d like to work on another Prince book, this time with her as his co-author.
In 2017, Tiebert and Hahn released “The Rise of Prince: 1958-1988.” In the course of researching the book, Tiebert found herself appreciating the musician for reasons that went beyond his musical mastery.
“Anyone who rises to global superstardom is doing something different from most, right?” she said. “I started to notice a pattern of decisions that he made over time that led to this extraordinary success. Prince was very intentional.
“So I thought,” she continued, “maybe what I’ve uncovered is a road map for a year that, if I make the same kinds of decisions Prince made, could lead to a more extraordinary life.”
I love this.
What would Prince do?
Every month, Tiebert adopts a new Prince-inspired habit or behavior. They only last a month, and then she moves onto a new one. She blogs about them at lauratiebert.com. She’s writing another book, “The Year of Living Like Prince,” for which she hopes to find a publisher.
In January, Tiebert fasted, which she said Prince did routinely to keep his lithe frame. “I don’t want to replicate that month ever again,” she said.
“It struck me that I had been kind of wearing this suburban camouflage,” Tiebert said. “I ditched my jeans for more statement-making outfits and I got noticed more instead of just blending in.”
She changed her name to a symbol in April.
She created a heart surrounded by rays of light, something that came to her during March’s Prince exercise — a watercolor class to explore synesthesia, a condition Prince is believed to have had in which the stimulation of one sense causes an automatic triggering of another. Many people in Prince’s inner circle, Tiebert said, say he saw color when he heard music.
Anyway, the symbol. Tiebert drew it and wore it on a name tag and introduced herself using it when she met people for a month.
“My symbol is a reminder to me to be vulnerable and put my heart on the line, even if it’s inevitably going to be hurt at some point,” she wrote on her blog. “My symbol reminds me that it’s a good thing to share myself with others even when it scares me.”
Just say no
In June, she forced herself to say no to things she didn’t want to do. Prince, she said, turned down an invitation to collaborate with dozens of artists on 1985’s “We Are The World.” He had high and strict standards for where, when and with whom he would perform. He didn’t compromise.
“I’m a people pleaser,” Tiebert said. “I accommodate others to my own detriment. I turn myself into a human pretzel to make sure everyone else gets what they need. This month, I’m forcing myself to say no. It’s sort of freeing!”
She even stopped checking email first thing in the morning, she said, because she doesn’t want the day’s agenda to be set, right off the bat, by others and what they need from her.
Tiebert’s friend in California said her project has inspired him to live like Mark Twain next year. Tiebert is already brainstorming who to live like next.
“I chose this adventure and what I’m hoping is I can bring a lot of people along on it,” she said. “I don’t think I have the glamorous rock star edge to my life, nor will I ever. But I have managed to elevate my life by applying some of these lessons.”
If there’s someone you admire, Tiebert said, think about trying to walk in their shoes for a year. It will probably help you see them in a new light. It will certainly help you see yourself in one.
“I had a great life when this started,” Tiebert said. “But now I have an exhilarating one.”