EXCLUSIVE: Prince's Ex-Wife Manuela Testolini Is Building a School in His Memory: 'I Will Always Love Him'
By Jackie Willis
Manuela Testolini is paying tribute to her late ex-husband Prince by giving back.
The 39-year-old businesswoman told ET's Nancy O'Dell that she is "heartbroken beyond words" upon hearing the news of the 57-year-old musician's death on Thursday, and revealed that she had recently reached out to her ex. "Prince and I had a magical journey together and I loved him immensely," Testolini, who shared a personal image of the two with ET, said of their marriage. "I knew him as a husband, friend and fierce philanthropist. Philanthropy brought us together and it was Prince that encouraged me to start my own charity over 10 years ago."
Prince and Testolini are said to have first met in 2001 when she was working for his charity. She was 24 and he was 43. They were married that same year, and divorced amicably in 2006. Testolini continued her charity work and went on to marry musician, Eric Benet, in 2011.
"I just reached out to [Prince] a few days ago to let him know that I was building a school in his honor," she continued. "My heart aches that the school will now be built in his memory."
Testolini’s foundation, In a Perfect World, has a program called REACH (Rural Education and Community Harmony), which funds the construction of 23 schools in some of the world's most economically poor countries, including Nepal, Haiti, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali, Malawi and Nicaragua. The goal of all of the foundation's schools is to give children in rural areas -- girls, in particular -- access to quality education.
Testolini has yet to determine where Prince's school will be, as she was hoping he would have chosen the country. She tells ET that she feels like building 10 schools for him, and that, when her head is clear, she will think about a campaign to make that happen.
She says news of Prince's death has left her with a "devastating feeling of pain and loss."
"The love we shared, the music he made, and our life together is forever engraved in my heart," she lamented. "I will always love and respect him. I am heartbroken beyond words."
Carmen Electra, who Prince mentored upon meeting her in 1991, also spoke to ET about hearing the news that the music icon had died. "Prince, to some people, was this untouchable force," Electra, 44, shared. "For someone who people looked up to like a god, this musical genius, this non-human thing, this entity, to be powerless and to lose his life – it’s shocking. I feel I don't even know what to say… I didn't think this day would come."