Exclusive: Sheila E. Says She Survived Childhood Abuse

Photo: Sara De Boer / Retna Ltd.

She may have been born to music royalty (her father is legendary percussionist Pete Escovedo and her godfather was the late Tito Puente) and become the ultimate '80s sex symbol—all stilettos and hairspray—but musician Sheila E. has come a long way since her days as the drummer for the New Power Generation. After years of silence, Prince's ex talks to Latina.com about her life, from "Erotic City" to the house of God.

 

On her relationship with legendary rocker Prince: It was challenging. We were in our own little world. We were on tour. We were enjoying life and just being able to be together and work together was perfect. But then there are times when it's too much and you grow apart. It was very difficult and we went through a change and I just had to let everything go. It wasn't just letting him go and the work go, it was both. The hardest part about it was letting go of my best friend.

On what drew her to God: I was raped at the age of five by a babysitter. That was devastating for me. Then I was molested for some years after that. At that point, I didn't want to be who I was. I wanted to change. Then in 1991 I did my record and my lung collapsed, my legs gave out, I was semi-paralyzed from playing drums in heels for so long. I was like, "okay, I really have to change my life." I went to a great church here in LA, gave my heart to the Lord and felt freedom from things I've carried throughout my life that I just thought, I don't have to carry them any more. All of these things I've carried, being ashamed and feeling guilty, all of these things that are not of God. I just cried and said "thank you for my life and what I have." I knew I was here for a reason. And that was the change.

On breaking through rock 'n' roll's boys club: It was always about sex. They would degrade me and say, "you're only here because of blah, blah, you're not really that good. But I can do something for you if you do something for me." And what I did was say, "No, I'm not going to do that and be that person. I'm not going to have sex with anyone." I just felt dirty to be approached in that way. It made me feel like you're not good at what you do. But, because of my parents, them bringing me up saying "you be the woman that you are, be strong and do the right thing," I said "I am doing well and I don't have to prove anything to you."

On growing up in a famous family: It was just a big jam session. Dad [Pete Escovedo] would have all his friends and family over, Tito Puente and Mongo Santamaria and Eddie Palmieri, everyone would come to the house and it seemed like we had parties everyday. Having that music around us all the time, it was so inspiring. But at the same time, I was a kid. I didn't pay attention to any of it. I'd get on the drums and hit them a few times, and then go outside and play.

For more of our interview with Shiela E., check out the April issue of Latina, on newsstands now.

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