Denise Katrina Matthews, a former protege of Prince and known in the music world as Vanity, passed away at the age of 57 from kidney problems, TMZ reported. Denise’s life was riddled with problems, and she tried drugs to cover the pain she felt. It took a time when she nearly lost her life in 1990 to change her and bring her back as a born-again Christian.
Denise Matthews’s sister, Renay Matthews, confirmed her death. The New York Times reports that Dense struggled with kidney issues for a long time. She was diagnosed with sclerosing encapsulating peritonitis, an inflammation of the small intestines, and she checked into a hospital on Saturday night.
Denise Katrina Matthews was born in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, on January 4, 1959, to Helga Senyk of German descent and James Levia Matthews, who was African American. Denise told Jet Magazine that when she was growing up, her father often abused her physically and verbally. His abuse lasted for 15 years until she left home.
Trying to find peace or worth as a woman in this world, Denise started out as a model and then changed to singing and acting during the 1980s through the early 1990s. Denise was cast in her first movie, Klondike Fever, a biographical tale of Jack London, in 1980. Perhaps because of the image Denise wanted to portray, she played the roles of sultry female characters. Denise did two more movies in 1980, Terror Train and Tanya’s Island. In 1985, she appeared in The Last Dragon and in 1986, she was in Never Too Young to Die. However, her two best performances, according to IMB, were in the 1986 movie 52 Pick-Up where she played the part of a naïve stripper, and the 1988 movie Action Jackson. In that movie, Vanity was given the role of a seductive nightclub singer.
Denise’s Matthews movie career began to fall after that, and she was given small roles in Neon City in 1991 and Da Vinci’s War in 1993.
Denise Matthews was known by a number of names, including D.D. Winters in her homeland of Canada, Denise Sonic in Tokyo, Denise Matthews in Los Angeles. However, most people remember her as Vanity from Vanity 6.
Denise first met Prince in 1980 while backstage at the American Music Awards. Shortly after that, the two became romantically involved. When Vanity formed her group, under the hand of Prince, several names were suggested for the group. Prince had one suggestion, which Vanity found offensive, and she refused to name her group that. Another name was Hookers because she played a hooker on stage, but she refused that suggestion as well. In the end, she settled on calling her group Vanity 6.
Vanity decided to strike out on her own as a solo artist and she topped the charts with songs like “Pretty Mess,” “Mechanical Emotion,” and “Under the Influence.” Because Vanity liked to dress as sexy as possible, she ran into problems with parents whose children wanted to watch her music videos. In 1985, she was listed on the Parents Music Resource Center’s “Filthy 15” for “Strap on ‘Robbie Baby.’”
Vanity was engaged to Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx, and she became addicted to hard drugs. In the early 1990s, she started smoking crack, and she told the Associated Press the image she wanted everyone to see of her.
“I put the sexual image of me in my music. My music is very sexual, so you could say I’m just putting all of me out there.”
On stage, Vanity often wore sexy lingerie and sang lyrics that that were practically X-rated. However, it took a drug overdose in 1994 that gave Vanity the strength to leave the world of drugs for something more precious and appealing: a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Denise aka Vanity posted on her Go Fund Me page, “I repent daily my sins, my faults and my shortcomings. He has brought me out of so many fires, oh so many, 23 years alive after the doctors pronounced i would be dead way back then 1992.”
Denise Matthews told Jet Magazine that Vanity wanted to die “because she was lost and hurting inside. God said you have to go through darkness until you find His light.”
SADDEN my FRIEND IN CHRIST gone 2day. Vanity, Denise Matthews. MISS YOU DEARLY. U ARE IN HIS ARMS NOW, NO Pain pic.twitter.com/UbCWtl8brc— SheilaEdrummer (@SheilaEdrummer) February 16, 2016
In the New York Times, Renay Matthews said, “Ms. Matthews eventually became an ordained minister and preached in churches around the country. She published an autobiography in 1999, ‘Blame It on Vanity.’”
In addition to preaching the Word of God, Denise also opened her doors to cats in need of a home. She wanted to make a good difference in people’s lives as well.
Renay Matthews said, “She couldn’t just walk by someone and not help.”
In the mid-1990s, Vanity left Hollywood and changed her name back to Denise and became an evangelist.
“I don’t listen to my old music of Vanity’s unless I have to hear it playing in a mall or something place like that. I sing to Jesus for Jesus now. This gives me pure joy… worship! I apologize profusely to those I have offended deeply a million times over.”
“I am Denise! no longer Vanity for the name means WORTHLESSNES…we are not worthless.”
Rolling Stone reported something that Denise said.
“I was young and irresponsible, a silly woman laden with sin, not caring for anything except fame and fortune and self. But I have lived seeking truth in Jesus Christ and found it has made me free.”
“According to God’s word, we haven’t done a very good job concerning our little ones, nor our teens,” she continued. “I haven’t given the song any thought [in many years]. I don’t listen to my old music of Vanity’s unless I have to hear it playing in a mall or something place like that. I sing to Jesus for Jesus now. This gives me pure joy… worship! I apologize profusely to those I have offended deeply a million times over.”
Thoughts and prayers go out to Denise Matthews’ family and friends as they mourn her passing and rejoice in her arrival in heaven.
[Image via YouTube]