For those who are old enough to remember Prince’s protege dubbed “Vanity,” they are likely reeling from the news that Denise Katrina Matthews has died at the age of 57. According to TMZ, Vanity died after suffering from a recent illness in her abdominal region, and after years of dealing with kidney issues. Years prior to Vanity’s death, Matthews penned a book called Blame It on Vanity, as seen on the Amazon author pages of Denise K. Matthews, wherein Vanity detailed how she turned her life over to Christ after her harrowing experiences as a member of the trio of girls in a group called Vanity 6.
“It was no small secret that [when] Denise Matthews was newly christened Vanity, Warner Bros. had announced to the world there was a “hot new girl in town.” This book is Denise’s personal account of her rise to stardom, an in-depth insight into her relationship with Prince, the group Vanity 6, her personal trials including her marriage/divorce to football player Anthony Smith, and her conversion to the religion of Jesus Christ.”
Vanity died in a hospital in Fremont, California, on Monday. Vanity set up a GoFundMe page under the name Denise Matthews, wherein she described the ailments she was dealing with prior to her death. The GoFundMe page lists that $6,599 of $50,000 had been raised. Created on September 20, 2014, Denise described what she was going through at the time that Matthews set up the GoFundMe page. In the description, Vanity wrote about her first deathbed prayer, and how Vanity escaped death back in 1992.
“Sclerosing Encapsulating Peritonitis” was the diagnosis that Denise wrote she had been given, in the most recent update from four months ago on GoFundMe.
“My very first prayer on my deathbed to Jesus was ‘Do whatever it takes to save me, just don’t let me die…Whatever it takes, make my heart whole…He is busily working on me…If you are suffering thru something right now i lift you to Jesus..may He preserve you and keep you unto His heavenly kingdom and may you endure thru your change in Him…He knows what it takes to break us, make us deliver us into His Holy hands amen…Make our hearts Whole amen…!'”
Vanity detailed the wild life that included drug use and cocaine abuse that led her to an overdose and could’ve killed her years ago. Plenty of videos of Denise Matthews can be seen on YouTube, with Matthews eschewing the moniker Vanity after giving up the Vanity persona that she embraced during her years with Prince. After leaving that life behind, Matthews became “Evangelist Matthews” and had to endure frequent dialysis treatments.
Although Prince and Vanity seemed hot and heavy when their “Nasty Girl” hit came about in 1982, by the time Prince’s 1985 Grammy Awards win in Los Angeles for “Purple Rain” came around, Vanity wasn’t featured in the Purple Rain movie. Instead, that role went to Apollonia, who seemed to step right in to Vanity’s lead role and turned Vanity 6 into a group named Apollonia 6. Prior to that, Vanity sang raunchy songs like “Pretty Mess” in 1984. Other songs sung by the Vanity 6 group include ones about make-up, and others that urge Vanity to call her boyfriend, and “if a girl answers, don’t hang up.”
Vanity did join Prince on his “1999” tour, but Matthews left after that point and went on to appear in films like Action Jackson and The Last Dragon.
According to TMZ, Matthews was in her church as recently as Saturday night, reporting to the members in attendance that she was “ready to go home.”
As of this writing, Prince’s Instagram does not have a statement about the death of Vanity.
[AP Photo/Liu Heung Shing]