Pop Star Denise “Vanity” Matthews Dies At 57

Jenni Miller | February 16, 2016 - 1:30 pm

Denise Matthews, who was perhaps best known as the ’80s pop star Prince took under his majestic purple wing, passed away yesterday in Fremont, California, at the age of 57. An actress and a model, Matthews fronted the band Vanity 6 before going on to a solo career, but she gave it all up to become a born-again Christian in the early ’90s. Matthews also appeared onscreen in The Last Dragon, 52 Pick-Up, and Action Jackson; her last film role was in 1997’s Kiss of Death.

As Vanity, Matthews had a super sexy party girl image that she later disavowed, telling Jet, “Prince created the whole Vanity 6 image. It bothered me at the time. I lied and said it was the image I wanted. I did it because he told me I had to do it.” However, her musical legacy left a mark, as did her 1988 Playboy cover story and accompanying photo spread. The “Nasty Girl” singer, who had a roster of rock star boyfriends including Nikki Sixx, Adam Ant, and Billy Idol, developed an addiction to crack cocaine that nearly caused renal failure. After that, she left the pop world behind to become an evangelical minister. Most recently, Matthews began a GoFundMe to help with medical bills and republish her autobiography, Blame It On Vanity. Musicians and media personalities from MC Hammer to Questlove, fellow former Prince protégé Sheila E., and even ex-boyfriend Billy Idol paid tribute to Matthews on social media.

[New York Times, CNN]