Former Prince Protégé, Denise “Vanity” Matthews of Vanity 6, Dies At 57

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Denise Katrina Matthews

By Aria Ellise, blackdoctor.org

Denise Katrina Matthews, you may know her better by her stage name, the singer formerly known as Vanity, from movies like Action Jackson, has died. She was 57.

Matthews died from kidney failure, the result of years of crack cocaine abuse, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. She died in a hospital in Fremont, Calif.

The Canadian born singer was also a songwriter, dancer, actress and model, leading the girl group Vanity 6 from 1981 to 1983. In that time, they recorded the smooth funk single, “Nasty Girl,” which was produced by Prince and topped the Billboard dance charts.

Many people get her confused with Apollonia from the movie “Purple Rain” but even though the group sang the Vanity 6 songs in movie, that was not Matthews who played the lead singer’s role. Prince chose Apollonia Kotero to play the role instead.

Vanity recorded two solo albums for Motown: Wild Animal and Skin on Skin before taking her break from music completely.

In the movie, The Last Dragon, Matthews’ gained a cult following by playing dance show host Laura Charles, opposite martial arts master, Taimak. The role garnered her legions of fans as the movie gained fame and classic status. Take a walk down memory lane with the video below:

But it was in 1994 that Matthews became a born-again Christian after a near-fatal drug overdose. She then renounced her former identity. After she recieved a kidney transplant in 1997, she went on to devote her life to evangelism. In 2010, she self-released an autobiography called Blame It on Vanity.

Matthews’ health problems continued and took a turn for the worse last year. After being diagnosed with the kidney condition sclerosis encapsulating peritonitis, she set up a crowdfunding campaign to help pay for her medical treatment but fell more than $43,000 short of her goal.

“Boy, it is not fun suffering in this body of weak flesh… but Jesus is straightening out all my crooked places in my heart as I go through this time of pain,” the born-again Christian wrote on the GoFundMe page.

Vanity 6 the group, toured with Prince in 1999, before Vanity broke out on her own solo career.

The former model turned evangelist was seen preaching the gospel on both secular and religious themed shows all around the country. Still being recognized from her singing days is one of the reasons the singer said she had to show people a better way with God.

Friends of the former singer were tweeting and sharing their love for Matthews this afternoon.

She will definitely be missed.

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