Multiple sources including MC Hammer and Minneapolis-based singer Jill Jones have confirmed via social media that Denise “Vanity” Matthews has died. She was reportedly 57 and had been battling a number of illnesses for the past several years.
Matthews was best known for her work in Prince’s girl group, Vanity 6 for which she was the lead singer while the two were dating. The Canadian-based actress/model was originally supposed to star in Purple Rain but left the group before the film starting shooting. She was replaced by Apollonia “Patty” Kotero in both the film and the group, who hit with “Sex Shooter” as Apollonia 6.
Vanity 6’s big hit was 1982’s “Nasty Girl” written and produced by Prince. Matthews went on to two solo albums with Motown star in the classic Black karate movie The Last Dragon with Taimak, Action Jackson and 52 Pick-Up. In recent years, Matthews, who struggled with a drug addiction, became a born-again Christian and started a ministry.
According to People Magazine, Matthews met Prince at the 1980 American Music Awards and they started dating. She was later engaged to Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx but the relationship was marred by heavy drug use by both. Matthews married former NFL star Anthony Smith who was just sentenced a few weeks ago to a life sentence for a triple murder. Matthews told Jet Magazine that she had renal failure and was on peritoneal dialysis for years. Matthews had recently experienced a health setback and was seeking funding to help pay for her medical bills via GoFundMe.
Arsenio Hall Interview with Vanity Circa 1986
We’ll follow up with more information as it comes in.