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R.I.P. singer Denise “Vanity” Matthews

The Last Dragon

As confirmed by The Hollywood Reporter, singer Denise Matthews—better known as Vanity—has died. The cause of death was reportedly kidney failure. She was 57.

Matthews was born in Ontario in 1959, and she was a successful beauty pageant contestant from a young age. At 17, she moved to New York to pursue a modeling career, and in 1980 she ran into Prince at an awards show. Prince took an immediate liking to Matthews, giving her the name Vanity and making her his protege. Prince made her the lead singer of Vanity 6, an all-female R&B/funk group that was known for its sexually explicit lyrics. Vanity 6 released one album, spawning the hit “Nasty Girl,” which rose to the top of Billboard’s dance charts.


She left Vanity 6 and embarked on a solo career in the ‘80s, releasing two albums (Wild Animal and Skin On Skin). She also started acting, appearing in Action Jackson, Friday The 13th: The Series, Miami Vice, and the cult classic martial-arts musical The Last Dragon. Around this time, Matthews also got a reputation for being a hard partier, developing a crack cocaine addiction that caused her to suffer near-fatal renal failure in 1994.

After that, Matthews got sober and became a born-again Christian, renouncing her Vanity persona and dedicating the rest of her life to her religion.

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