Vanity, circa 1984
|Born||Denise Katrina Matthews
January 4, 1959
Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
|Died||February 15, 2016
Fremont, California, US
|Cause of death||Renal failure|
|Other names||Denise Matthews–Smith,
|Occupation||Singer, songwriter, dancer, model, actress, evangelist|
|Spouse(s)||Anthony Smith (m. 1995; div. 1996)|
Nikki Sixx (1985–87)
Denise Katrina Matthews (January 4, 1959 – February 15, 2016), better known as Vanity, was a Canadian singer, songwriter, dancer, model and actress, who turned away from her music and acting career to concentrate on evangelism. Her career lasted from the early 1980s until the early/mid-1990s. She was the lead singer of the female trio Vanity 6 from 1981 until it disbanded in 1983. They are known for their 1982 R&B/funk hit "Nasty Girl". Vanity's music career also included two solo albums on the Motown Records label, Wild Animal and Skin on Skin, as well as the minor hit singles "Pretty Mess", "Mechanical Emotion", "Undress" (from the movie Action Jackson), and "Under the Influence". She also had a successful film career, starring in the movies The Last Dragon, 52 Pick-Up, and Action Jackson. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Vanity appeared in many magazines around the world. She died on February 15, 2016, at the age of 57, due to renal failure.
Vanity was born on January 4, 1959 as Denise Katrina Matthews in Niagara Falls, Ontario, the daughter of Helga Senyk and Levia James Matthews. Her mother was of German, Jewish, and Polish descent, and was born in Germany, while her father was of African-American descent and was born in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Vanity began entering local beauty pageants before moving to Toronto, where she modeled. She won the Miss Niagara Hospitality title in 1977 and went on to compete for Miss Canada in 1978. At age 17, she moved to New York City to further her career. She signed with Zoli Model Agency. However, because she was short in stature, her modeling career was limited to commercials and photo shoots and included no runway work. Vanity appeared in ads for Pearl Drops toothpaste, before completing a modeling stint in Japan.
In 1980, she had a small role in the horror movie Terror Train, which was filmed in Montreal a year earlier. She then went to Toronto to film the lead role in the B-movie Tanya's Island. At the time of both film roles, she was billed as D.D. Winters. In 1980, she met Prince when she was Rick James' date at the American Music Awards. Prince renamed her Vanity, as he considered her to be the female form of himself. After learning that Vanity could sing, Prince asked her to become the lead singer of the girl group Vanity 6. Vanity 6 recorded one album, and had some success internationally with the single "Nasty Girl". Vanity then left the group (and Prince's organization), and signed with Motown Records as a solo artist in 1984. She released two albums for Motown in the mid-1980s, and had mild success on the US pop and R&B charts with a handful of singles.
After her music career started, as Vanity she starred in a number of movies, including The Last Dragon (1985), which featured her underground hit "7th Heaven." In 1986 she starred in Never Too Young to Die opposite John Stamos. The film also featured Gene Simmons. She went on to appear in 52 Pick-Up and 1988's Action Jackson, her highest profile role, in which she starred opposite Carl Weathers, Craig T. Nelson, and Sharon Stone. From the mid–1980s to the early–1990s, Vanity guest–starred on numerous TV shows. She played a villain who tortured Nancy Allen's character in the 1990 TV movie Memories of Murder, guest-starred in an episode of Miami Vice's third season, and in 1992 appeared in an episode of Highlander: The Series. She also appeared in Friday the 13th: The Series in the episode entitled "Mesmer's Bauble".
She appeared nude in Playboy magazine in 1988.
In 1980, Matthews was dating Rick James, but after she met Prince at the American Music Awards, Matthews and Prince became an item. Vanity was linked romantically to Adam Ant (who wrote the track "Vanity" about her on his Strip album) and Billy Idol. In 1987, she stated that she and Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx were engaged. She joked that she would become Vanity 6 (Sixx) again. They never married. In Sixx's 2007 autobiography, The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star, he describes his 1987 drug use with Vanity who was addicted to crack cocaine at the time. In 1995, she married football player Anthony Smith of the Oakland Raiders.
In early 1992, Vanity became a born-again Christian, and explained in several interviews that she would not take any more sexualized roles. Her roles in 1992's Lady Boss and Highlander had Matthews play different kinds of characters. Simultaneously, she renounced her stage name Vanity and reverted to Denise once again. In 1993, Matthews was hospitalized for three months for near-fatal renal failure from her previous drug use. She recalled later that after being rushed to the hospital, doctors said she had three days to live while on life support. She stated that Jesus appeared to her at this time and spoke to her, saying that if she promised to abandon her Vanity persona, he would save her. Upon her recovery, she fully ended her performing career and devoted herself to being a born-again Christian. In 1995, she said, "When I came to the Lord Jesus Christ, I threw out about 1,000 tapes of mine—interview, every tape, every video, everything." She stated that she had chosen not to receive any further revenue from her work as Vanity, and cut off all ties with Hollywood and her former life in show business. After a kidney transplant in 1997, she decided to devote her life full time to Christ. She made speaking engagements at churches across the United States and worldwide. In 2010, she released her autobiography, Blame It On Vanity: Hollywood, Hell and Heaven.
Illness and death
Due to her kidney problems, which were caused by years of drug use while she worked as a performer, Matthews had to undergo peritoneal dialysis five times a day (each session was 20 minutes long). She suffered from sclerosing encapsulating peritonitis, a rare complication of a peritoneal dialysis, and died in a Fremont, California, hospital on February 15, 2016, from renal failure, aged 57. Her body was cremated and the ashes scattered off the coast of Hawaii. Coincidentally, Prince himself died two months later.
With Vanity 6
- Vanity 6 (1982)
With Vanity 6
|US R&B||US Dance
|1982||"He's So Dull"||—||—||—||92||—||44|
|"Drive Me Wild"||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|US R&B||US Dance
|1986||"Under the Influence"||56||9||6|
- 1982: 1999, Prince; "Free" (backing vocals)
- 1982: What Time Is It?, The Time; "The Walk" (spoken vocals)
- 1986: El DeBarge, El DeBarge; "Secrets of the Night" (backing vocals)
Vanity appeared in seven released music videos:
- 1982: "Nasty Girl", "He's So Dull" and "Drive Me Wild"
- 1984: "Pretty Mess"
- 1985: "7th Heaven" (video clips were from the movie The Last Dragon)
- 1986: "Under The Influence"
- 1988: "He Turned Me Out", a song performed by The Pointer Sisters from the soundtrack of Action Jackson. Vanity's co-star in the movie, Carl Weathers, appears alongside her in the video.
- 1985: The Last Dragon; "7th Heaven"
- 1988: Action Jackson; "Undress", "Faraway Eyes", and "Shotgun" with David Koz and featuring vocalist Kareem
|1980||Klondike Fever||Uncredited||Adventure, based on the writings of Jack London|
|Terror Train||Merry||Horror (credited as D.D. Winters)|
|Tanya's Island||Tanya||Fantasy (credited as D.D. Winters)|
|1985||The Last Dragon||Laura Charles||Martial arts musical (a.k.a. Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon)|
|1986||Never Too Young to Die||Danja Deering|
|52 Pick-Up||Doreen||Crime thriller|
|1987||Deadly Illusion||Rina||Action/crime thriller|
|1988||Action Jackson||Sydney Ash|
|1991||Neon City||Reno||Post-apocalyptic science fiction (a.k.a. Anno 2053 in Italy and Neonski Grad in Serbia)|
|1993||South Beach||Jennifer Derringer||Directed by Fred Williamson|
|Da Vinci's War||Lupe||Directed and co-written by Raymond Martino|
|1997||Kiss of Death||Blair||Filmed in April/May 1993, Vanity's last role.|
|1987||The New Mike Hammer||Holly||Episode: "Green Lipstick" (3.21)|
|Miami Vice||Ali Ferrand||Episode: "By Hooker By Crook" (3.20)|
|1988||T. and T.||K.C. Morgan||Episode: "A Secret No More" (2.6)|
|1989||Friday the 13th: The Series||Angelica||Episode: "The Secret Agenda of Mesmer's Bauble" (2.20)|
|Booker||Tina Maxwell||Episode: "Deals and Wheels: Part 1" (1.8) (a.k.a. 21 Jump Street 4.10)|
|1990||Memories of Murder||Carmen||Lifetime Television Network (a.k.a. Passing through Veils)|
|1991||Tales from the Crypt||Kathrine||Episode: "Dead Wait" (3.6)|
|Sweating Bullets||Maria||Episode: "Mafia Mistress" (2.2) (a.k.a. Tropical Heat)|
|1992||Silk Stalkings||Chantel||Episode: "Powder Burn" (1.20)|
|Lady Boss||Mary Lou Morley||Miniseries, based on Jackie Collins' novel of the same name with the teleplay by Jackie Collins|
|Highlander: The Series||Rebecca Lord||Episode: "Revenge Is Sweet" (1.10)|
|1993||Counterstrike||Sandra||Episode: "Muerte" (3.21)|
- Rosenberg, Eli (February 16, 2016). "Denise Matthews, Pop Singer Known as Vanity, Dies at 57". The New York Times. Retrieved February 18, 2016.
- Vanity 6 Lives Out Daring Fantasies On Stage. Jet. Johnson Publishing Company. January 24, 1983. Retrieved February 18, 2016.
- Law, John (December 10, 2007). "Her name was Vanity; Barely into her '30s, she had become an old woman on the inside ...the beauty queen from Niagara Falls was told she had three days to live. It was her lowest point. And the one.." Welland Tribune. Retrieved February 18, 2016.
- Courtland, Milloy (1997-06-04). "Former Siren Is Singing A New Song". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-03-31.: "Denise K. Matthews, of Niagara Falls... daughter of an African American father and a Polish Jewish mother..."
- Niagara Falls Review – Denise Matthews the Niagara Falls beauty queen who became Vanity
- Buchalter, Gail. (1984-10-15) Her Romance with Prince Hit the Rocks, but Vanity's Singing Career Is Going Grrr-Eat. Peopledf.com. Retrieved on 2010-08-18.
- Williams, Stereo (2016-02-20). "The Sexy, Holy Saga of Vanity: Prince's Muse Who Found God". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2017-11-04.
- Christian, Margena A. (2007-11-26). "Vanity". Jet. Johnson Publishing Company. 112 (21): 49. ISSN 0021-5996.
- "Vanity Weds Pro Football Star Anthony Smith After Monthlong Courtship". Jet. Johnson Publishing Company. 87 (23): 14. 1995-04-17. ISSN 0021-5996.
- Rettenmund, Matthew (1996). Totally Awesome 80s: A Lexicon Of the Music, Videos, Movies, TV shows, Stars, and Trends Of That Decadent Decade. Macmillan. p. 57. ISBN 0-312-14436-9.
- "Wow! After Smoking Crack Cocaine, Vanity Says Jesus Came To Her And Said.." I Love Old School Music. October 5, 2014. Retrieved February 18, 2016.
- "Former Prince Protege', Denise "Vanity" Matthews of Vanity 6, Dies At 57". Blame It On Vanity. February 15, 2016. Retrieved August 18, 2010.
- Ellise, Aria (February 15, 2016). "Former Prince Protege', Denise "Vanity" Matthews of Vanity 6, Dies At 57". BlackDoctor.org. Retrieved February 18, 2016.
- Whitburn, Joel (2005). Bubbling Under The Billboard Hot 100 1959–2004 (2nd ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 277. ISBN 0-89820-162-4.
- ((( Vanity > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles ))). allmusic (1959-01-04). Retrieved on 2010-08-18.
- Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (Illustrated ed.). St. Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 320. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
- "Ultratop > Vanity 6 — Nasty Girl" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved February 20, 2016.
- "dutchcharts.nl > Discografie Vanity 6" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved February 20, 2016.
- Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955–2002 (10th ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 739. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
- "Album: What Time Is It? - Prince Vault". www.princevault.com. Retrieved 2017-12-02.
- "South Beach". TCM database. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 16, 2016.
- "Da Vinci's War". TCM database. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 16, 2016.
- "Memories of Murder". TCM database. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 16, 2016.
- "Vanity (singer)". Jet. 78 (20): 62. Aug 27, 1990.
- "TV Review: Memories of Murder". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. August 10, 1990. Retrieved February 16, 2016.
- Tim Brooks; Earle Marsh (2003). "Sweating Bullets (Detective)". The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946–Present (Eighth ed.). New York City: Ballantine Books. p. 1158. ISBN 978-0-345-45542-0.
- "Lady Boss". TCM database. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 16, 2016.
- "Lady Boss (miniseries)". JackieCollins.com. Retrieved February 16, 2016.
- Vanity on IMDb
- Vanity at AllMusic
- Denise "Vanity" Matthews from The Last Dragon Tribute
- Stutz, Colin (Feb 15, 2016). "Vanity, Former Prince Protégé & Leader of the Vanity 6, Dies at 57". Billboard. Obituary.