220px-Vanity 1984.jpg

Denise Katrina Matthews (January 4, 1959 – February 15, 2016), better known as Vanity, was a Canadian singer, songwriter, dancer, actress and model, who turned away from her music and acting career to concentrate on evangelism.[1] Her career lasted from the early–1980s until the 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 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 to the 1990s, Vanity appeared in many magazines around the world. She died on February 15, 2016, at the age of 57, due to renal failure.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Vanity was born on January 4, 1959[2] as Denise Katrina Matthews in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, she was the daughter of Helga Senyk and James Levia Matthews.[3] Her mother is of Polish, German, and Jewish descent and was born in Germany, while her father was of Afro-Canadian, ancestry.[4]

Career[edit | edit source]


Vanity began entering local beauty pageants before moving to Toronto, where she modeled. She won the Miss Niagara Hospitality title in 1977[5] 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 stunt 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 at the American Music Awards.[6] 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.[6] After her music career started, as Vanity she starred in a number of movies, including The Last Dragon, 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".

Personal life[edit | edit source]

Besides Prince, Vanity was linked romantically to Adam Ant and Billy Idol.[7] 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.[8]

Christian conversion

In 1994, Vanity overdosed on crack cocaine and suffered from near-fatal renal failure. She recalled that after being rushed to the hospital, doctors said she had three days to live while on life support. She said that Jesus appeared to her at this time and spoke to her, saying, if she promised to give up her Vanity persona, he would save her. Upon her recovery, she completely renounced her stage name and career and became 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."[9] 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.[10] After a kidney transplant in 1997, she decided to devote her life 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.[11]

Illness and death

Due to her kidney problems which were caused by years of drug use while she worked as a performer, she had to undergo peritoneal dialysis five times a day (each session was 20 minutes long).[7][10][12] 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, at the age of 57. She was cremated and her ashes were scattered off the coast of Hawaii.[13]

Two months after her death, on April 21, 2016, her ex-lover and boss Prince died in his Paisley Park residence.

Discography[edit | edit source]


With Vanity 6 1982: Vanity 6

Solo 1984: Wild Animal (Motown) 1986: Skin on Skin (Motown)


With Vanity 6



US [14]


US Dance [15]

AUS [16]




NLD [18]

1982 "He's So Dull" — — — 92 — 44 "Nasty Girl" 101 7 1 — 11 7 "Drive Me Wild" — — — — — — "Make Up" — — — — — —




US [14][19]


US Dance [15]

1984 "Pretty Mess" 75 15 13 1985 "Mechanical Emotion" 107 23 — 1986 "Under the Influence" 56 9 6 "Animals" — — — 1988 "Undress" — — —

Guest vocals 1982: 1999, Prince; "Free" (backing vocals) 1982: What Time Is It?, The Time; "The Walk" (spoken vocals) 1982: What Time Is It?, The Time; "Wild and Loose" (spoken vocals, along with other Vanity 6 members) 1986: El DeBarge, El DeBarge; "Secrets of the Night" (backing vocals)

Music videos

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.

Soundtrack appearances 1985: The Last Dragon; "7th Heaven" 1988: Action Jackson; "Undress", "Faraway Eyes", and "Shotgun" with David Koz and featuring vocalist Kareem

Filmography[edit | edit source]






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 1992 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[20] Da Vinci's War Lupe Directed and co-written by Raymond Martino[21] 1997 Kiss of Death Blair






1987 The New Mike Hammer Holly Episode: "Green Lipstick/Mike's Daughter" (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) (a.k.a. Friday's Curse in the UK) Booker Tina Maxwell Episode: "Deals and Wheels: Part 1" (1.8) 1990 Memories of Murder Carmen Lifetime Television Network (a.k.a. Passing through Veils)[22][23][24] 1991 Tales from the Crypt Kathrine Episode: "Dead Wait" (3.6) Sweating Bullets Maria Episode: "Mafia Mistress" (2.2) (a.k.a. Tropical Heat)[25] 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[26][27] Highlander: The Series Rebecca Lord Episode: "Revenge Is Sweet" (1.10) 1993 Counterstrike Sandra Episode: "Muerte" (3.21)

References[edit | edit source]

1.Jump up ^ Rosenberg, Eli (February 16, 2016). "Denise Matthews, Pop Singer Known as Vanity, Dies at 57". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved February 18, 2016. 2.Jump up ^ Vanity 6 Lives Out Daring Fantasies On Stage. Jet (Johnson Publishing Company). January 24, 1983. Retrieved February 18, 2016. 3.Jump up ^ 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. 4.Jump up ^ 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..." 5.Jump up ^ Niagara Falls Review – Denise Matthews the Niagara Falls beauty queen who became Vanity 6.^ Jump up to: a b 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. 7.^ Jump up to: a b Christian, Margena A. (2007-11-26). "Vanity". Jet (Johnson Publishing Company) 112 (21): 49. ISSN 0021-5996. 8.Jump up ^ "Vanity Weds Pro Football Star Anthony Smith After Monthlong Courtship". Jet (Johnson Publishing Company) 87 (23): 14. 1995-04-17. ISSN 0021-5996. 9.Jump up ^ 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. 10.^ Jump up to: a b "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. 11.Jump up ^ "Former Prince Protege’, Denise "Vanity" Matthews of Vanity 6, Dies At 57". Blame It On Vanity. February 15, 2016. Retrieved August 18, 2010. 12.Jump up ^ Ellise, Aria (February 15, 2016). "Former Prince Protege’, Denise "Vanity" Matthews of Vanity 6, Dies At 57". BlackDoctor. Retrieved February 18, 2016. 13.Jump up ^ M., Luis (February 15, 2016). "Denise Katrina "Vanity" Matthews". findagrave.com. Retrieved June 13, 2016. 14.^ Jump up to: a b 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. 15.^ Jump up to: a b ((( Vanity > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles ))). allmusic (1959-01-04). Retrieved on 2010-08-18. 16.Jump up ^ 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. 17.Jump up ^ "Ultratop > Vanity 6 — Nasty Girl" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved February 20, 2016. 18.Jump up ^ "dutchcharts.nl > Discografie Vanity 6" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved February 20, 2016. 19.Jump up ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955–2002 (10th ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 739. ISBN 0-89820-155-1. 20.Jump up ^ "South Beach". TCM database. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 16, 2016. 21.Jump up ^ "Da Vinci's War". TCM database. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 16, 2016. 22.Jump up ^ "Memories of Murder". TCM database. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 16, 2016. 23.Jump up ^ "Vanity (singer)". Jet 78 (20): 62. Aug 27, 1990. 24.Jump up ^ "TV Review: Memories of Murder". Entertainment Weekly (Time Inc.). August 10, 1990. Retrieved February 16, 2016. 25.Jump up ^ 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. 26.Jump up ^ "Lady Boss". TCM database. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 16, 2016. 27.Jump up ^ "Lady Boss (miniseries)". JackieCollins.com. Retrieved February 16, 2016.

External links[edit | edit source]

Portal icon Biography portal Portal icon Canada portal Portal icon Ontario portal Portal icon Music portal Portal icon Film portal Portal icon Television portal Vanity at the Internet Movie Database Vanity at AllMusic Denise "Vanity" Matthews from The Last Dragon Tribute Obit from Billboard. Retrieved 2016-02-16

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