A lot of us who were dancing in clubs in the 80’s can probably picture themselves moving to, or mouthing the words to, Vanity 6’s hit, Nasty Girl. And, I saw on social media that hearing of the lead singer Vanity’s passing this week at the age of 57 due to kidney ailments, saddened many all over the world.
Vanity actually renounced her stage name and returned to her born name, Denise Matthews, in the late 1990’s. She had found God following an overdose on cocaine, and became an evangelist who spoke all over the country about her transformation.
Born in Ontario, Canada, Denise started modeling at a young age and came to New York in the early 1980’s to pursue modeling and acting. Catching the eye of Prince at the American Music Awards at that time, the two connected, started a romantic relationship, and Prince groomed her to take on the sexy persona of Vanity, and the leader of the girl group, Vanity 6–something Denise resisted at first, but later relented, because, well…Prince.
After their breakup, Denise left Prince’s tutelage and went over to another record label, and missed out on appearing in the film Purple Rain, the role given instead to another up-and-coming Prince protege, Apollonia. Though she missed out on that opportunity, she did star in other films, and it’s said she was the crush of many teen boys when she starred in the movie, The Last Dragon. Denise was a beautiful woman, her roots a blend of her German and Polish, Jewish mother, and African-American father. She exuded sensuality when on stage, that is until she became a born-again Christian, and became more modest in dress and lifestyle.
I can remember dancing to Nasty Girl in some dark club somewhere in Boston in 1982…and if it was a night that I had had the right amount to drink I could imagine myself as uninhibited as Vanity and her back-up singers in their lace lingerie and garter belts, too.
Rest in peace, Denise Matthews. Thank you for your contributions to music, and for following the path on which you feel you were chosen to walk.
photo credit: www.imdb.com