Denise Matthews, a former protege of Prince and lead singer of ’80s group Vanity 6, has died from kidney failure, according to several reports. She was 57.
Matthews, more commonly known as Vanity, died Monday at a hospital in Fremont, Calif., where she lived. Matthews received a kidney transplant in 1997, but her health took a turn late last year after she was diagnosed with sclerosis encapsulating peritonitis, a severely painful kidney condition.
In 1994, Matthews’ crack cocaine addiction caused an almost-fatal renal failure, and she later said Jesus Christ appeared to her, offering a second chance at life if she left behind her persona as Vanity. After her 1997 kidney transplant, Matthews became a Christian evangelist — a story she expanded on in her self-published autobiography “Blame It on Vanity.”
The singer and actress had several hits in the early 1980s with Vanity 6, most notably the Prince-produced “Nasty Gal,” released in 1982. The sexual single made it to No. 1 on the Billboard dance charts, but did not perform well on the radio.
In 1984, Matthews disbanded Vanity 6. She released two solo records, “Wild Animal” and “Skin on Skin,” after signing with Motown Records.
Matthews also pursued acting, starring in the Berry Gordy-produced “The Last Dragon” in 1985. She also appeared in “Never Too Young to Die” with John Stamos, “52 Pick-Up” and “Action Jackson.”
Rapper MC Hammer paid tribute to Matthews via Twitter Monday.