Pop star formerly known as Vanity, Denise Katrina Matthews, is finally free from the shackles of her past as Prince’s protégé in Vanity 6. After a long struggle with her health—as a result of an unstable lifestyle in the limelight as Vanity—Denise passed away February 15th in a California hospital “due to complications from long standing kidney issues,” according to sources at the NY Times. She was 57.
Denise Matthews rose to fame as “Vanity,” model, actress and lead singer of the group Vanity 6. Denise had hit it big time. She had a lucrative and successful career as a star, but just like the meaning of the word “Vanity,” Denise said it was all worthless.
Blame it on Vanity
“It didn’t matter how much money I had or how many movies I had made…I hated what I did,” said Denise. “I worked hard to become Vanity, and I just pushed Denise aside.”
As Vanity, Denise Matthews had what many only dream of: money, fame, and adoring fans. She was living a glamorous life. But none of it really mattered to Denise. She was carrying a sadness inside, but she had an image to keep, so she put on a smile to mask it. Vanity was a mere shell of a person that Denise Matthews hid behind, and she didn’t like who she had become.
I spoke with Denise for several hours early last year and she was adamant—she did not want to leave the legacy of a “Nasty Girl,” as her most popular song portrayed. Her life was stained by everything that came with the dark side of the entertainment business. In fact, once Denise left that world, she said never intended to return unless it was to “preach to them.”
But the life that was so dark, filled with vanity, actually points to the grace of Jesus today.
Trading Vanity for Jesus
“I lived in the bottomless pit of Hollywood’s deception,” said Denise. “Lust and rock ’n’ roll, accompanied by drugs, lifted me high and dropped me like a steel beam. Sinking down into deep depression, I camouflaged my pain with even more makeup and a fake smile.”
At rock bottom, her vicious cocaine habit landed Denise Matthews in the hospital with dangerously high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blood clots in her brain, blindness, and deafness. Doctors gave her only three days to live.
But when Denise was so close to death, God was drawing her toward life in Jesus.
“With the devil breathing down my neck, trying desperately to snatch and strangle me for Hell, I repented.”
It was then Denise Matthews devoted her life wholly to Jesus.
Droppin’ Vanity Like it’s Hot
“One sweet day my Jesus reached down with his long extended love and pulled my wretched body up from the darkness…I live, move, breathe, love and have my being in Jesus.”
When Denise Matthews came to Christ, she quickly dropped the name Vanity.
Denise no longer wanted to be identified with Vanity or anything the name represented. Everything had changed for her, but Denise described the process as a series of “test, test, test” and “fail, fail, fail” with occasional “wins” that increased as she continued her walk with Jesus.
Denise said after almost 20 surgeries and going through “pain—like wish you were dead kind of pain,” she learned so much about God.
In a weak and feeble moment suffering from a myriad of health problems, Denise’s unsteady frame began lifting shouts and songs of praise to God—she was determined to thank Him no matter the circumstances. And she never looked back. “I live in the fullness of joy.”
Denise didn’t let her scars or her pain or her past as Vanity stop her from serving Jesus. She had several surgeries, lost both kidneys and underwent dialysis three times every week. Denise could have easily chosen to wallow in the grief of her past rebellion as Vanity. But she didn’t.
Denise Matthews lived as a redeemed child of God devoted wholly to Him. She deeply desired for all to come to a true knowledge of Jesus. Her life proved her passion–sharing the Gospel. Denise could be found droppin’ the name of Jesus to anyone, anywhere, anytime because she was totally sold out to Him.
According to sources, Denise said she was “ready to go home” just days before she passed. Her death wasn’t the end of Denise’s life—it was the beginning of a totally new life not only in Jesus, but with Jesus.
Denise Matthews’ faith in Jesus leaves a legacy of hope, not of vanity. Her story proves that no matter how low you go, or how far you may be from God, it’s never too far from His reach. No matter how dark or dingy the story, Jesus can reclaim you and make you clean.
“I have a strong, strong love for Jesus. Why? Because He saved me. He delivered me from anguish—from destroying myself…He delivered me from sin.”
No more Vanity for Denise Matthews now. Only Jesus.