Vanity Of Vanities: Remembering Denise Matthew’s Life Journey 6 Years Later

by spicyray

Denise Matthews might as well remember standing in the corner as a shadowy figure lurking, and watching herself as her alter ego Vanity ran wild. Looking at Matthews’ life now, she must have cringed at the great lengths that Vanity would resort to, such as sniffing heavy amounts of cocaine, engaging in wild sexual activity with any willing partner, and living up to her entitled 1984 Wild Animal CD.

Vanity was routinely known as a “junkie”, something of a picture that was in stark contrast to the God-fearing image that Matthews would become–spending years later trying to undo her mistakes.

Denise knew that if Vanity didn’t get off her destructive path, the only result was death. In Denise Matthews’ book Blame it on Vanity, Matthews detailed her life events. She revealed how she developed a reputation as a sex goddess that took the name Vanity to its furthest point. “Vanity was dying. It was drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, that whole sexual thing. Vanity was praying to die because she was lost and hurting inside,” Matthews told an interviewer.

A journey through Denise Matthew’s life might be a wake up call for others, as she intended…

Prince’ influence on Vanity

Photo: GQ

Matthews was given the nickname Vanity by her former boyfriend, the late Prince, a name she would come to despise later in life. “Prince created the whole Vanity Six image. It bothered me at the time. I lied and said it was the image I wanted. I did it because he told me I had to do it,” she told a magazine. “If I didn’t do it, I wouldn’t get paid. I got into it.”

Prince who was known for wild partying, and his androgynous take on fashion influenced Matthews to perform on stage in X-rated outfits, with lyrics that enhanced and surpassed his dirty image. Although they met at the American Music Awards in 1980, Matthews started dating Prince, but before that relationship. She had been dating the singer Rick James, who was even worse for her than Prince. It clearly depicted Vanity’s choice of men at the time.

James was known as merely nasty and flouted his drug use at a time. In the 80s, when most celebrities tried hard not to let their substance use issues become public. He wrote the song “Mary Jane” about marijuana and wrote “Super Freak,” a song that puts James on the musical map even to this day.

James, who would eventually die due to years of drug abuse and poor health, hoped to start an all-girl group. He planned to create a group whose image and music excited male fans and invoked powerful feelings of jealousy in the average woman. Vanity was on a roll and couldn’t be stopped. From James to Prince, she kept up her highly sexualized persona.

Vanity’s mental health

Photo: Entertainment Weekly

Prince was rumored to have taken James’ vision of a raunchy girl group and ran with it. He renamed Denise “Vanity” and asked her to join the group Vanity Six. Then succeeded in writing songs for the group, including “Nasty Girls” and “Drive Me Wild.”

Denise Matthews revealed that she was easy prey due to the ongoing physical and psychological abuse that she suffered at her father’s hands, growing up in Canada. The physical and psychological scars left her with a deep-seated dislike for her father. “The Bible says there will come a day when the mother will go against the father, and children will stand up and shoot their parents. And it’s happening. Kids are shooting their parents. I wish I could see my father in heaven, but I won’t. He’s in hell,” she said.

As time went on, Vanity fell deeper into depression. Her chronic drug use went from casual to hardcore, lasting over ten years. “Vanity was dying,” she said in an interview. “Vanity was praying to die because she was lost and hurting inside. God said you have to go through darkness until you find His light.” Their relationship was drug and sex focused and although they seemed to be having the time of their lives, Vanity’s mental health was depleting by the second.

Vanity moves on from Prince but was that the end?

 Photo: IMDb.com


Although slated to feature in the movie “Purple Rain” as a lead actress, Matthews found the inner strength to break off her relationship with Prince in 1983. Vanity returned to acting and landed roles in movies such as “The Last Dragon,” “Action Jackson,” “Never Too Young to Die,” and “52 Pick-Up,” all low budget and low quality. She was still pursuing her musical career as well. Motown records took an interest, and Vanity released two C.D.s.

True to her reputation, the songs reflected the image that she had crafted with Prince. “Pretty Mess” and “Under the Influence of a Four-Letter Word on My Mind” had some success but were not hits. The titles of her C.D.s, “Wild Animal” and “Skin on Skin,” were symbolic of how empty Matthews felt, living as Vanity.

“While engaged in the behavior or substance, people have a sense of being transformed from feelings of low self-worth to false feelings of great worth and value,” writes renowned addition specialist Claudia Black in her book Straight Talk.The substance or behavior transforms people from a feeling of being ‘less than’ to feelings of being ‘greater than’ and takes one from a sense of shame to grandiosity.”

When Matthews, still living as Vanity, announced her engagement to Motley Crue bass player Nikki Sixx, it was surprising but not shocking; Sixx is known for his drug use and womanizing. Sixx claimed that he and Matthews had done drugs for days and nights and almost died from a drug overdose.

“I would truly hate what I was doing, but I was all caught up in it. It’s like someone caught up in a lie who wants to tell the truth. You put this big façade up, and you don’t want to give anyone the idea that you’re weak,” said Matthews.

A life-saving epiphany

Photo: WNG.org

Vanity was on a hospital bed, her kidney failing from prolonged usage of drugs. Doctors told her she had few days to live. “My blood pressure was 250 over 190. I lost both kidneys. I had internal bleeding with blood clots on the brain. I was completely blind and deaf. I had a heart attack and a stroke.” She told Jet.

Matthews revealed she fell into a trance and God asked her to kill Vanity and accept Christ as lord, and she would live. Of course, she yielded and cut all ties with Vanity by discarding all her tapes and rejecting all royalties from Vanity’s career. As the years went on, Matthews, now Denise again, was determined to get and stay sober.

After meeting former L.A. Rams football player Anthony Smith, the two married in a misguided move. Smith, who is now serving a sentence of life in prison for killing two men, said he grew tired of Matthews’ charitable ways. “If I don’t watch out, she will even hand out the furniture in our house,” he said in an interview. “She is constantly giving out her number and offering meals and showers to people.” They dissolved the marriage after 2 years.

Speculations about Matthews’ ministry

Photo: Rolling Stone

Matthews became a full-time minister, preaching in churches, and converting others to Christianity. Her zeal for teaching about the Bible and connecting every thought and action to God raised the speculation that she had developed an addiction to religion.

As the black-and-white, all-or-nothing people that we are, we assume that if a little religion is good, a whole lot more must be a whole lot better,” said a staff member at Elements Behavioral Health in an article called 5 Signs You May Be Addicted to Religion.

“After all, finally, we’re feeling good and getting our lives back on track. We’re starting to understand the meaning of a spiritual experience, and we can’t deny how good the spiritual highs make us feel. But it is possible to have too much of a good thing and addiction, in any form, has the power to be destructive.”

Matthews passes on

Photo: Northernstars.ca

In February 2016, at the age of 57, Denise “Vanity” Matthews passed away from kidney failure. Days before her death, she posted a moving message on Facebook. “I want everyone to remember what Jesus has done for me. I wrote a whole biography on the subject, ‘Blame it on Vanity.’ My Lord ordained this testimony.” Her former boyfriend Prince died three months after Matthews from an overdose.

Matthews could do what her selfish alter ego, Vanity, could never have done at the time of her death. In her will, she left her church members a 2007 Saturn, a Buick Encore, a $39,000 diamond ring, $7,000 in jewelry, part of her house, a sword collection, and 40% of the publishing and movie rights to her autobiography; “I Blame Vanity.”

She replaced one addiction with another, devoting her life to Christ with the same abandon she had previously dedicated to drugs. She spent a part of her life unable to tell who she was, living with a name a boyfriend gave her because he liked the way it reflected on him. But in the end, she was able to decide how she left this world and what her legacy would be. That is something Denise could be proud of. She lived an inspiring life, reminding everyone that you can chart a new course in life, and rewrite your story.

Cover Source: God’s Report

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