Ode to the « First Lady of Rock and Princess of Funk »

From left to right: Brend Bennett, Vanity (a.k.a. Denise Matthews), and Susan Moonsie Vanity Six I do not own the copyright to this photo. However, the photo is mine.




It was a beautiful autumn night in Santa Monica, California in 1982. I was in the second grade. School was over and it was almost 8:00 P.M. when we left one of the laundromats.

Me, my mother, and three sisters left the laundromat and entered the Monte Carlo. Mom turned on the radio and I could hear one of the disc jockeys talking on the radio.

It was an exciting evening for me. We as a family were going to go cruising down the highway somewhere. Although the final destination was unknown to us children, I did not care. Because, I knew that a medley of my favorite songs were going to come on the radio.

My favorite song at this particular time came on before 10:00 P.M. It was « Nasty Girl », by Vanity 6. Although it took years to find out what the song was about, I knew that the year 1982 at this particular point in time was not the time to ask my mom what this song meant.

I got cursed out earlier that year for asking my mother why the moon was following us around all night(haha!). After getting cussed out for asking the question about the moon, I was told not to ask any more  » crazy ass questions ». It would take me another three years to dredge up the nerve to ask my science teacher this very same question.

So, instead of worrying about asking my mom about what « Nasty Girl » meant, I decided to ask her who sang the song. At the time, she did not know.

However, I did not have to wait too long to find out. The radio d.j. announced it on another night. The song was so funky and I absolutely loved that unique guitar lick, including the funky keyboard rhythm.

Back then I did not hear all of those sexual sounds or anything that one can hear on the extended version. Neither did I get an opportunity to watch the actual video, until Youtube came into existence. I learned even more info about the girl group Vanity 6 when mom subscribed to Jet Magazine. One sunny afternoon mom received Jet Magazine.

And, Vanity 6 was on the cover! (Jet Magazine, Vol. 63, No. 19, Jan. 24, 1983-Page 58) The magazine revealed more information about the group’s lead singer as well. Not only did the lead singer Vanity(a.k.a. Denise Matthews)sound sexy, she was just as alluring, beautiful, and sexy! And the other two members of the group were beautiful, too(Brenda Bennett and Susan Moonsie)! Furthermore into the article, I read that the founder behind the group Vanity 6 was none other than the musical genius Prince Rogers Nelson!

Prince! The very man who sang the song that my sister and I(who is two years younger than me)used to argue over(« Controversy « )!  Our argument was over the lyrics. It was always a toss up between  » Eat Yo’  Pussy » and « Octopussy ». Seriously, my sister and I truly thought that those were the lyrics.To continue, Prince was the very same man, who was very instrumental behind the success of the group The Time and lots of other people.

Some of my favorite songs by some of these groups were(and still are) » Nasty Girl »(https://youtu.be/VOeP0MO7eEI), « The Walk »(https://youtu.be/5bOxoe8qDGQ),  » Cool »(https://youtu.be/OuSKqhfeknc), « 777-9311″(https://youtu.be/bIyBuRjtUx4), and  » Gigolos Get Lonely, Too »(https://youtu.be/DPE-1iAndeo).

My favorite Prince songs in 1982 were « Controversy »(https://youtu.be/T0pewqF8POE) and « 1999 »(https://youtu.be/NbaJVdriHoc). All of these songs, except for  » Gigolos Get Lonely, Too », were usually all played in the same program on the radio back then. « Gigolos Get Lonely Too », by The Time was usually played with other slow songs later on in the night.

Some of the other songs that were on the radio in the same program were  » In Between the Sheets »(https://youtu.be/Pf_si60K9nM) and « Let’s Make Love Tonight » (https://youtu.be/uMV5Ivw6o_c), by The Isley Brothers(actually one or two radio stations in particular practically played the entire In Between the Sheets album!) and « Loves Train »(https://youtu.be/ZXo_CH1gqkg), by Confunkshun.

As success continued for the short lived Vanity 6, rumors and questions began to spread, such as: « Which girl group got discovered first? : Vanity 6 or The Mary Jane Girls? »

To continue, other rumor questions were, »Why was Vanity 6 copying off of The Mary Jane Girls’s fashion style(loungerie)? » Or, vice versa. Source(s):



Other rumors were that « Prince and Rick James hated one another(Jet Magazine, September 26, 1983). » Other Source: http://faac.us/adf/messages/150056/147869.html?1183057752



Also, check out:


(Rick James met Denise Matthews, first)

And, « part of the reason was that The Mary Jane Girls, discovered by Rick James, came out before Vanity 6. »

Source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Jane_Girls




Later, more rumors spread regarding the breakup of Vanity 6 and why.

Although I was a small child, I heard a lot of the gossip on the radio and by  » word on the street ». I heard that « Vanity was fired by Prince, because she decided to star in the Berry Gordy movie The Last Dragon, instead of starring in Prince’s movie Purple Rain. Furthermore, I heard that both Purple Rain and The Last Dragon were filming the same exact day! And, the filming schedules in between both films made it impossible for Denise to be in both movies. »

As a result, it boiled down to Denise having to make a difficult decision: « Which would be the best career move to further her career in a number of ways? »

« Who would bring her more money? Berry Gordy or Prince? »

These are the rumors that I heard. I also heard that « Purple Rain was written first. And, although Denise was cast in Purple Rain first, doing something with Motown sounded better and more profitable(http://prince.org/msg/5/397796).



To add, further rumors were that Prince was Motown’s competitor(a « one man band » against an entire record label!)in several different ways and an enemy of Rick James. »

Source:  Jet Magazine, Aug. 13, 1984

Jet Magazine, Sep. 3, 1984

Jet Magazine, March 25, 1985

Other Sources: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purple_Rain_





(Contributed by Greg of the Rain) »In the original trailer that appeared in theaters, it was Vanity and not Apollonia, who Prince grabbed from Morris, to make his daring escape.  »

« But, Vanity and Prince did not finish the movie as they had a falling out of sorts. »

Some of these reasons were the reasons for the firing of Denise Matthews from Vanity 6(things that I heard).


Again, these were rumors that I had heard as a kid. Although The Last Dragon made headlines, and I found the movie to be great, it seemed like the song « Rhythm of the Night », by DeBarge, ended up being more successful than the movie The Last Dragon! As a growing child, I really didn’t understand all of this gossip shit. I just know that I got pissed off when I no longer saw Vanity in the group Vanity 6 anymore.

Vanity 6 became Apollonia 6.

Source: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Vskr1-D_WOk

After Purple Rain, it seemed like things were getting pretty scarce for Denise, until she was given a role in the movie Action Jackson. I thought that there a few good songs on that soundtrack. Here are my favorites:

Two songs that were sung by Vanity:  These were  » Undress Me » and « Shotgun », featuring Dave Koz. During this time, she was with Motown Records.

Next, I loved whenever she performed on Soul Train(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bIuA8U9ASQ). She reminded me of a brown Barbie Doll. Both Vanity and the cartoon Gem were pretty cool at the time. As more years rolled by, it seemed like Denise slowed down a little careerwise.

I did not know why, until I read that she had become an evangelist.

Source: Jet Magazine, June 30, 1997

Growing up back then, it seemed like it just wasn’t cool to be an evangelist.

Especially, after the Jim Baker scandal. I could not believe that she was serious about becoming an evangelist! After she announced this, there were a lot of crude jokes about her.

Then, I saw on television that she got married(got married to L.A. Raiders football player Anthony Smith)!When I saw how her husband looked, I began to wonder if this  » Jesus crusade » caused her to go blind.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-znZ8GysGoo

Her husband was by no means a winner in the beauty department. Next, I entered college for the first time in 1997. My regular jam to play was « Nasty Girls ». Spike Lee’s movie Girl 6 influenced me to buy the entire movie soundtrack. And later on lots of Prince CD’s. Me and a friend of mine played  » Nasty Girl » over and over.

If I had an Alma mater, « Nasty Girl » was it! Hell, that was practically my theme song! Yep! That song had me thinking from time to time about how Denise was doing.

Because, by 1998 it seemed like Denise Matthews totally stepped out of the limelight. It is too bad that Motown did not keep her with the record company a little longer. I felt that Motown could have done more for Denise’s career, especially by experimenting a little more with music styles.

She was versatile regarding music genre. She sang rock, pop, funk, and R&B. There were not many collaborations! Her voice was more than just sensual. She actually had a nice singing voice! And, Motown brought that out! Sort of. The song « In My Dreams » is proof. Although I do not know exactly where you can find this song other than on this link:

Note: I do not know what record label has this song. It is nice. She surpassed the « pillow talk », and  » me so horny » type of « get me in the mood for fucking » type of songs(« Nasty Girl », « Pretty Mess »,  » Undress Me », and « Mechanical Emotion » are examples).

By the way, the songs listed above are my favorites sung by Denise. She could have sung more ballads and funk music! All in all, her career in Hollywood was short lived. She played in less than thirty films, had only three albums, and did not have many collaborations. Here are some of her accomplishments throughout her career:



Vanity 6 (1982)

Wild Animal (1984)

Skin On Skin (1986)




Terror Train (billed as D.D. Winters)

Tanya’s Island (billed as D.D. Winters)

The Last Dragon

Never Too Young to Die

52 Pick-Up

Action Jackson

Klondike Fever

Deadly Illusion

Neon City

South Beach

DA Vinci’s War

Kiss of Death



Television Shows:


Memories of Murder

Miami Vice

Highlander: The Series

Friday the 13th: The Series


The New Mike Hammer

T. and T.


Tales from the Crypt

Sweating Bullets

Silk Stalkings

Lady Boss






As more years went by and the world advanced more into the « digital and computer age », I really wanted to know what in the fuck was going on with Denise.

And, why was she not on T.V. anymore? It was not until around 2014 when I ran across an article that she was on dialysis! It even hurt for her to pick up a phone(http://www.niagarafallsreview.ca/2016/02/16/denise-matthews-the-niagara-falls-beauty-queen-who-became-vanity)!

After reading what I read, I then began thinking.

I began thinking that not only has anyone in the world hardly taken her seriously regarding being an evangelist, she was basically  » written off » from the world of fame and fortune.

And, hardly anyone cared! So, in 2015 I decided that I wanted to reach out and try to speak with Denise. I wanted to offer some words of encouragement (if it was possible).

Celebrities are people, too! Even ones like Denise who seemed to be abandoned. Although I was homeless off and on at the time, I wanted to reach out somehow! The world was not reaching out to this loving, beautiful, and talented individual!

She was going through some horrible fucking times herself! I know that it can be a cold world out there sometimes. However, I felt that those in the world who were financially able should have reached out to evangelist Denise Matthews .

She needed help in the biggest way, in the name of Jesus! She needed help so that all of her physical and mental pain, heartache, hell, misery, and more could be less and more tolerable to carry on for the remainder of her last fifteen years on this Earth. In my opinion, religion only can go so far. In some cases, I think that it depends on how miserable some people are, and if in reality their bad situations can be turned around for the better.

This is in regards to faith and keeping it before a person breaks. In my opinion, Denise was like a soldier being brave and continuing to walk through all of the hell she went through in life. If prophets truly existed in this day and time, I would hope that she would be healed and given the title of « Saint ». And, I automatically know that I will not even be able to come close to being half the woman that Denise became!

How many women in this world experience pain of the physical and emotional kind for 15-20+ years? I am talking about pain from abuse, heartbreak, abandonment from so many, barrenness, loneliness, continued illness, poverty, and if not poverty, sacrifice beyond so many boundaries, and the inability to freely walk through various closed doors that should have opened to renewed success and everlasting blessings?

How many women have gone through all of these incidents of misfortune all at one time? I certainly do not know! But, what I do know is the fact that Denise went through most of these things!

Nor, can I even imagine of being barren. To me, being able to have children is a huge milestone for a woman. In my family it is a sign of womanhood.  And being barren is cause for ridicule and more. I would elaborate on this even further. However, I will not. And, I certainly do not know why Denise did not have any children.

I mean no disrespect to those who are not able to have children nor give birth. However, thank God for modern science, more women are able to have their little « bundles of joy ». This includes surrogacy, and other methods. Still, there are many others who remain unable to have children, due to whatever medical malady(ies).

Further, Denise marched right on past barrenness and championed on, preaching « the good word ». Even when people made fun of her, had no more scheduled television appearances, and no huge offers to even speak about religious matters. Although she is not Jesus Christ, nor any of the twelve apostles, she was a « Saint » in my book! Denise suffered with pain and ill health. Although she was no Job, she suffered greatly. Yet, she continued to preach.



Like a lovely, precious, and innocent child, she played with her pet cats. It made me tear up seeing how she coped living alone and with just two cats!(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m815IhkIRSk)

There was no medical personnel by her side at home(as far as I know), nor butler to help her with even the simplest of tasks, such as: holding a phone when she was in too much pain to hold the phone to speak to anyone. In addition to the many struggles that she had, she had financial woes.

Like most self-publishers(including myself), she struggled with selling copies of her books. And, received some flack for doing so! Her beautiful book titled Blame It On Vanity, has yet to become a bestseller(https://www.gofundme.com/esiy74)

Like the thousands of people who have donation URLs like a Gofundme page, Denise was not even able to raise much money. She really needed it, too.

Those funds were to be used to continue her medical care. After all, who was going to pay for her medical care. And, how? How much did she raise?

She barely raised $6,000.00!($6,709-her goal was $50,000.00)

Source: https://www.gofundme.com/esiy74

She didn’t even have a regular secretary to help her or totally take over her responsibilities of selling her merchandise that was also needed to pay her expenses and costs of living, etc.(at the time you could even reach her personally via internet at denise.matthews@att.net)!

Nor did she have anyone to monitor her personal phone calls to avoid the « weirdos » out there. Times got so bad for Denise, that she was selling her very own shoes and jewelry items that she had back in the 1980’s and 1990’s!

Also, it looked like she made crafts to sell to sustain herself, to survive.








I hate to even think that she went without having a bodyguard. That is a scary thought concerning Denise.

And during all of Denise’s hell on Earth. To add to all of the torture that she went through, she experienced a lot of bullshit messages. Some were nice compliments and some of the compliments that she received on social media were just flat out tasteless and rude.

Like Florence Nightingale, Denise was dedicated. Like Moses, she preached and got rid of what material possessions that she had in order to survive(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ugpoap3y-Ko

Like royalty, she carried herself like a real lady, as early as the beginning of her professional career(maybe even earlier), until the very end.

Like a professional boxer, she faced all of her opponents head on(struggles), continuing on through every fight, handling each one of her problems as if they were an opponent in a boxing match, and she were the « victor ».

In addition, I felt that Denise had to have a lot of pride not to approach people she used to know from the past, when she was successful years before.

It took a lot of pride not to ask any of them for financial help.Yet, she continued to preach the word of God, continued to give him praise, and had more faith  » than a mustard seed ».







She had so much faith that she refused another kidney, via organ donation to help increase her longevity on this planet.






Although I have my own reservations regarding organ donation, I do feel that it is most unfortunate that she did not choose this route and go ahead and accept another kidney donation.To me, beauty was « more than skin deep » concerning Denise Matthews.

She was not only a natural beauty(she looked lovely without makeup!), she had inner beauty. Her love for God and continuance to preach remained unwavering.




I know that I could not do it.

On the weekend of February 14th, 2016, I was two months overdue to write about Denise(a.k.a. Vanity)Matthews. As a result, on this very weekend was the weekend that I was going to work on writing a blog post about her.

Those were my final days during that weekend at the hotel where I temporarily resided, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. My room’s tab was covered for a few weeks. But, my time there was running out. Since my days there were running out, I decided that February 15th, 2016, I was going to finally work on my blog post about Ms. Denise Katrina Matthews, also known as Vanity, former  protégé of Prince.

And, frontwoman of the trio called Vanity 6. First, I decided to play most of Denise’s songs so that I could get my creative juices flowing. I listened to some from the Vanity 6 album and others from when Denise went solo. And, I played these songs all weekend. February 14th, 2016 was an exciting day for me.

I walked from 11th Street and North Garnett in Tulsa, to the outskirts of Broken Arrow, on 71st Street and South Garnett. After finishing up some business, I walked to the movie theater over there and stepped inside.

Next, I ordered nachos with my favorite toppings. My nachos had chili, cheese, onions, and everything else that I desired! Too bad that place no longer serves sour cream with it.

Shit! Anywho, I ordered my drink after that, charged my cellphone, and ate my meal. Afterwards, I stepped inside of the main lobby to watch the 80’s Valentine’s Day movie marathon! :


Pretty In Pink!


The theater was jam packed! It was so packed that I had to sit in the very front of the theater! It was the first row! The movie was great! I always wanted to watch Pretty In Pink from the very beginning and in its entirety.

That means watching and enjoying this film without having to watch it on television! After the movies, I took a cab back to my room, stopped at the gas station, and wrapped it up for the night. I was eager to get started on my blog post, because I knew that when it was time to check out of the hotel for good, I was going to have to return to the cold.

The first thing that I did was play more Vanity 6 music, videos, and other 1980’s music and videos. I even watched snippets of both Breakin’ movies. Additionally, I listened to the Breakin’ movie series soundtracks as well! After that, it was time to retire for the night.

So, I went to bed. Monday, February 15th, 2016, I woke up, hopped on the bus, took care of more business matters, and remained enthusiastic about the events to come.

Upon my return to the hotel that day, I decided to browse the internet. And, there the headliner was: Denise(a.k.a. Vanity)Matthews, Prince protégé and former frontleader of the girl group Vanity 6, passed away. I was fucking beside myself! What the fuck?!!!

My whole world seemed to shatter! I am not going to continue on about how I felt about her passing. However, it sure was a sad day. This was just the beginning of this world’s sorrows.

Just two months later, Prince Rogers Nelson, her mentor and reflection, mysteriously passed away.

Sometimes a man knows when he has met his other half. He can be young or old if and when he sees this.

When he does, his other half may not realize this yet. If and when the other half realizes it and a relationship blossoms from it, this unique thing in life becomes special. More special than it already is when it is felt between two people.

The Beautiful Ones


There always seemed like there was something special about the song « The Beautiful Ones ». Prince sang this song with such passion! Such feeling! I felt like he was singing about some lady.

I feel like he was singing about Denise(a.k.a. Vanity)Matthews. Especially, because of all the different events that took place and led to the breakup of Vanity 6, and Denise being written out of the Purple Rain script, movie, and more.








Both Prince and Vanity(Denise Matthews) eventually moved on. Or, did they? Let’s say that both artists did move on. Although both moved on, their lives did seem to intertwine somehow.

When Denise finally married, she married someone who looked totally opposite of what she used to date and see(Billy Idol, Nikki Sixx, and Prince. Prince was a pretty boy. Her husband was not.

Source: Jet Magazine, May 5, 1986

Prince was pretty to the point where men found themselves mesmerized by Prince’s beauty. Hell, even my dad and other’s mentioned this(https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Qb6cyxNnaME)


Although Prince married once, He married yet again…..to a pretty brown skinned female from Canada! Although,this second wife of Prince’s resembled Denise a little, Mrs. Testolini Benet(now married to Eric Benet)in my opinion still does not hold a candle to Denise in the beauty department.



It is most unfortunate that these two beautiful individuals never married one another, nor had children with one another. It seemed like both of their lives really did mirror another in a way.

Before both of them got into drugs, they were already spiritual and did not forget our heavenly father(http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/192337).

And: Jet Magazine, May 5, 1986


Note: Denise(like Prince)grew up in the church.


After all of the hard partying and drug life was over, both shared the gospel with others.





All Along the Watchtower

To end, I do wonder. If both Prince and Denise continued living, would there have been a small chance for both to « kiss and makeup »? We’ll never know! Prince was a very private man. Denise became a little more vocal as time passed by(book Blame It On Vanity and through her testimonies). I cannot help but say that both of them had an undying love for one another.

Eventhough, so many things happened in their lives after their split. Both of them evolved into something beautiful! They grew in so many ways. Although many years passed by, Prince did not hesitate to remain kind until the very end.


Life has never been the same. It has not been the same in the entertainment world. Nor has it been the same outside of it.

Rest In Spirit, Prince Rogers Nelson

Rest In Peace, Denise Katrina Matthews (a.k.a. Vanity)

Like a Janet Jackson record, she was « Unbreakable ».


Definition:  Unbreakable- not able to be broken




Last but not least, like one of Michael Jackson’s albums and like Michael himself(R.I.P.), she was  » Invincible ».


Definition:  Invincible- Incapable of being conquered, defeated, or subdued.

Source: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/invincible


Rest in peace First Lady of Rock and Princess of Funk. It is most unfortunate that in this life you suffered so. You left too soon. Gone too soon.




Une réflexion sur “Ode to the « First Lady of Rock and Princess of Funk »

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