The Perfect Human Face presents Denise Matthews (Vanity)
Meet the exotically beautiful Denise Katrina Matthews, better known as Vanity and sometimes credited as Denise Matthews-Smith and D.D. Winters, is a Canadian-born former singer, songwriter, dancer, actress, and model.
Vanity's career lasted from the 1980s until the early mid-'90s. She was the lead singer of the female trio Vanity 6, which recorded the 1982 R&B hit "Nasty Girl".Vanity was born Denise Matthews in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Her mother is of Polish and Jewish descent and was born in Germany while her father was African American, Hawaiian and Native American. Her sister is Canadian model Patricia Matthews. She grew up up in Niagara Falls and came from what she called a "broken home". Her parents divorced when she was young, and her mother suffered from alcoholism and depression. Matthews' father was abusive towards her and her sisters. As a child, along with her sisters and step siblings, she regularly moved back and forth between her father and stepmother, mother, and grandparents. Vanity began entering local beauty pageants before moving to Toronto, where she modeled. She won the Miss Niagara Hospitality title in 1977, and went on to compete for Miss Canada in 1978. At age 19, she moved to New York to further her career. She signed with Zoli Model Agency. Because she was short in stature, her modeling career was limited to commercials and photo shoots; it included no runway work. Matthews appeared in ads for Pearl Drops toothpaste, before completing a modeling stint in Japan. As Vanity, she posed twice for Playboy magazine, in May 1985 and again in April 1988. Throughout the 1980s to the mid-1990s, Vanity appeared in many magazines around the world. Additionally, she was the cover model for the funk/R&B band Cameo's 1982 album Alligator Woman, as well as their 1984 album She's Strange.In 1980, she met Prince at the American Music Awards. Prince renamed her Vanity because, he said, he saw his female reflection when he looked at her. After learning that Vanity could sing, Prince asked her to become the lead singer of the group Vanity 6. This group was known for its sexually explicit lyrics, performances, and costumes (the "6" in their name referred to the female trio's breasts). The group's biggest hit, "Nasty Girl", was produced by Prince. In late 1982, the group went on the 1999 tour with Prince and The Time until spring 1983. Vanity 6 made headlines and gained a following with their provocative performances during the tour.
After one album, Vanity decided to leave Vanity 6. She did not appear in the film Purple Rain in 1983. Several songs for Vanity 6's proposed second album were recorded. They were later released as bootlegs.
Vanity liked to paint surrealistic and erotic paintings in her free time. She also personally designed many of the outfits that she wore on stage and to events.
Besides Prince, Vanity was linked romantically to Adam Ant and Billy Idol. In 1987, she stated that she and Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx were engaged (although Sixx denied this claim). She joked that she would become Vanity 6 (Sixx) again. They never married. In Sixx's 2007 autobiography, The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star, he describes his 1987 drug use with Vanity, who was addicted to crack cocaine at the time. In 1995, Vanity married football player Anthony Smith, of the Oakland Raiders. They divorced in 1996. Due to the effects on her kidneys of years of drug use while a performer, she must now undergo peritoneal dialysis five times a day (each session is 20 minutes long).
Vanity gave up her stage name and became a born-again Christian in 1994, the year she almost died from the effects of smoking crack cocaine. She recalled that after being rushed to the hospital, doctors said she had three days to live while on life support. She said that Jesus came to her at this time and spoke to her, saying if she promised to give up her Vanity persona, he would save her. In 1995, she said, "When I came to the Lord, I threw out about 1,000 tapes of mine — every interview, every tape, every video. Everything." She has stated that she has chosen not to receive any further revenue from her work as Vanity, and has cut off all ties with Hollywood and her former life in the music business. After a kidney transplant in 1997, she decided to devote her life to evangelism. She now speaks at churches across the United States and worldwide.
In 2010, Matthews released her autobiography, Blame It On Vanity.