The morning of February 15th, I posted a pic on Instagram of a woman I’ve always considered to be one of the most beautiful women in the world, Denise Matthews (formerly known as Vanity). The night before I had spent some time texting with my friend Yowalka explaining who she was, and the difference between Vanity 6 and Apollonia 6, so I have Vanity on the brain. She was by far one of the biggest influences on me growing up and there was no one I wanted to be more like than her. When I first saw the cover of the Vanity 6 album, I was mesmerized. Her huge brown eyes confidently glared at me and I stared back at her forever–as many forevers as I listened to that vinyl disc, wishing hard I could transform into her clone. To be that beautiful and that bold… She was the best match for Prince at that time. They truly were a reflection of each other. I’ve often wondered what Purple Rain would have been like staring Vanity instead of Apollonia.
In any case, the evening of the 15th, I signed on to Facebook to learn that she had died. It felt like that amazing coming of age period of my childhood that I always looked upon so fondly had died with her. I related becoming such a big fan of Vanity 6 and the Time with of my brother, who worked for WB at that time, and who sent me their albums. My brother died in 2014 and music throughout the 80’s and 90s are deeply connected to my memories of him and his rise in the music industry. I found hearing of Denise Matthews’ passing a bit devastating, but I was not super surprised; she had been very sick and on dialysis for a very long time.
Although it had been years since she had left Prince, she clearly became the template for every “Prince Girl” that followed. They all looked similar to her and Prince took on a Svengali role with all of them in the way he had with her. She was a true muse for years to come, and I read just today that a family member stated that Prince really was the love of her life. The day she died, Prince said this as he was performing in concert; “Can I tell you a story about Vanity? Or should I tell you a story about Denise? Her and I used to love each other deeply. She loved me for the artist I was, I loved her for the artist she was trying to be. She and I would fight. She was very headstrong ’cause she knew she was the finest woman in the world. She never missed an opportunity to tell you that.”
Her funeral was today, so she was on my mind heavily. I had to dedicate a post to her. To me she will always be the most beautiful girl in the world. RIP beautiful one…