Prince’s first female protégé turned girlfriend turned ex, Vanity, has died from natural causes in a California hospital at age 57, according to various industry sources. The Canadian singer, actress and model born Denise Matthews had been battling a variety of health issues and recently started a GoFundMe page asking for help fighting a condition called sclerosing encapsulating peritonitis.
Although she never formally lived in the Twin Cities, Vanity came to Minnesota frequently in the early-‘80s to work with Prince in the typically lingerie-clad trio Vanity 6, which scored the 1982 hit “Nasty Girl.” She returned in the late-‘80s after her breakup with Prince to work on solo albums with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who got to know her when she toured with Prince & the Revolution and the Time on the 1999 Tour in 1983. It was also in 1983 when she stood oh-so-adoringly behind Prince in his first Rolling Stone cover photo (shot by Richard Avedon).
There has been no public reaction from Prince yet on her death. However, one of Prince's later protégés, Sheila E., posted a long tribute note that trumpeted their mutual strict Christian beliefs via Facebook. "U are in his arms now, free of pain," Sheila wrote. Matthews famously became a Christian fundamentalist after battling a crack cocaine addiction in the early-‘90s, which left her with severely damaged kidneys.
The woman who Prince essentially picked to be Vanity’s replacement in “Purple Rain,” Apollonia, also paid homage to her via Twitter. “I am gutted,” Apollonia posted. “RIP Sweet Princess.”