Prince has always been known for having a bad chick by his side, he even had one of the baddest female percussionists in his band for years. While his long line of ladies stretches from Apollonia to the Twinz, only one can say that she was named in his image.
In 1982 Denise Matthews met Prince at the American Music Awards and her life, and name, where changed forever. Rechristened Vanity, Matthews became Prince’s scantily clad main lady and the lead singer of the group Vanity 6 alongside Susan Moonsie and Brenda Bennett. The girls wore lingerie, heels, and huge 80s hair as they sang super sexed up lyrics on stage. Their biggest hit “Nasty Girl” was and still is the jam. After recording “Sex Shooter” and beginning work on the film Purple Rain, Vanity decided to jump ship and go solo making room for Apollonia to purify herself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka.
After leaving the Paisley Park crew, Vanity went on to record two solo albums and star in a string of B-movies, including The Last Dragon. I can remember watching The Last Dragon on Saturday afternoons and wanting to grow up to be just like Laura Charles hosting my own music video show long before I knew what a VJ was. As Charles, Vanity was decked out in sequined and lamé minis, had the perfect bird nest bangs, and was sexy without being too over the top like she was in Vanity 6. While her look went from hooker chic to A-list groupie, it took intervention from a higher power to get her to clean up her act.
Now, Vanity has gone back to Denise and is living as a born again Christian. She has thrown out her Vanity images, tapes, and videos and chosen not to accept a single cent of any of her royalties from her work during that period, a near fatal overdose can do that to a person. Although she may have given up Vanity for good, that doesn’t mean we have to. The persona may be gone for good but the teased hair, fly outfits, and nasty attitude will continue to inspire generations of girls who think being sweet is overrated.
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