*I’ve given a lot of thought to who Denise Matthews was since Monday. Thought long about what she stood for since her passing on February 15.
Once popular for expressing her Vanity, she sang lyrics about erotic destinations and being intimate. As the lead vocalist of Prince-produced trio Vanity 6, she asked if we wanted to accompany her to her “own little nasty world.”
As fictional pop star Laura Charles in 1985 film “The Last Dragon“ she sang, “I found a place, finally found a place.” A pre-teen at that time, I found Vanity extremely attractive. More than likely I wished that place was her own little nasty world too.
As a young boy I was fascinated by Matthews’ Vanity. Initially, I didn’t understand why. I was 6-years-old when she and her group mates strutted across our television screen in lingerie. As much as I enjoyed the infectious groove of their 1982 hit “Nasty Girl,” I didn’t dance when the video came on. In fact, aside from the occasional eye blink I didn’t move much at all. When she sang “7th Heaven” as Charles I was a bit older, slapping five in a movie theater with my closest friends. Hearing her sing “undress me” as Sydney Ash in 1988’s “Action Jackson,” my raging hormones wanted nothing more. And I got my wish. There’s a scene where Vanity got completely undressed in front of a mirror. As much as I liked what I saw, I’d learn later in life that Matthews didn’t. As it turned out, her celebrity life shared a commonality with her 1984 debut solo single; it was a “Pretty Mess.”
As good as she looked to me on film and in photos, behind the scenes she found herself hideous. Promiscuous behavior with both men and women coupled with excessive drug use made it difficult to look at herself. Matthews didn’t see Vanity in the mirror, she saw a nasty girl. Undressed by her own unappealing nature, she eventually sought reflection in the word of God. That’s when she found her place, finally found her place. She renounced her Vanity for heavenly beauty.
During a 2010 interview on television program “Praise the Lord,” Matthews told host Dwight Thompson, “I went through drugs and… … I was a mess. I was deeply wounded in my spirit. I was all flash. I was miserable the entire time I was Vanity. I spent so many days and so many nights crying, hating who I’d become.” Matthews appropriately titled her autobiography “Blame It on Vanity.”
I’ve noticed a lot of Vanity in the world today. Mobile phone technology and social networking has allowed self-portraits and videos to become as common as traffic lights. How often, though, do people stop to examine how they’re seen? Nasty girls and boys document their promiscuous behavior with both men and women. They parade across timelines in their underwear or less, most commonly captured in front of a mirror. They’re regularly flashing their good looks for sought after compliments. Yet, behind them you see the unappealing truth in their reflection; strewn about trash, dirty clothes and dishes, empty alcohol bottles and drug remnants. They’re a mess. Who do they blame?
As a grown man I’m fascinated by Denise Matthews. She was able to look herself in the mirror, hold herself accountable, and change for the better. The person she saw before she died no longer reflected the woman she was before learning to live. Her mess got cleansed. Maybe others will look behind her to learn the truth she stood for.
I’ve given a lot thought to who Matthews was. And she wasn’t Vanity.
Mr. Joe Walker writes for EURweb and other publications. Contact him via: email@example.com.