Vanity's Humility

By A.J. Dugger III 06/01/15

How '80s star Vanity became an inspiration to the recovery community.

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Denise Matthews
via Author

From dating Prince to becoming an Evangelist, “Vanity” Denise Matthews has come a long way in life. At the height of her career she was soaring high on the music charts, starring in hit films, and eventually became addicted to drugs. Today, Matthews uses her experiences to help reach others who don't know the Lord. “Every single person on this earth has fallen from grace. Everyone is a sinner. It isn't until we come to Jesus that we get saved. You can be a good person but if you don't receive Jesus as your Savior, how can we then expect to enter into Heaven when it is His house we wish to get into? This seems the very reason we should get close to Him. If you don't do Jesus down here, then you can't expect to get in His house up there! Eternal life is what we reach for, no more tears, pain or sorrow and everlasting joy in God. Hell is equivalent to pain and who digs pain forever? I had to wake up and be smarter than that.”

Matthews initially had a career in New York City. She traveled to many parts of the world as a model and became a singer shortly after meeting Prince in 1980. The two began a relationship and Matthews became the lead singer of the group, Vanity 6. Prince wrote and produced the group's first album. With their unapologetic lyrics and pulsing dance grooves, Vanity 6's songs went on to become funk classics. Vanity 6 and The Time (another Prince-associated band) performed as the opening acts for Prince on his “1999” Tour in 1982 and '83. Matthews eventually left Prince and Vanity 6, going on to star in many major motion pictures including Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon.

Matthews' years of abusing her body and soul with rock and roll, drugs, and lust nearly took her life. “I smoked cocaine, not crack the man-made chemical, but the pure stuff. It almost took my life, so I gave my life to Christ...then after some valuable time in Christ, I returned to sin again and almost died because of it. I repented and repented hard, begging Jesus to do whatever it took to ultimately save my life. I didn't want to die. I was rushed into the hospital with 250 high blood pressure, heart attack, blood clots in my brain, bleeding internally and I suffered a small stroke. Both my kidneys had failed me, along with complete blindness and I was deaf in one ear. This is what it took to save my life and Christ did save my life. I have never looked back to that lifestyle again. I have been sober over 22 years. All this glory goes to God.” 

Today Matthews is a very busy woman, eager to help people overcome their troubles and find Christ. “They call me Buzzy D," said Matthews with a smile. “With Jesus' help I reach out to souls everywhere, whenever possible. You can say I am a professional soul winner. I love people and I love to see them saved. I wish to see them happier, healed and delivered, giving their souls to Christ.” She says her partying days are long over, and she regularly gets up around 5am, "We have a 6am Prayer Line in California from Monday through Friday... each Pastor has a day. The number is 530-881-1212 Code 112-723-727 followed by the pound sign, if you wish to join. I am the Prayer Warrior over Friday mornings, praying for an hour. Then we take requests. I like to get to bed early and rise early. This is a far cry from who I was. Boy, has my life changed drastically. I must admit I wish I'd had this life from the beginning, but I wandered off the real path of true success. Call Him Jesus.”  

Today, Matthews has no fear of death. “I'm looking forward to going to Heaven. I'm not afraid of death. This is because I have grown to love Christ and trust Him in every way. We should be scared if we don't have Jesus. I missed so much life without Him. Just talk to Him, He can hear you, try Him and you will see. Honestly, I wish I had repented long ago. I would probably have had a much different life, but such is the case. We must be 100% sure we will get into Heaven. Hell is not a vacation. Judgment Day is upon this world and there will be so much regret. We can see by the world's wars and all that Jesus spoke of is happening to the exact. Even in our own country, men, women, and children are killing for no purpose at all. Jesus said 'The weapons of our warfare are not carnal,' but the world is rejecting Jesus and suffering for it. Earthquakes are happening in the most unlikely places because we have been sucking our resources out of the earth, which is rapidly collapsing.”

Some people turn their lives around after a close call with death, but this was not the case with Matthews. “People think I gave my life to Jesus because I was almost dead. I gave my life to Jesus, and then I almost died because I had returned to my sin one last time. But it really doesn't matter when, why, or even how we got to Him as long as we humble ourselves and repent. So far, none of us have done such a great job. We are all like dumb sheep, blinded by the lusts of our flesh leading us to sin and everlasting damnation. We need a Savior and His name is Christ. I had already left the business almost a year before I was hospitalized.”

According to Matthews, it was the drugs that temporarily lured her back. “Funny, but I did not return to the sin of being or wanting to be Vanity, but I did return to the drugs. Days later, I was laid up on a gurney going in for my first surgery. I have learned some awfully hard lessons but I can assure you of this—I thank Jesus for every single one of them.”

Another falsehood is that after becoming an Evangelist, Matthews broke off all communication with people from her former life, including her former bandmates and Prince. “That's another misconception,” she told The Fix. “We live so far from each other but we talk on the phone and, of course, I minister Jesus as much as I can. They know me as Denise. They call me 'V.' They have always called me 'V.' I walk in Victory so I don't mind the name 'V.'"

As an Evangelist, Matthews has traveled all over the country, including the islands. She has ministered in many churches. To this day, her passion is contagious. In her early childhood she quickly fell in love with Jesus.“He was the only man that ever told me He loved me,” she said. At seven-years-old, she made a choice that affected her the rest of her life. While most girls her age were asking for Barbie dolls, Matthews asked her father for a Bible. “I carried that Bible with me everywhere, even to school. I still have the same one... it is a treasure. That fascination with The Bible never subsided. I'm an Old Testament freak and I'm a New Testament freak. I love it all. I love everything that Jesus speaks and everything He commands. I don't think I have ever lived until now. My goal is to love like Christ loved in this earth to His people. Loving our enemies is a trial that we can be won. I know because I have won many an enemy to Christ.”

Even when things go wrong, Matthews doesn't let things frustrate her the way others might. Her faith allows her to triumph over it all. “I don't have any bad days, every day is a lesson learned. Everything you go through is a test. The scripture says everything is working for our good, so receive God's wisdom for your life. I take my lumps and grow with every bruise. So many of us have learned beauty is on the outside, but we are dead wrong...beauty is Jesus and when and only when He lives inside you. Then you can be beautiful, because you glow like him. We are so vain. All is vanity, and that means worthless. I was worthless. When God allows a test to come my way, I stare it in the face and live to endure the trials of it. Jesus is with me and I have nothing to fear. Did you know that 'FEAR NOT' is written 365 times in the Holy Bible? That's one for each day. There have been many tests indeed, but as the Lord says, we are more than conquerors in Him.”

Matthews undergoes peritoneal dialysis three times a week, but the good news is she lives in joy. She is grateful for her life, giving glory to Jesus always. She says she is blessed to be alive. She also prays for the tragedies taking place all over the world, especially in Israel.

“God commanded us to pray for Israel, if we don’t we will be His enemies, those that come against them will be cursed. We should be careful to pray.”

Among so many tragedies she is sad and prayerful for those that die at the hands of all wicked people. She says of the recent deaths of men at the hands of law enforcement, "We should be prayerful, but instead we retaliate on people not even involved ... innocent people, suffering at the hands of hoodlums terrorizing their own cities. They do even worse havoc to the multitude than that which they are mad about the evil done unto one man. We must pray ... we must cry out to God for the men or women that have been trampled to death in this world. We must all repent from evil doing. We are called to pray and rest in God and stand back and watch Him ... for He has His own revenge on the evil one. We reap what we sow, and that is for our good, if we learn from it.”

In 2010, Matthews published her book, Blame It On Vanity. The book has been well-received and is available on Matthews' website, blameitonvanity.com. In addition to her website, she is also available on social media, often communicating with her fans on Facebook under the name "Denise Matthews" and through email. It is not rare to receive a personal phone call from Matthews after emailing her a prayer request. The Internet has only strengthened the numbers of people that Matthews can reach. “I am a professional soul winner. I wish I could bring everybody to Heaven but everybody doesn't want to come.”

Using her trademark upbeat and bubbly personality, Matthews has helped many people from making the same mistakes she once did. Even when things appear grim, it's never too late to turn things around. “As long as you have breath, you have a chance to repent. If God lets you live and your heart is still pumping blood, come to Jesus before it's too late!"

A. J. Dugger lll is a journalist based in Clarksville, Tennessee. He recently published his first book, The Dealers: Then and Now. Recent stories were on the prescription drug epidemic in his home state and the meth lab next door to you.

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A.J. Dugger has been writing his entire life. Hailing from Memphis, TN, A.J. graduated from Austin Peay State University in 2009. He began a successful journalism career by writing for publications such as The Tennessee Tribune, Business Arts and Heritage Clarksville Magazine, The Murfreesboro Post, The Tri-State Defender, The Leaf-Chronicle, The Clarksville Sports Network, Clarksville Online, Black Clarksville, and numerous other publications. Follow A.J. on Twitter.

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