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Prince protege Denise 'Vanity' Matthews dies at 57

Denise "Vanity" Matthews, lead singer of the 1980s pop band Vanity 6 and a onetime protege of Prince, died of kidney failure on Monday at a hospital in Fremont, Calif. She was 57.

Matthews' history with Prince began in the early 1980s when he was looking for backup singers. Her biggest hit, "Nasty Girl," was produced by Prince and released in 1982. Matthews disbanded Vanity 6 in 1984 and soon signed a deal with Motown. She released two solo records, "Wild Animal" and "Skin on Skin."

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Matthews also dabbled in acting, appearing in 1985's "The Last Dragon," which was produced by Berry Gordy. Other films included "Never Too Young to Die" and "Action Jackson."

The singer's health problems began in the '90s when crack addiction took its toll on her body. She overdosed in 1994 and began regular dialysis treatment. She received a kidney transplant in 1997. After that Matthews quit drugs and turned to religion. She remained a born-again Christian until her death.

Late last year she was diagnosed with a debilitating kidney condition called sclerosis encapsulating peritonitis. Persistent abdominal problems and kidney trouble plagued Vanity for the rest of her life.

jessica.gelt@latimes.com

Twitter: @jessicagelt

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