The woman who replaced Vanity in Prince's classic movie "Purple Rain" called her an "inspiration" and one of the first true 1980s divas.
Singer and actress Apollonia Kotero told The Associated Press that she and Vanity first met in the late '80s, after Kotero had idolized her for years.
"She was an inspiration to me, just like she was to all the ladies that followed," Kotero said in a phone interview from Los Angeles.
Vanity, whose legal name was Denise Matthews, died Monday at 57.
Although it had been years since the two of them had talked, Kotero said they kept in contact through social media.
"She was a pioneer, a strong woman, she was a diva, the princess of funk ... the audiences absolutely adored her," Kotero said.
Kotero stepped in for Matthews after the late singer resigned from Vanity 6 before the filming of "Purple Rain." The group was renamed Apollonia 6 for the movie and released the song "Sex Shooter."
Like Matthews, Kotero would eventually leave Prince's camp and go on to a television and movie career, including a role in the TV soap opera "Falcon Crest."
Kotero said she still has the famous Rolling Stone magazine with Prince and Matthews on the cover, and seeing that magazine was a life-changing moment for her. She said she immediately felt "like these people were my family."
"And I thought, I wish I could do that someday," Kotero said, her voice breaking. "I want to be like them, I want to be special like them."