Madonna has led tributes to the “kind” and “sweet” model and singer Nick Kamen, who has died at the age of 59.

A friend of his family confirmed his death to the PA news agency on Wednesday.

It is understood Nick, who was from Harlow, Essex, died on Tuesday after a long illness.

Kamen was considered a protege of Madonna.

The singer paid tribute to him in a tweet, writing: “It breaks my heart to know you are gone.

“You were always such a kind sweet human and you suffered too much.

“Hope you are happier wherever you are Nick Kamen.”

Kamen first came to public attention when he appeared on the front of The Face magazine in 1984 wearing a ski hat, lipstick and aviator sunglasses.

The next year he starred in an advertisement for Levi’s in which he stripped down to wash his blue jeans in a public launderette and waited in his boxer shorts to the sound of Marvin Gaye’s 1968 hit Heard It Through The Grapevine.

He launched a career in pop music in 1986 with the number five hit Each Time You Break My Heart from his eponymous debut album.

In a BBC radio interview in 1986, Madonna said she had been prompted to contact him after hearing his “beautiful voice”.

She signed on to produce and sing backing vocals on the track and became a mentor to him.

Kamen’s second single, Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever, a cover of the Four Tops’ 1966 hit, was less successful but reached number 16.

Kamen’s music career spanned four albums made between 1987 and 1992, and a six-CD box set encompassing his career was released in 2020.

Boy George was among those paying tribute.

He wrote on Instagram: “R.I.P to the most beautiful and sweetest man Nick Kamen!”

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Actress Susie Cave shared a photo of Kamen on her Instagram Stories and wrote: “RIP Nick Kamen my sweet friend.”

The Great British Bake Off host Matt Lucas wrote: “If you didn’t have a crush on Nick Kamen in the 80s, you probably weren’t there. RIP”

Duran Duran bassist John Taylor said: “So so sad to hear of the passing of Nick Kamen.

“One of the loveliest and gentlest men I ever met.

“He was a beloved friend to my daughter and her Mom. We shall all miss him. RIP Nick”

TV personality Lizzie Cundy said: “Heartbroken. Beautiful inside and out. Rest in peace dear Nick.”