Gloria Vanderbilt Dies: Fashion icon and artist, was 95

Renowned artist, author, actress, fashion designer, and heiress Gloria Vanderbilt, who is also the mother of CNN’s Anderson Cooper, has passed away at the age of 95. CNN confirmed that she passed away on Monday morning, surrounded by her loved ones at her home in New York City. Her exceptional talents and indomitable spirit will be sorely missed by many.

Cooper said in a statement that Gloria Vanderbilt “was an extraordinary woman who loved life and lived it on her own terms.” She was not just a talented painter, writer, and designer but also a wonderful wife, friend, and mother. She was 95 years old, but everybody who knew her well will tell you that she was the coolest and most current person they knew.

Vanderbilt, the sole offspring of railway magnate Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt and his second spouse Gloria Morgan, was born in Manhattan.

In the 1970s, Gloria Vanderbilt captivated a generation with her fashionable clothing, striking appearance, and seductive advertisements. Her jeans, blouses, scarves, shoes, jewelry, and perfumes adorned the closets of millions of women (and men) who were drawn to her alabaster complexion, jet-black hair, and slender figure. Her irresistible charm was evident in her confident television appearances, where she proudly declared that her svelte jeans would “really hug your derrière.” For those who adored her, Ms. Vanderbilt was a scandalous yet captivating fashion icon.

Beneath the charming veneer and refined vocal tones, reminiscent of privileged upbringing and high society, lies a vulnerable little girl from the 1930s. She struggled with a severe stutter and suffered in silence, unable to articulate her emotions. Her life story was tumultuous, documented accurately by the media. It included Hollywood romances, moments of solitude and immense creativity juxtaposed with the unbearable pain of losing her own child to suicide.

During the Roaring Twenties and Depression years, she was the most well-known non-Hollywood child in America. She also happened to be the great-great-granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt, a prominent figure in the railroad and steamship industry during the 19th century. At birth, she inherited a trust fund worth $2.5 million, which equates to approximately $37 million in today’s currency. However, she couldn’t access these funds until she turned 21. In the meantime, her mother was authorized to use nearly $50,000 each year.

Dubbed as a “poor little rich girl” by the media, Gloria’s early years were marked by tragedy and neglect. Her father, an alcoholic, passed away when she was an infant, and her mother spent years gallivanting across Europe on her inheritance, leaving Gloria in the care of a nanny. At the age of 10, Gloria became the center of a high-profile custody battle between her mother and wealthy aunt, culminating in a startling reveal of her mother’s reckless behavior. Ultimately, the court granted custody to the aunt, leaving Gloria emotionally scarred.

During the mid-1970s, men’s jeans dominated the market until Mohan Murjani, a clothing manufacturer, persuaded Ms. Vanderbilt to endorse women’s jeans with her iconic signature on the back pocket. Through unforgettable television commercials and public appearances, Ms. Vanderbilt revolutionized the apparel industry by being the first American to use a well-known family name to promote designer clothing. Unlike other designers, such as Calvin Klein, who became status symbols through their own achievements, Ms. Vanderbilt’s national in-store tours were more like celebrity appearances.

Gloria Vanderbilt’s success skyrocketed with her denim brand generating $100 million annually, and her product lines expanded to include skirts, sweaters, jackets, linens, and fragrances. After relying on inheritance for years, Vanderbilt finally earned a portion of the profits with a burgeoning income of $10 million in 1980. A satisfying achievement, indeed.

Meet Gloria Laura Morgan Vanderbilt, born on February 20, 1924, in Manhattan Lying-In Hospital. She was the only child of Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt and his second wife, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt. Gloria’s father, a wealthy sportsman and playboy, had already spent much of his $25 million inheritance before her birth. Her mother, on the other hand, was a glamorous trendsetter known for her self-indulgence. Together, they split their time between New York and the Vanderbilt estate in Newport, Rhode Island, known as The Breakers.

Gloria also experienced a childhood filled with isolation and uncertainty. She spent extended periods in Paris and traveled around Europe with her mother and a nurse named Emma Sullivan Keislich. However, Emma and Gloria’s maternal grandmother, Laura Kilpatrick Morgan, were the only source of emotional support for her during this time.

Gloria, at only 17, left school and made a bold move to Beverly Hills to join her mother. It didn’t take long for her to become a prominent and enchanting presence in Hollywood’s legendary party scene. Along the way, she had various romantic flings with popular movie stars and even the notorious billionaire, Howard Hughes. She eventually tied the knot with a famous actors’ agent, Pasquale di Cicco, who had some shady connections to the infamous mob boss, Charles (Lucky) Luciano. Unfortunately, her marriage was riddled with domestic violence, leading to their separation in 1945.

Gloria Vanderbilt was a multi-talented woman who explored various forms of art, including painting, modeling, and writing. Despite supporting her husband’s career and dealing with his frequent absences, she managed to reignite her outgoing persona in 1954. She even made her acting debut on TV in Noël Coward’s “Tonight at 8:30,” after performing in summer stock theater.

Join Ms. Vanderbilt as she takes you on a trip down memory lane back to the golden summers of the 1970s. Imagine herself, Daddy (aka Mr. Cooper), and her sons, Anderson and Carter, exploring Southampton and bringing home wildflowers. You’ll get the inside scoop on tales from Ms. Vanderbilt’s childhood as she reminisces on the good old days.

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