American heiress and socialite Gloria Vanderbilt has died of stomach cancer at the age of 95, leaving behind family and friends, including son Anderson Cooper. Born in New York in 1924, Vanderbilt lived her life as a painter, poet, fashion designer, style icon and author.
The daughter of the heir to a railroad fortune and raised in France, Vanderbilt was the subject of intense media scrutiny from a very young age, documenting a heated custody battle during her childhood and the four marriages that spanned her adult life. During her second marriage to conductor Leopold Stokowski, Vanderbilt began exploring different creative outlets to make a name for herself. She displayed her artwork for the first time publicly in an exhibit in 1948, moving on to make her stage debut as an actress in 1954.
Following her fourth and final marriage to writer Wyatt Cooper, with whom she had two sons, Carter and Anderson Cooper, Vanderbilt began channeling her artistic creativity into a new project: fashion and textiles. Through her ready-to-wear GV Ltd. brand, Vanderbilt sold millions of pairs of jeans with her iconic swan logo.
In 1988, Vanderbilt’s son Carter, 23 at the time, committed suicide by jumping from his parent’s terrace in New York City, deeply impacting Vanderbilt. Furthermore, while she was still suffering from the loss of her son, Vanderbilt also had to deal with an entangling lawsuit after her lawyer and psychiatrist defrauded her out of millions.
In 1996, Vanderbilt published her first book, “A Mother’s Story,” which documented her grief after the death of her son. She also went on to publish a book about her love life, “It Seemed Important at the Time: A Romance Memoir,” and a joint memoir with her son, Anderson Cooper, “The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss.”
Her oil paintings and collages were put on display at the New York Design Center several times following the sale of her multi-million dollar fashion brand to Jones Apparel Group in 2002.
Anderson Cooper, 52, who went on to become a successful journalist, television personality and author, spoke of his mother in a statement announcing her passing.
“Gloria Vanderbilt was an extraordinary woman, who loved life, and lived it on her own terms,” Cooper said. “She was a painter, a writer, and designer but also a remarkable mother, wife, and friend.”