Very sad news today...
Gloria Vanderbilt died Monday morning, according to her son, CNN's Anderson Cooper. The fashion designer, artist and socialite was 95.
She died in her Manhattan home with friends and family at her side. "Gloria Vanderbilt was an extraordinary woman, who loved life, and lived it on her own terms," Cooper said in a statement. "She was a painter, a writer and designer but also a remarkable mother, wife, and friend. "She was 95 years old, but ask anyone close to her, and they'd tell you: She was the youngest person they knew -- the coolest and most modern."
Born in New York in 1924, Gloria Laura Morgan Vanderbilt grew up in France. Her father, financier Reginald Vanderbilt, the heir to a railroad fortune, died when she was a baby. Gloria was the focus of media attention at an early age, dubbed "the poor little rich girl" amid an intense custody battle between her mother and her father's wealthy sister, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Though her aunt prevailed in court proceedings, young Gloria didn't know her well. She considered her nanny, Dodo, her mother figure.
When she was 17, she married Hollywood agent Pat DiCicco in 1941, against her Aunt Gertrude's wishes. She'd later concede she knew it was a mistake at the time. At 21, she took control of a $4.3 million trust fund her father had left her. She divorced DiCicco two months later and promptly remarried -- this time, to conductor Leopold Stokowski, who was 63 at the time.
In 1954, she made her stage debut in a production of the romantic drama, "The Swan," at the Pocono Playhouse in Mountainhome, Pennsylvania. She published a book of poetry the following year, the same year she divorced Stokowski. She found love again in Hollywood with director and producer Sidney Lumet, who would earn multiple Academy Award nominations for films, including "12 Angry Men," "Dog Day Afternoon" and "Network." The two married in 1956. Following their divorce in August 1963, Vanderbilt married for a final time on Christmas Eve of that year. With writer Wyatt Cooper, she had two more sons: Carter Cooper in 1965 and Anderson Cooper in 1967.
Tragedy struck the family in 1978 when Wyatt Cooper died on the operating table during open-heart surgery. The family took another blow a decade later when Carter Cooper, 23, jumped from the 14th-floor terrace of his parents' penthouse in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan. Carter had suffered with depression. The following years were rough ones for Vanderbilt. On top of coping with the loss of a son, her lawyer and psychiatrist bilked her out of millions. She successfully sued them, but still had to sell her mansion in the Hamptons and five-story Manhattan penthouse to pay off her debts.
Jones Apparel Group bought Gloria Vanderbilt Apparel Corp. in 2002 for $138 million, and Vanderbilt delved wholesale back into her love for art and writing.
In his mother's obituary, Cooper lovingly described his mom as "the strongest person I've ever met, but she wasn't tough. She never developed a thick skin to protect herself from hurt. She wanted to feel it all. She wanted to feel life's pleasures, its pains as well. "She trusted too freely, too completely and suffered tremendous losses, but she always pressed on, always worked hard, always believed the best was yet to come."
She lived a complex and extraordinary life for sure. I think it's what most of us hope for as we journey through our days on this planet.
She will be missed.