Gloria Vanderbilt, artist, author, actress, fashion designer, heiress and the mother of CNN’s Anderson Cooper, has died. She died Monday morning at her New York City home, surrounded by family and friends, CNN announced. She was 95.
“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.”
Vanderbilt was born in in Manhattan, the only child of railroad heir Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt and his second wife, Gloria Morgan.
Vanderbilt began her professional career as an actress, but she became known during the 1930s as the subject of a high-profile child custody trial in which her mother, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, and her paternal aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, each sought custody of her and control over her trust fund. Called the “trial of the century” by the press, the court proceedings were the subject of wide and sensational press coverage due to the wealth and prominence of all involved, and the scandalous evidence presented to support Whitney’s claim that Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt was an unfit parent.
Beginning in 1954, Vanderbilt focused on acting. Her first stage production, The Swan, inspired the logo she later used as a fashion designer. Between 1954 and the early 1960s, she appeared on television in Playhouse 90, Studio One in Hollywood, and The Dick Powell Show. She also made numerous appearances on television interview programs over the years including Person to Person with Edward R. Murrow, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Live! with Kelly and Michael, and CBS News Sunday Morning. As an actress, her most recent credit was an episode of The Love Boat in 1981.
On April 9, 2016, HBO premiered Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper, a two-hour documentary, produced and directed by Liz Garbus, that featured a series of conversations between mother and son, covering the mother’s storied life and family history in the public eye.
It was during the 1970s that Vanderbilt entered the fashion business. In 1976 her signature designer jeans were launched by Indian designer Mohan Murjani’s Murjani Corporation, with her signature embroidered on the back pocket, along with her swan logo.
Also an artist, Vanderbilt opened her first exhibition, Dream Boxes, at the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester to critical praise. She launched another exhibition of 35 paintings at the Arts Center in 2007.
Vanderbilt authored two books on art and home decor, four volumes of memoirs and three novels. She also was a regular contributor to The New York Times, Vanity Fair, and Elle. Most recently, HarperCollins Publishers released in 2016, The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son On Life, Love, and Loss, co-authored by Vanderbilt and Cooper. The book was described by the publisher as: “A touching and intimate correspondence between Anderson Cooper and his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, offering timeless wisdom and a revealing glimpse into their lives.”
Vanderbilt was married four times, the first to Hollywood agent Pasquale DiCicco, and then conductor Leopold Stokowski (with whom she had two sons, Stanley and Christopher), and director Sidney Lumet. Her fourth and final husband was writer Wyatt Cooper, who died in 1978 during heart surgery; Cooper and Vanderbilt had two sons: Anderson Cooper, the journalist, and Carter Cooper, who died by suicide in 1988.
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