Lifestyle & Human Interest

Gloria Vanderbilt, Fashion Designer and Mother of Anderson Cooper, Passes Away at Age 95


Gloria Vanderbilt spent all of her 95 years in the spotlight. People around the world know her not only as the heiress to the Vanderbilt fortune, but also an actress, writer, painter and the owner of a fashion empire.

Those closest to her, however, remember her as a nurturing mother in love with life.

Before she became renowned for her line of fashionable jeans, Vanderbilt was a shy little girl with more fame than she knew what to do with.

Her father, Reginald Vanderbilt, passed away due to cirrhosis of the liver when she was just 18 months old. Her mother lost custody of her daughter in a famous court battle reporters titled “The Trial of the Century.”

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Gloria Vanderbilt, dubbed the “poor little rich girl,” was raised under her aunt’s roof from age 10 onward. At age 17, she married Hollywood agent Pat DiCocco ⁠– the first of four husbands. Her second husband, Leopold Stokowski, was 42 years her senior.

It was during her final marriage to writer Wyatt Cooper that she gave birth to son Anderson Cooper, who went on to become the famous CNN reporter.

Cooper told the story of his mother’s eventful life and career in an obituary that aired on CNN on June 17. Vanderbilt was diagnosed with stomach cancer in early June and passed away the morning of June 17.

“Gloria Vanderbilt was an extraordinary woman, who loved life, and lived it on her own terms,” Cooper said. “She was a painter, a writer, a 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 enamored with creativity and self-expression and wore many different hats throughout her life. She quickly shed her “poor little rich girl” nickname to become one of the most recognizable names in Hollywood and on Broadway in the 1950s.

She scored roles in multiple television productions including “Shirley Temple’s Storybook,” “Producer’s Showcase” and “Studio One in Hollywood.” Her first role onstage in a 1954 production of “The Swan” inspired the swan logo that was to adorn the famous Gloria Vanderbilt Jeans that she designed in 1978. She soon expanded her fashion line to include perfume, shoes and home decor, all of which found tremendous popularity.

Vanderbilt was also a writer of both fiction and nonfiction and a talented painter. According to The Hollywood Reporter, a 1968 publication of Life Magazine named her “a feminine version of the Renaissance Man.”

“She was determined to make something of her life, determined to make a name for herself and find the love she so desperately needed,” Cooper said.

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Cooper and his mother shared a tight bond. The two even co-authored a book titled “The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love and Loss” in 2016.

In a touching clip shared on CNN, Anderson revealed that he and Vanderbilt had the same laugh.

“When the doctor told her she had cancer, she was silent for a while,” Cooper said, “and then she said, ‘Well, it’s like that old song. Show me the way to get out of this world, because that’s where everything is.'”

Despite all her successes, what Vanderbilt wanted most of all was to fill her life with love. According to Cooper, she succeeded.

“She was always in love. In love with men, or with friends … in love with her children, and her grandchildren and then her great-grandchildren,” Cooper said. “Love is what she believed in more than anything.”

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Noel Marquis is a journalist and animal-lover hailing from the Midwest. After an internship with Disney following her college graduation, she pursued a career writing content that makes readers smile. Coffee, books and superhero movies are some of her favorite things.