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Gloria Vanderbilt was the ultimate master of reinvention

Anderson Cooper and his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, talk about their new book, "The Rainbow Comes and Goes."

Posted: Jun 17, 2019 10:03 AM
Updated: Jun 17, 2019 5:30 PM


Gloria Vanderbilt has died of cancer at the age of 95, her youngest son, the journalist Anderson Cooper, announced today. It marks the end of a life -- or, rather, of lives -- very well lived.

First famous for being born very rich -- she was the great-great-granddaughter of railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt -- and later for being at the center of a bitter custody battle between her mother and a paternal aunt, Vanderbilt made headlines practically from birth. In the 1950s, after a career as a model, she reinvented herself as an actress, artist, and writer; in the 1970s, she began designing clothes, making a name in her own right by embroidering it on denim.

Vanderbilt was the ultimate master of reinvention. In the late 1960s, Life magazine called her 'a feminine version of the Renaissance Man.' One might consider her the original celebrity 'influencer,' bold enough to think women would want to wear her name on their backsides and compelling enough that they actually did.

She would go on to sell millions of pairs over the course of her lifetime, eventually building a fashion empire worth more than $100 million.

But life wasn't always easy for Vanderbilt -- not even close, by her own admission. In fact, what's perhaps most iconic about Vanderbilt was how open she was about her struggles at a time when that sort of thing was relatively unheard of from women, if they were heard from at all. She was, she wrote in her memoirs, a sad child of an alcoholic dad and negligent teen mom. She was a high school dropout and a frequently-failed romantic who divorced three times; her first husband allegedly beat her, and she lost her fourth, Wyatt, after 15 years. In 1988, she witnessed her 23-year-old son, Carter, commit suicide when he jumped from the 14th floor terrace of their Manhattan apartment. Later, she had tax issues, legal issues, and crushing debt that threatened her business and forced her to sell her homes.

She did not let her hardships define her, however, or keep her down. She was, of course, very beautiful, and she loved to love, carrying on romances (as she described in her 2004 memoir) with Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, and Howard Hughes, even as she also admitted that part of her fascination with sex stemmed from her difficult relationship with her mother. She maintained a very strong relationship with her son Anderson. She eventually became a prolific artist, holding well-received showings of her drawings, paintings, and fabric art at prominent galleries in New York and around the country.

And yet, while she lived an extraordinary life, what's perhaps most remarkable is how universal the lessons to be gleaned from that life are. She proved that failure often accompanies success, or at least that one does not preclude the other. She proved that money does not buy happiness. She proved that who you are is a choice, and that it can change several times over the course of a lifetime -- if, of course, you let it. As her son said a few years back, 'My mom's an eternal optimist. Even at 92, she believes the next great love, the next great adventure, is around the corner.' And as he said today in a moving on-air eulogy, 'She loved life and lived it on her own terms.'

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 320292

Reported Deaths: 7390
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22299271
Hinds20782424
Harrison18455317
Rankin13933282
Jackson13740249
Madison10276225
Lee10068176
Jones8475167
Forrest7845153
Lauderdale7263242
Lowndes6524150
Lamar636688
Lafayette6315121
Washington5427138
Bolivar4842133
Panola4671110
Oktibbeha466398
Pearl River4610148
Marshall4576105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc426173
Monroe4163136
Union415977
Neshoba4066180
Lincoln4009113
Hancock387687
Leflore3516125
Tate342586
Sunflower339491
Pike3374111
Alcorn327474
Scott320374
Yazoo314771
Adams308586
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma299084
Simpson298689
Tippah292468
Prentiss284461
Leake272474
Marion271480
Covington267283
Wayne264842
Grenada264087
George252451
Newton249064
Tishomingo232469
Winston230382
Jasper222148
Attala215173
Chickasaw210759
Holmes190574
Stone188833
Clay187954
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174232
Yalobusha167940
Smith164134
Walthall135547
Greene131934
Lawrence131424
Montgomery128943
Noxubee128034
Perry127538
Amite126542
Carroll122330
Webster115132
Jefferson Davis108534
Tunica108127
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96729
Franklin85023
Quitman82316
Choctaw79218
Wilkinson69632
Jefferson66328
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 549394

Reported Deaths: 11328
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson810851571
Mobile42180832
Madison35733524
Tuscaloosa26186460
Shelby25638255
Montgomery25103615
Baldwin21921314
Lee16301176
Calhoun14725329
Morgan14650286
Etowah14192364
Marshall12465230
Houston10798289
Elmore10302214
Limestone10191157
St. Clair10166251
Cullman9975201
Lauderdale9621250
DeKalb8978190
Talladega8467184
Walker7351281
Autauga7244113
Jackson6993113
Blount6957139
Colbert6418140
Coffee5650128
Dale4931116
Russell455241
Chilton4476116
Franklin432082
Covington4283123
Tallapoosa4137155
Escambia402380
Chambers3731124
Dallas3609158
Clarke353361
Marion3264107
Pike314878
Lawrence3135100
Winston283672
Bibb268664
Geneva258782
Marengo250566
Pickens237062
Barbour234460
Hale227078
Butler225071
Fayette219763
Henry194844
Randolph187744
Cherokee187545
Monroe181041
Washington170639
Macon163051
Clay160159
Crenshaw156157
Cleburne153744
Lamar147237
Lowndes142154
Wilcox126830
Bullock124642
Conecuh113830
Coosa112129
Perry108826
Sumter106032
Greene93734
Choctaw62125
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