A member of the affluent and influential Vanderbilt family, Gloria Vanderbilt was born into wealth on February 20, 1924, in New York City. Her father, Reginald Vanderbilt, was the great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the creator of a railroad empire and one of America's first millionaires. Her mother, Gloria Morgan, was a young woman who loved parties more than parenthood. Gloria lost her father to liver disease when she was a toddler. She received a multimillion-dollar trust fund upon her father's death. For several years after her father's death, Gloria lived abroad with her mother and was often in the care of her maternal grandmother and her nurse Dodo.


When she was 10 years old, Gloria Vanderbilt made headlines as the central figure in a bitter and very public custody battle. Her aunt Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney successfully fought her mother for Gloria. The court decided that Gloria could spend the summers with her mother, and that Dodo, Gloria's most beloved companion, would have to be let go.


In her teens, Vanderbilt emerged as a popular young socialite with her own distinct style. She even appeared in Harper's Bazaar magazine in 1939. A while later, Vanderbilt headed out to Hollywood where her mother was already well ensconced in popular social circles. Gloria started dating much older men, including Errol Flynn and Howard Hughes. In 1941, she married Hollywood agent Pat De Cicco—she was only seventeen at the time.


It proved to be an unhappy union, and Vanderbilt divorced her husband in 1945. Even before the divorce, she had found love again with Leopold Stokowski, a famous conductor. Vanderbilt and Stokowski married shortly after her divorce was complete. They had two sons together, Stanley and Christopher. Around this time, Vanderbilt also discovered her passion for art and studied at the Art Students League* of New York. She explored an interest in acting as well, studying with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse.


Gloria Vanderbilt appeared on Broadway in the short-lived revival of William Saroyan's The Time of Your Life in 1955. She showed promise as a writer, too, publishing a collection of poems around this time. Vanderbilt also made some changes in her personal life around this time, divorcing Stokowski. After a short encounter with Frank Sinatra, she wed film director Sidney Lumet in 1956.


Around this same time, Vanderbilt tackled some acting roles, but remained better known for her social life. She was good friends with Truman Capote, among others in the New York's intellectual and social elite. After divorcing Lumet, Vanderbilt married writer Wyatt Cooper in 1963. The couple had two sons together, Carter and Anderson.

In the 1970s, Vanderbilt burst onto the fashion scene. She designed a line of jeans that proved to be hugely popular. Each pair featured her signature and swan logo. Before long, Vanderbilt branched out into other types of clothes and perfumes. She suffered a great loss during this time of commercial success—her husband Wyatt Cooper died in 1978.


Turning to her own life as a source of inspiration, Vanderbilt penned the first of her memoirs, Once Upon a Time: A True Story, in the mid-1980s. Tackling fiction, Vanderbilt also wrote several novels, including The Memory Book of Starr Faithfull (1994). In 1997, Vanderbilt wrote about one of the most difficult experiences of her life. A Mother's Story explores the suicide of her son Carter Cooper in 1988.


Vanderbilt returned to fiction with the erotic novella Obsession, released in 2009. That same year, she dished about her real-life loves in It Seemed Important at the Time: A Romance Memoir. More recently, in 2011, she released a collection of short stories entitled The Things We Fear Most. In addition to writing, Vanderbilt has enjoyed some success as an artist.


Vanderbilt is also known as the mother of famed news anchor and television host Anderson Cooper. She made some appearances on his talk show, Anderson (now Anderson Live). (Cooper is also the primary anchor of Anderson Cooper 360, a news program on CNN.)


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