Gloria Laura Vanderbilt

portrait of Gloria Vanderbilt
Portrait by Carl Van Vechten (23 May 1958)

Born: 20 February 1924, New York City

Vanderbilt was born at New York City on this day in 1924, an heiress to the Vanderbilt railroad fortune. Custody of Gloria (and her half interest in a $5 million trust fund) was contested by her mother and her paternal aunt Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Gertrude was a sculptor and philanthropist, her legal victory gave Gloria a comfortable upbringing in Gertrude's mansion at Old Westbury, Long Island, surrounded by the homes of other Vanderbilts. Gertrude also provided for an excellent education, including New York's Art Students League. Her oils, pastels, and watercolors were well known and sold well, she went on to license her work to Hallmark Cards and to Bloomcraft, a textile manufacturer. She wrote two books on art and home decor, five memoirs, and three novels (the most recent Obsession: An Erotic Tale in 2009) and launched eight perfumes by L'Oreal under her name. In popular culture she is, of course, best known as the first person to sell you jeans with her name on the butt. Vanderbilt married four times, the last to Wyatt Emory Cooper in 1963 (ending in 1978 with his death); the CNN anchor Anderson Cooper is their son. Outside marriage her lovers included Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Howard Hughes, and Roald Dahl. A display of her art was mounted at New York Design Center on the occasion of her 90th birthday.

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