Gia Carangi was born in Philadelphia in 1960 and is known to some as the original supermodel. Fellow supermodel Cindy Crawford was even referred to as ‘Baby Gia’ due to her resemblance to Carangi.
Gia appeared on high profile magazine covers such as Vogue and Cosmopolitan frequently between 1979 and 1982 and fronted numerous advertising campaigns including Christian Dior, Versace and Maybelline. Gia also featured in the music video for Blondies song ‘Atomic’. Gia was a famous fashion socialite and a regular attendee at infamous club Studio 54 which is well known for hosting the rich and famous.
In 1980 Gia’s agent Wilhelmina Cooper died of lung cancer, this led to a long and tragic path of drug abuse for Gia, resulting to her dying from AIDS related complications in 1986, aged just 26. Gia made a quick transition from a successful model earning thousands of dollars a day to visiting heroin shooting galleries on New York’s Lower East Side. Her career deteriorated rapidly.
Fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo recalls a shoot in the Caribbean when “She was crying, she couldn’t find her drugs. I literally had to lay her down on her bed until she fell asleep.” In 1980 on a Vogue photo shoot it is rumoured that her track marks from shooting heroin were visible even after airbrushing.
Gia eventually developed AIDS and as her condition worsened she was transferred to Philadelphia’s Hahnemann University Hospital, her mother stayed with her day in day out and allowed very few visitors. When she died on November 18th, 1986 no one from the fashion industry attended the funeral. Gia was one of the first women in America to die of AIDS.
Gia’s sexuality has never been confirmed, posthumously she is recognised as a gay icon and cited as the first gay supermodel but she had male and female partners.
Gia’s tragic story has inspired many works that have since created her legacy. A biography of Gia was written by Stephen Fried called Thing of Beauty (a title from a John Keats poem) and published in 1993 and in 1998 a biographical film called Gia was released which starred Angelina Jolie.