Gia Carangi: The Rise and Fall of The World’s First Supermodel

Gia Carangi: The Rise and Fall of The World’s First Supermodel

Image for postFrom Philadelphia to New York, Gia Marie Carangi worked during the late 1970s and early 1980s as a fashion model

?When I look in the mirror,I just want to like myself?And if I like myself,then I look good.? ? Gia Carangi

Born in Philadelphia, Gia Marie Carangi , wished to be seen and heard. When she was a kid,her parents provided a violent home and for a long time she felt lonely and desperate for some love. Not that her mother never gave her affection, in fact, they had a mother-daughter bond, however, it is when Gia becomes a woman of her own that she finds love in wrong places. During her teenage wildlife, she found in David Bowie much more than an extraordinary artist, she found much of herself in his flamboyant personalities. Bowie?s outstanding statements about sexuality and gender were ahead of his time as well as the transgression boosted by other great artists and different cultural manifestations. Gia had her hair cut in an early 70?s Bowie style and started figuring out what other identities would shape her for the next years.

Image for postYoung Gia dressing her idol?s tee. Since a young age, she related to people who did not fit in normative standardsImage for postYoung Gia playing guitar

By the time she was 17, she used to work at a luncheonette in her hometown until the day that she was spotted in a newspaper ads for modelling. She then moved to New York to work for one of the greatest model agencies, owned by Wilhelmina Cooper, who eventually became her personal friend. As soon as Gia stepped in the fashion world, she was on the covers of the most famous magazines of that time, such as Vogue and Cosmopolitan. She would arrive at the shoots holding her cigarettes, wearing both masculine and feminine designed clothes and with a clean face ? as a matter of fact, she stood out from the rest of other models once she barely needed makeup or fancy clothes to impress anyone. In one of her first shoots, she met the makeup assistant Sandy Linter. From that moment on, Gia would declare her love for Sandy. One of the most remarkable shoots of Carangi shows both of them nude separated by a chain-link fence. Much as Gia was fearless ,determined to break up with standards from the limited fashion world, her dazzling presence would give place to a gloomy path of no return.

Image for postGia Carangi and Sandy Linter in one of Gia?s first shootings. She defied the moralist society of her time for being dubious regarding her sexuality. Allegedly, she once said ??I don?t think a woman is really a woman unless she?s a blonde??Image for postBy the time Gia was 18, she had already acted in advertisements forArmani, Christian Dior, Versace,Calvin Klein and featured in many magazine covers such as Vogue and Cosmopolitan.Image for postGia for Giorgio Armani, by Aldo Fallai, 1980. She would mix designed masculine and feminine clothes in many of her shoots and in her personal style. I chose not to label Gia as neither tomboy nor androgynous. Her fluidness allowed her to look more confident and outstandingImage for postGia Carangi in 1980

Gia?s meteoric rise to the top provided her innumerous opportunities inside and outside the fashion business. The Belgian-American fashion designer, Diane von Furstenberg, best known for her wrap dress, hired Gia to model in a campaign that combined all of her products. Both spent a weekend at Calvin Klein?s house, where Diane claimed to have fallen in love with her. ?I was excited to see Gia. I had a girl?s crush on her? – said the fashion designer in an interview for Daily Mail.In the 80s, Carangi was a great fan of the new-wave bands Talking Heads and Blondie. She even made a cameo appearance in Blondie?s Atomic music video where she appears jumping and dancing. She also attendend parties at nightclubs in lower Manhattan. The model was then introduced to cocaine and it did not take long for her sparkling light to start fading away.

Image for postDefinitely my favorite photo of Gia. Her natural beauty was captured by the fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo, who helped her launch her career. He was also there for her in her darkest hours?Scavullo and Gia in his New York studio in 1979. Her presence is indeed striking

In the beginning of 1980, when Gia?s career was at its peak, her confidant and agent Wilhelmina Cooper died fromcancer. This devastated the model and headed her into a downward spiral. Heroin entered her life as a way to ease the pain. Her drug abuse soon affected her works. She would leave studios in the middle of a shooting section to buy or to shoot up drugs. She also had mood swings which exposed her strong vulnerability. Scavullo remembered a section with Carangi 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.? When famous producers heard about her addiction, the number of offers declined rapidly and Gia had to return to her hometown, where she underwent rehab.

Image for postThe spotlight was on Gia, but now for the wrong reasons.

Carangi soon returned to pose for covers by the lens of her friend Scavullo. However, in a controversial shoot for 1982?s Cosmopolitan, her needle marks were visible in her elbows and her arms had to be covered under a dress. Her bloated and empty eyes replaced the vivid girl that she used to be. By the end of that year, she only had a few clients willing to hire her. In one of her last shoots for Versace, she left the studio before taking photos. There were left only a few contacts in Europe like in Greece, Italy and Germany. Her final shoot was in 1983, by mail order for a German clothing company.

Image for postGia?s last cover for the american Cosmo in 1982 in which her arms are hidden due to needle marks.Image for postThis is believed to be Gia?s last shoot. Her career was never a dream as she claimed once in an interview, but through it she could show the world that she had her own personality and she did not need to hide anything, even her weaknessess.

Gia spent the next years going through intense treatments in Philadelphia and Atlantic City, but she would eventually return to her drug abuse. She worked for a while at a Cafeteria in a nursing home. To get her smack, Gia would sleep with other men, who abused her several times, and also shared needles with unknowns.Gia was also dating a junkie called Rochelle (aka Elyssa Golden). Both had an abusive relationship, fighting most of the time because Rochelle could not stand seeing her stuff being stolen by Gia to buy drugs. Rob Fay, a driver who Gia met in her rehab days, was the only one with whom she shared happy moments. In Stephen Fried?s Thing of Beauty ?a biography about the model released a couple of years after her death ? it?s said that Gia saw beauty in trivial things that we usually ignore. By the end of 1985, Carangi?s heroin abuse increased as much as moving away from one place to another. Her healthy conditions worsened and her mother blamed her then girlfriend for Gia?s wretched life. Gia was admitted in Warminster General Hospital in Warminster, Pennsylvania, diagnosed with pneumonia. She spent the rest of her life in the hospital. There, she wrote about wishing to have persued another career other than modelling. She found out about friends from the fashion world dying of AIDS- related complex, or ARC. No one phoned her to tell about them, she was definitely forgotten by those who once promised to be there for her. Gia Carangi contrived HIV virus from a shared needle. She used to read news about the recent virus and did not fear death. Some time before she passed away, Rob recalled a funny moment with Gia. They danced to Simple Minds? Don?t You (Forget About Me). Gia did not let her wild spirit die, and that?s what she has to be remembered for.

?Life and death, energy and peace. If I stop today it was still worth it. Even the terrible mistakes that I made and would have unmade if I could. The pains that have burned me and scarred my soul, it was worth it, for having been allowed to walk where I?ve walked, which was to hell on earth, heaven on earth, back again, into,under,far in between, through it, in it, and above.?

? Gia Carangi

Image for postKathleen Carangi (Gia?s mother) and Gia. Both had a tempestuous relationship but they remained together until Gia?s last breath.Image for postRob Fay and Gia. They met each other in rehab days and they remained friends until her death.Image for post?? I hope this nurse is sexy?? wrote Gia in her diary in her final days

I first heard of Gia Carangi when I watched the biographical HBO film ?Gia? released in 1998. She was portrayed by Angelina Jolie, who faced her worst nightmares just like Gia thought she could. Jolie?s rebellious way and toughness remidend a lot Gia?s. She did fit in the role and I remember how impressed I got by the intensity of her life events. I was much younger back then and did not see her story as I do nowadays. Gia?s final wish is also present in the fiction film: she wanted kids to be aware of the risks of taking drugs. She wanted people to learn more about AIDS. A foundation on her name was created after her death, but it ceased to exist. I wrote another post, in Portuguese, about Gia four years ago. I did not know much about her like I do now because of further research. I will always be curious and amazed by who Gia was once I love reading about women who are/were outspoken, who were/are ahead of their time. Gia was not just a gorgeous looking woman, she dealt with issues considered taboos, even nowadays. She will always be remembered much more for who she was than for who she had to be each time she posed as a model for a magazine.

Image for postAngelina Jolie and Elizabeth Mitchell as Gia and Linda respectively in the reproduction of the ??fence shooting??.Image for postGia in her final moments. According to Fried?s Thing of Beauty, Kathleen did not allow anyone to visit Gia in her last weeks alive. She also reported that all of her daughter?s organs failed.

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