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Gloria Vanderbilt, Heiress Turned Jeans Designer, Dies At 95

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/CNN/AP) — The legendary Gloria Vanderbilt has died.

She was a fashion trendsetter, an heiress, and so much more. Her extraordinary life was not without its difficult moments, but through it all, Vanderbilt kept her head held high.

She was a fashion queen. In the 1980s Gloria Vanderbilt jeans were all the rage. But she had so many years, and it seemed so many lives.

Born in New York in 1924, Gloria Laura Morgan Vanderbilt grew up in France. She was the great-great-granddaughter of financier Cornelius Vanderbilt. Her father, financier Reginald Vanderbilt, the heir to a railroad fortune, died when she was a baby. She born into brightest spotlight any child could face. At age 10, caught in a sensational custody battle, she was dubbed the "poor little rich girl."

Long before social media, she was followed by newsreel marking her every move, including her marriages. She was 17 when she was married for the first time to Hollywood agent Pat DiCicco in 1941.

At 21, she took control of a $4.3 million trust fund her father had left her. She divorced DiCicco two months later, promptly remarried -- this time, to conductor Leopold Stokowski -- and began pursuing her passions, beginning with her artwork, which she first put on exhibit in 1948.

She had two sons with Stokowski: Leopold Stokowski was born in 1950, and Christopher Stokowski in 1952. She went on to marry Sydney Lumet and Wyatt Cooper.

In 1954, she made her stage debut in a production of the romantic drama "The Swan" at the Pocono Playhouse in Mountainhome, Pennsylvania. She published a book of poetry the following year.

She found another avenue for her creativity in the years that followed. Tapping her artwork as a muse, she produced fashion and textile designs that would earn her the 1969 Neiman Marcus Fashion Award, before opening the door to a line of ready-to-wear garments in the mid-1970s.

Under her GV Ltd. brand, she'd go on to sell millions of pairs of jeans bearing her trademark swan logo.

In 2016, her son Anderson Cooper appeared with his mother in a documentary on her life "Nothing Left Unsaid."

Cooper's brother killed himself at the age of 23, a suicide his mother witnessed and called the most painful moment of her life.

"As a teenager she tried to avoid the spotlight, but reporters and cameramen followed her everywhere," Cooper said. "She was determined to make something of her life, determined to make a name for herself, and find the love she so desperately needed."

She was an heiress, an artist, and an unforgettable fashion icon. And, her son says, a wonderful mother.

She was 95 when she died.

The news was announced via a CNN report voiced by Cooper. CNN reported that she died at her home and was suffering from advanced stomach cancer.

"Gloria Vanderbilt was an extraordinary  woman, who loved life, and lived it on her own terms. She was a painter, a writer, and designer but also a remarkable mother, wife, and friend. She was 95 years old, but ask anyone close to her, and they'd tell you, she was the youngest person they knew, the coolest, and most modern. She died this morning, the way she wanted to - at home, surrounded by family and friends," Cooper said in a statement released by CNN.


(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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