In spite of the fact that much of her personal life was splashed across the covers of tabloid magazines, fashion icon Gloria Vanderbilt lived a life filled with hope, always anticipating that something wonderful was about to happen.
The designer’s father, Reginald Vanderbilt, died when she was a toddler. When her mother proved to enjoy the party life more than raising Vanderbilt, her paternal aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt, successfully fought for custody of her, per Biography. Vanderbilt’s aunt ran a strict household and when she was a teen, she moved to Hollywood. When she was just 17, Vanderbilt married Hollywood agent Pat DiCicco, but the marriage ended badly. The designer would go on to marry two more times and have four sons — Stanley and Christopher Stokowski and Carter and Anderson Cooper.
Just as her famous brand of blue jeans was taking off in the ’70s, her husband Wyatt Cooper died during open heart surgery. In 1988, Vanderbilt suffered another loss when her son, Carter Cooper, committed suicide by jumping from the window of an apartment 14 floors up. Furthermore, her former lawyer and psychiatrist also reportedly swindled large amounts of money from her in the ’90s, which forced her to sell her property in 2002.
But heartache and misfortune never seemed to get Vanderbilt down.
Speaking with T.J. Wilcox from Interview magazine in 2014, the designer — then 90 — said she never allowed herself to feel defeated and was always reinventing herself.
Vanderbilt said that while she was always looking forward, she also looked back because everything was “autobiographical,” adding that everything we do is “based on where we came from.” She explained that her attitude wasn’t so much about living in the past as it was recognizing that our experiences shape who we are and whether we will survive them or not.
When Wilcox mentioned how Vanderbilt was an example of how anyone at any age could greet each day like a new adventure, the artist explained her positive attitude.
“I really do think that something wonderful is going to happen. Even death is wonderful because, as Woody Allen says, we’re not going to know when it happens,” she said.
"My mom has lived many different lives and has inhabited many different skins. She has this public face, but the reality of her life is so different than what the public face is." Anderson Cooper on Gloria Vanderbilt in the 2016 @HBO documentary about them https://t.co/1egwtej1BM pic.twitter.com/jZlacEGKj1— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) June 17, 2019
In 2010, Vanderbilt’s son, Anderson Cooper, spoke of his mother’s optimism.
“There is no one I know who is so open to the new: new experiences, new opportunities, new love, even if it means new loss. She truly believes the best is yet to come, that great adventures are out there, just around the corner,” Cooper wrote in the foreword of Wendy Goodman’s book, The World of Gloria Vanderbilt.