Gloria Vanderbilt’s son, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, delivered a poignant, on-air obituary for her in response to news of her passing earlier this week. But the 95-year-old socialite and fashion icon left behind her own glorious pictorial history of her life on a social media site she first joined just two years ago, when she was 93.
Vanderbilt joined Instagram in April of 2017 at the request of her famous son and quickly amassed more than 200,000 followers before her death. But many more surely visited the unlikely social media star’s page following her passing.
A look at Gloria Vanderbilt’s Instagram page gives fans an encapsulated look at her life — from her early days as the young heiress of the Vanderbilt railroad family to her reign as a fashion legend, jeans queen, and artist. The same page also showcased her home life as a loving mom.
Many of Vanderbilt’s Instagram photos were taken by famous photographer friends, such as Francesco Scavullo, Richard Avedon, and George Hoyningen-Huene. Other photos feature her son Anderson, both as a child and an adult, and her late son Carter, who died by suicide in 1988, when he was 23. Vanderbilt’s famous artwork and paintings are also showcased on the page. Even her photos from her fashion shoots are peppered with her creativity, courtesy of her thoughtful captions.
On one Instagram post of a vintage photo taken by Scavullo in her Southampton living room, Gloria Vanderbilt recalled her dress designer (Karinska), the living room floors, which “were glazed white,” and the sofa — one that was covered in a beautiful fabric by Fortuny. Vanderbilt noted that the pillows in the retro throwback were cotton gingham.
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A friend sent me this photo the other day. I’d never seen it before. It is me with my Airedale in France, where i lived with my mother, and grandmother Morgan, and my nanny, whom I called Dodo. Plans were already afoot to get me back to America, I’d hear whispers between Dodo and my grandmother, but I did not know what it meant, and all that lay ahead.
While her posts were prolific, Gloria Vanderbilt’s beautiful foray onto Instagram nearly didn’t happen. When Anderson Cooper first urged his mother to join the social media platform, she wasn’t sure it was her thing. In 2017, a 93-year-old Gloria told W Magazine that Anderson would show her Instagram accounts, and it often seemed like “a lot of pictures of plates of food.” Vanderbilt said that the site peppered with food photos just “didn’t grab” her.
Vanderbilt decided to give Instagram a try after realizing it would be a way to connect with her ever-traveling son. After downloading the app, she soon realized that the site also connected her to the lives of pals Mia Farrow, Diane von Furstenberg, Kelly Ripa, Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and more. W Magazine also confirmed that Vanderbilt composed all of her Instagram posts herself, from her iPad.
Gloria Vanderbilt also told Town & Country that while she was hesitant to take the Instagram plunge at first, she was immediately hooked.
“Well it’s like magic, isn’t it?” Vanderbilt said of the platform. “You just post a picture and write something about it and suddenly people all over the world are able to see it and it touches their lives in one way or the other. It’s extraordinary. Anderson warned me that I could easily get sucked into it, waiting for those delicious ‘likes’ to appear! Boy, was he right.”
Vanderbilt said that seeing her follower count go up each day felt like “Christmas morning.”
On February 20, on what would be her final birthday, Gloria Vanderbilt posted a photo of herself at age 16 — a photo from her first modeling shoot for Harper’s Bazaar — to Instagram. Her caption summed up her amazing life perfectly.
“Today I turn 95,” Vanderbilt captioned the gorgeous black-and-white snap. “It feels like yesterday I was 16 and posing for my first picture for ‘Harper’s Bazaar’.”
Vanderbilt went on to say that there is so much she wished she had known back then.
“I do believe that it is only once you accept that life is a tragedy that you can truly start to live,” Vanderbilt wrote. “And, oh, how I have lived! So many lives, so much work, so much love. It is incalculable.”
Gloria Vanderbilt’s final Instagram post came just one week before her death. The legendary socialite posted a photo of framed photos in her bathroom, and the snapshot also captured the “star child” imagery which she had painted on the tiles surrounding her tub.