Anderson Cooper Shares Touching Tribute to His Mom Gloria Vanderbilt After Her Death

Artist, author, and fashion designer, Gloria Vanderbilt has died. She was 95 years old.

Vanderbilt was the mother of CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and a member of the famed Vanderbilt family, a clan of Gilded Age millionaires who were once among the richest people in America.

Cooper confirmed Vanderbilt’s death on Monday, calling her “an extraordinary mom” and “an incredible woman” in a touching on-air obituary on CNN. The cause of death was advanced stomach cancer.

A “poor little rich girl” turned artist and author

Vanderbilt was born in 1924, the daughter of Reginald Vanderbilt, an heir to the Vanderbilt railroad fortune. He gambled away much of his money and died when his daughter was still a baby. She was raised in France, until an infamous custody battle between her mother and her aunt ended with her being sent to live with her father’s sister, who promptly fired her beloved nanny. The case was covered extensively by the press, who portrayed the 10-year-old as a “poor little rich girl.”

At 17, Vanderbilt married for the first time, to a Hollywood agent with a sketchy past. It was the first of four marriages for a woman who was reportedly the inspiration for the Holly Golightly character in Truman Capote’s novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Her other husbands included the conductor Leopold Stokowski, director Sidney Lumet, and author Wyatt Cooper. She also pursued a career in the arts, working as a painter, actress, memoirist and novelist, and fashion designer. Her famous jeans were a must-have fashion item in the 1970s and 1980s.

Vanderbilt had four sons, two with Stokowski — Stanley and Christopher — and two with Cooper. Her last husband died in 1978 during heart surgery. Her son Carter died by suicide at age 23 in 1988.

Cooper remembers his mother

Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt
Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt in 2016 | Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic

On CNN, Cooper recalled his mother’s rich and tumultuous life as well as her indomitable spirit and belief in the power of love. Even at the end, he said, he was still discovering new things about his mother. Shortly before her death, a joke made both Cooper and his mother laugh. “I never knew we had the exact same giggle,” he said.

Cooper and his mother shared a close bond and collaborated on the 2016 book The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love and Loss as well as the documentary Nothing Left Unsaid.

“My mom is an eternal optimist,” Cooper said in an interview with Charlie Rose when the book was released. “Even at 92 she believes the next great love is right around the corner, the next great adventure.”

In the CNN obituary, Cooper recalled his mother’s unique presence and unconventional life.

“I always thought of her as a visitor from another world, a traveler stranded here who had come from a distant star that burned out long ago” Cooper said. “I always felt it was my job to protect her.”

In her final illness, Vanderbilt was accompanied by those closest to her.  

“When the end came she was not alone,” Cooper said. “She was surrounded by beauty, by family, and by friends.”

Check out Showbiz Cheat Sheet on Facebook!