Gloria Vanderbilt, the intrepid heiress, artist, and romantic who began her extraordinary life as the "poor little rich girl" of the Great Depression, survived family tragedy and multiple marriages, and reigned during the 1970s and '80s as a designer jeans pioneer, died Monday at the age of 95. Vanderbilt was the great-great-granddaughter of financier Cornelius Vanderbilt and the mother of CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who announced her death via a first-person obituary that aired on the network Monday morning, per the AP. Watch his tribute here. Gloria Laura Madeleine Sophie Vanderbilt was born in 1924, a century after her great-great-grandfather started the family fortune, first in steamships, later in railroads. He left around $100 million when he died in 1877 at age 82.
Her father, Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, was 43 when he married Gloria Morgan, 19, in 1923. He died of liver disease when his daughter was 1. Beneficiary of a $5 million trust fund, Vanderbilt became the "poor little rich girl" in 1934 at age 10 as the object of a custody fight between her globe-trotting mother and a matriarchal aunt. The aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, 59, won custody of her niece after a maid accused the child's mother of a lesbian affair with a member of the British royal family. Vanderbilt grew to become a talented painter, actor, and writer. She also was a fabric designer who became an early enthusiast for designer denim. Vanderbilt partnered with Mohan Murjani, who introduced a $1 million advertising campaign in 1978 that turned the Gloria Vanderbilt brand with its signature white swan label into a sensation. More details here. (Read more Gloria Vanderbilt stories.)