“Life & Death/energy & Peace/if I stoped today/it was fun” --- Gia (in her own words)
Gia Carangi was the first supermodel. She was also very likely the first female celebrity to die of AIDS. She was drop dead gorgeous, pun unintended. She enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame and success. She was a charismatic pansexual figure on the New York underground disco circuit and featured on the covers of all the influential fashion magazines. She was the darling of numerous respected fashion and art photographers. She died tragically in 1986 after becoming infected with HIV through her reckless use of intravenous drug-taking. She was 26-years-old.
Gia Marie Carangi was of Italian, Irish, and Welsh heritage. She began modeling at the age of 17 after moving from Philadelphia to New York City. She quickly rose to prominence and became popular among the eminent fashion photographers such as Francesco Scavullo, Arthur Elgort, Richard Avedon, and Chris von Wangenheim. She was the first model to make a name for herslef presenting unusual poses, facial expressions and gestures. She was credited by many at the upper echelons of fashion to have created a new style of modeling, emulated by models since then to the present. By 1978 she was fast becoming the hottest model in the world.
In October 1978, Gia did her first major shoot with top fashion photographer Chris von Wangenheim. Wangenheim had her pose nude behind a chain-link fence with makeup assistant Sandy Linter. Gia immediately became infatuated with Linter. They were lovers, but the relationship was never stable enough to last.
Gia was a regular at Studio 54 and the Mudd Club. She usually only used cocaine in clubs, but later began to develop a heroin addiction. This drug abuse was compounded after Gia's agent, Wilhelmina Cooper, died of lung cancer. Gia was devastated. Scavullo recalled a fashion shoot in the Caribbean when "She was crying, she couldn't find her drugs. I literally had to lay her down on her bed until she fell asleep."
By 1980 Gia began having violent temper tantrums, walking out of photo shoots, and even falling asleep in front of the camera. In the November 1980 issue of Vogue, Gia's track marks from heroin can be easily seen. For three weeks, she was signed with Eileen Ford, but the fashion house mogul soon dropped her.
In 1981, Carangi enrolled in a 21-day detox program, and started dating a college student, Elyssa Golden. The Carangi family, along with her mother, had suspected that Golden had a drug problem. Carangi soon began using again. She moved out of her mother's house and in with some friends, once again entering a detox program, but her attempt to quit drugs was shattered when she received news that her close friend, fashion photographer Chris von Wangenheim, had died in a car accident.
Curiously, early in her modeling career Cindy Crawford was nicknamed “Baby Gia” due to her resemblance.
The resemblence Cindy Crawford had to Gia is quite apparent. Her European heritage served her very well in the fashion industry. But her reckless disregard to her body and soul destroyed her. It is difficult to select my favourite pictures, but stand-outs are the red one-piece swimming costume, the patterned singlet, and the two with her in a black dress; one leaning to her left against a green railing (and hanging loose), the other to her right against a glass balcony wall, smoking the cigarette, and that close-up visage, thirteen down from the top of the main selection. It was considered by many that she had the best tits in the industry. Yup.