Gia Marie Carangi (January 29, 1960 – November 18, 1986) was an American fashion model during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Carangi, who was of Italian, Welsh and Irish ancestry, was considered by some to be the first supermodel, although that title has also been given to others including Janice Dickinson
and Dorian Leigh. Cindy Crawford, who also appeared on the covers of several fashion publications during her time, was later referred to as "Baby Gia", due to her resemblance to Carangi. Carangi was also the first to present unusual poses, facial expressions and gestures. She is 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.
After becoming addicted to heroin, Carangi's modeling career rapidly declined. She later became infected with HIV and died at the age of 26. Her death was not widely publicized and few people in the fashion industry knew of it. Carangi is thought to be one of the first famous women to die of AIDS. Her father is Italian American, and her mother is American of Irish and Welsh ancestry.
After being featured in Philadelphia newspaper ads, Carangi moved to New York City at the age of 17, where she quickly rose to prominence. She was the favorite model of many eminent fashion photographers, including Francesco Scavullo, Arthur Elgort, Richard Avedon, and Chris von Wangenheim, and she posed for photos in many countries. Her sexual orientation has been disputed: while most of her contemporaries considered her to be lesbian, others point to the fact she had relationships with men and call her bisexual.
Carangi was a regular at Studio 54 and the Mudd Club. Carangi usually used cocaine in clubs but later began to develop a heroin addiction.
In October 1978, Carangi 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. Carangi immediately became infatuated with Linter and started to pursue her, though the relationship never became stable.
On March 1, 1980, Carangi's agent, Wilhelmina Cooper, died of lung cancer. Devastated, Carangi started abusing drugs. 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, Carangi 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, Carangi's track marks from shooting heroin were visible even after airbrushing. For three weeks, she was signed with Eileen Ford, who 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.
Her attempt to quit drugs was shattered when she learned that her good friend and fashion photographer Chris von Wangenheim died in a car accident. According to the Stephen Fried book, Thing of Beauty, Carangi locked herself in a bathroom for hours, shooting heroin. In the fall of 1981, she looked far different from the top model she once had been. However, she was still determined to make a comeback in the fashion industry. She contacted Monique Pillard (who was largely responsible for Janice Dickinson's career), who was hesitant to sign her.
For her second time, Carangi received the harsh treatment she skipped last time. Nobody would book her. Desperate, she turned to Scavullo. She landed a Cosmopolitan cover, a gift from Scavullo. Shot in the winter of 1982, it would be her last cover.
In West Germany, a budding fashion industry was being created. Although seen as tacky by the designers from New York, Paris and Milan, the Germans were willing to pay 10,000 marks a week to shoot Carangi abroad. However, no one in the States would book her. In the spring of 1983, she was caught with drugs in a shoot in Africa. Her career was over.
After pressure from her family she entered a drug-rehabilitation program again at Eagleville Hospital. After six months, she was released from the program and moved back to Philadelphia, where she seemed to be getting her life back on track. She started taking classes in photography and cinematography. But, three months later, she had vanished once again, and had returned to Atlantic City, and started shooting heroin again and claimed she was raped. She soon became ill with pneumonia, and her mother came and checked her into a hospital in Norristown, Pennsylvania.
Carangi was diagnosed with AIDS, then a newly recognized disease. As her condition worsened, she was transferred to Philadelphia's Hahnemann University Hospital. Her mother stayed with her day and night, allowing virtually no visitors.
On November 18, 1986 at 10 a.m., Carangi died of AIDS-related complications. She was 26 years old.
A biographical film, Gia, debuted on HBO in 1998. Angelina Jolie
starred in the title role, garnering a Golden Globe award
for the role.
In 1996, actress-screenwriter Zoë Tamerlis, herself a heroin addict who died of drug-related causes in 1999, was commissioned to write a screenplay based upon Carangi's life. This version of Gia was not produced, but after Tamerlis' death, footage of Carangi, Tamerlis, photographers, Carangi's family, and Sandy Linter discussing her life was incorporated into a 2003 documentary entitled The Self-Destruction of Gia.
Biography courtesy of Wikipedia