Gloria Vanderbilt Has a Cooler Instagram Than You: The Resurgence of a Socialite
June 7, 2018
New York socialite Gloria Vanderbilt is no stranger to the press and media. As early as her youth in the 1930s, her name appeared all over the world’s leading newspapers, when her mother Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt and paternal aunt Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney battled in court for custody over the infant and her $5 million-dollar trust fund (worth approximately $68 million in today’s dollars). Her father, railroad heir Reginald Claypole Vanderbilt had just recently died of the fatal liver condition Cirrhosis, and left half of his fortune to his second daughter.
Gertrude Whitney had felt that Gloria Sr. was irresponsibly spending the 18-month old infant’s fortune. Reginald Vanderbilt’s second wife would travel to and from Paris regularly, acquiring art and living a lavish lifestyle. She would also tag along her twin sister, who at the time was rumored to be the mistress of the Prince of Wales. The battles at the courtroom was bloody. Not only because of what was in stake, but because audiences were intrigued that members from America’s original Millionaire’s Club were fighting over money. The press coined it as the “Trial of the Century.” Gertrude would eventually win custody and Gloria Jr. was raised in her aunt’s luxurious mansions in Long Island.
Born in 1924 with a silver spoon in her mouth, Gloria’s life was always to be lived in the spotlight. Her Great Great Grandfather was American pioneer Cornelius Vanderbilt, the shipping and railroad magnet and a prominent figure in high society. Even by the early 20th century (in which historians refer to as “Fall of the House of Vanderbilt” (when most of their Manhattan properties were sold off and turned into museums), the family never went without great wealth. Gloria would become a certified socialite in her teenage years, every whim watched and criticized.
Gloria dabbled in many careers throughout her professional life, proving to be successful in most of them. She was well known as an international fashion model, beginning her career at 17 when she appeared in Harper’s Bazar. It is also said that photography legend Richard Avedon found inspiration in the heiress. He photographed her multiple times throughout his career.
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Vanderbilt launched numerous fashion lines as well, beginning with a line of scarves for Glentex. She would then sell the rights of her name to Indian designer Mohan Murjani, who produced multiple fashion lines inspired by her, including skintight jeans (unusual for the 1970s) with Gloria’s signature appearing at the back pocket. However, her true love was in art, producing oil paintings and putting them on exhibit. In 1968, popular holiday card company Hallmark began commissioning Gloria’s work.
Well into her 90s, Gloria had taken a step back from the spotlight, quietly producing art at home and selling it under her namesake studio. It has been her son Anderson Cooper who has been making media waves. Cooper has found fame as a CNN reporter, producing brave and groundbreaking work. He quickly rose to become one of the most recognizable faces in television. It may have seemed that the days of Gloria Vanderbilt in the headlines were over, and that it was time for a new member of the family to make a name for themselves.
Suddenly, a familiar name began appearing on people’s Instagram feeds. The icon photo was that of a woman with the perfectly set beehive hairdo. The handle read @gloriavanderbilt—this was the new social media account of the legendary socialite, model, fashion designer, artist and soon to be: Internet darling.
The 94-year-old’s first photo is that of her 2013 artwork Flowers for the Moon. The piece, that appears to be in oil or pastel, is that of a woman ceremonially offering flowers to an illuminated night’s sky. Gloria has continued to post photos of her favorite or newly finished pieces regularly, intriguing fans of her preferred subjects such as flowers, femininity, portraits of powerful and vulnerable women.
Gloria also shares important milestones from her colorful life. One photograph captioned “With Anderson and Carter in the house on 67th street. To quote Elizabeth Barrett Browning: ‘I love you in ways that are infinite and as in eternity have no beginning or end.’” It shows not only the love of a mother, but an intimate glimpse into the home life of American royalty. Portraits of her youth by Richard Avedon, Francesco Scavullo and Harper’s Bazar grace her feed, reminding everybody of the fashion icon that she is.
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It is interesting to see that Gloria has found Instagram. The photographs and moments that she shares is not because of vanity or to live in the past, but to document the well lived life of a successful woman and mother. It may prove to be a map for historians and biographers in the future, a time capsule of elegance and grace. It is only the beginning for Gloria Vanderbilt’s social media account as she slowly populates her feed. With 170k followers and 98 posts thus far, it is exciting to see what heights Gloria Vanderbilt can reach with this newly discovered medium. We do know one thing: she’s got a cooler Instagram account then you.
Ask Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Milder, Mia Farrow and Diane von Furstenberg—all whom follows her.