One of the most disturbing items to land on my desk during the six years I worked at Cosmo was this cover. The model is Gia Carangi. At the time, Gia was trying to revive a career that had been all but destroyed by heroin.
Gia was recruited into the world of high-fashion modeling just as the era of the “supermodel” was beginning. She was only 17. Within a year she was on the cover of Vogue. She did her first Cosmo cover in 1979, the same year I landed a job in the copy department.
What set Gia apart from other models and made her a superstar was her vulnerability and sensitivity. A photo stylist who worked with Francesco Scavullo described her as “a little girl. A little lost girl, confused in many ways.”
Scavullo, who shot all of Cosmo's covers, adored Gia, and he made her the magazine's No. 1 cover girl. She was the hottest model in New York, probably in the world, and a regular at Studio 54.
Then, suddenly, she was gone.
The false glamour of the fashion industry hides a shadow world of exploitation. Models, many of them children, are among its primary victims. I was not surprised when Mother Jones exposed the shady dealings of Trump Model Management. What surprised and saddened me was how little people cared.
Gia died in 1986 of complications from AIDS after several attempts at drug rehab. “You know,” Scavullo said in an interview after her death, “the fashion industry is a terrible group of people. They take you and throw you away like a Kleenex.”