I have to be honest, I lived the 1980s but do not remember Gia Carangi, the famous supermodel.
Mind you, like Gia, I was also in my 20s at the time so a lot of cultural things slipped by me because I was making my own culture by dating, going to nightclubs and exploring — which is totally understandable for a 20-something. And don’t forget, we didn’t have a lot of the media we have now back then. There was no internet, no You Tube … and some families didn’t even have cable television; some still had b&w TV sets!
When I first heard of Gia, it was when I picked up the 1994 paperback edition of the book, “Thing of Beauty: The Tragedy of Supermodel Gia” by Stephen Fried, originally published in 1993.
I was mesmerized by the tragic story of a gorgeous Italian girl who rose to superstar status in the late 1970s, early 1980s fashion industry, and just a short time later died of AIDS in 1986.
The cool thing about Gia was — she was into cool things, like David Bowie and Blondie. She was in Blondie’s “Atomic” video. She was tough and throughout the book I thought she was like a fashionista version of Joan Jett.
A few years after I got the book, an HBO special came on about the life of Gia, staring Angelina Jolie. To me, that was Angelina’s best role ever. I loved the dark, sad movie. It effected me for days.
Well, last week Lifetime showed the movie again. I dug out my old “Thing of Beauty” book and started to re-read it. I also looked up videos of Gia on You Tube and watched interviews. And a cold chill encompasses my body as I revisited the tragedy.
In my opinion, Gia was a fantastic model because her looks transformed her into a vast variety of different people. In Gia, at times I see: Julia Roberts, Janice Dickenson and Cindy Crawford.
And I also see, in Gia, some friends I had in the 1980s — not models, just normal pretty girls. I think that’s why Gia is so fascinating — on one hand she has the superior looks, but on the other hand, a sweet, simple vulnerability that all of us possess. That is what we’re relating to; we all just want to give her a hug.
During one of her last interviews, I felt she is being interrogated when asked about her drug use. Then Gia brought up drugs in food — which I felt was a genius move. Then the interviewer resorted to sarcasm by saying there isn’t cocaine in food.
Yeah, there isn’t cocaine in food, but other DRUGS that cause cancer, diabetes, obesity, etc. which can all lead to DEATH! With Gia being as tough as she was, I wondered why she chose to stay in such a vulnerable mode during the interview and didn’t defend herself by saying what I just said.
Regardless, that girl was wise beyond her years and ahead of her time. Some people simply are therefore they die young and maybe come back many years later. I feel this way about James Dean.
And also, Nancy Spungeon.
No, really, hear me out …
If you read “And I Don’t Want to Live This Life” by Deborah Spungeon, Nancy’s mom, there are similarities. (And so interesting, both girls were from Philadelphia!)
These girls were tough, did drugs, turned tricks for drugs, possessed incredible style and beauty. I know a lot of people don’t think of Nancy as a “beauty.” But look again, she has similar features to the stunning Lady GaGa.
Both Gia and Nancy were head strong and intelligent. Spungeon’s IQ was 175.
And both died in their 20s.
I can only speculate, but I think people who die young just know their own destiny and live these frenzied lives as if they are trying to cheat death, somehow.
Fatal stories are horrific to us, especially when we’ve lost loved ones who wanted to live. How can others throw their lives away just like that? It’s not for us to say or judge, as we do not know the pain that lives inside another human being.
I like to focus on the positive. I did not know Gia personally, but what I do know is what she left behind to the world: Art via her beauty. She was a damn good model and I love going back to the 1980s through her work. Even though Gia’s time wasn’t so innocent, it was an innocent time for a lot of people. And nostalgia is healthy.
RIP, Gia. You were an original.