Angelina Jolie as Gia Carangi.
(Photo from Gia courtesy of HBO Pictures)
If you’ve never seen the movie Gia, I highly recommend it. The first time I watched it, I was still in high school, and the dark subject matter both intrigued and overwhelmed me. Years later, after seeing it again, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is one of the most poignant, devastating, and true-to-life portraits of how tough the fashion business really is.
In this 1998 biopic, a 20-something Angelina Jolie plays Gia Carangi, the legendary American model who catapulted to instant fame in the late '70s, only to face a sharp decline and her eventual death due to a destructive addiction to heroin.
Once a gorgeous, fresh-faced star for whom top photographers jostled in line, Gia’s fragile, unpredictable nature—aggravated by the deaths or departures of some of her closest companions—soon turned her into a pariah. Four years after her dazzling ascent, Gia shot her final cover for American Cosmopolitan—a gift from a close photographer friend (not by request of the magazine). By the time she died in November 1986, two months shy of her 27th birthday, Gia was HIV positive, most probably from using dirty needles. The number of years she had not worked prior to her demise equated to the span of her entire career.
As I was watching the movie, it dawned on me that nothing makes a story more thought-provoking, cautionary, or simply of interest to others than a little controversy. It doesn’t have to be as tragic as Gia’s life; people can feed off the most insignificant thing, really, as long as it’s scandalous.
For instance, Karl Lagerfeld’s over-90-pound weight loss in 2004 caused a sensation when rumors began to circulate about his bizarre diet. According to the gossip, the designer had achieved his trim new bod by allegedly eating horsemeat with tomatoes and Diet Coke alone. This strange recipe was not included in a diet book that Lagerfeld published later on—but his partaking of the peculiar protein was neither confirmed nor denied.
Then there was that 2008 uproar over Miley Cyrus’ “half-naked” portrait in Vanity Fair. Both parenting groups and Disney officials were outraged over the “inappropriate” image, as the Disney star was only 15 years old at the time. Cyrus issued an apology, stating: “I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be ‘artistic’ and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed. I never intended for any of this to happen.” Renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz, who shot Cyrus for Vanity Fair, also released a statement defending her work: “I’m sorry that my portrait of Miley has been misinterpreted. The photograph is a simple, classic portrait, shot with very little makeup, and I think it is very beautiful.”
And who can forget that fateful novel-turned-movie starring Meryl Streep? In The Devil Wears Prada, Streep played a character rumored to be based on icy Vogue editor Anna Wintour. To the surprise of many, Wintour attended the film’s New York premiere dressed in—what else?—Prada. Now that’s what I call scandalous.
Read on for 10 true fashion stories—from the heartbreaking to the law-breaking, and everything in between.
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