A Look Back At All Of Gia Carangi’s Vogue Covers

A Look Back At All Of Gia Carangi’s Vogue Covers

By Christopher Turner

One of the crowning achievements of any model’s career is securing a spot on the cover of a fashion magazine, and without a doubt Vogue has always been one of the most coveted and career-changing gigs for any top model. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the late supermodel Gia secured her legacy by appearing on the cover of the Italian, British and French editions of Vogue, and even the cover of the all-important, career-defining American Vogue.

Gia Marie Carangi was born in Philadelphia on January 29, 1960, and moved to New York City at the age of 17 with dreams of becoming a model. When she arrived in the city, Gia met with Wilhelmina Cooper, who immediately signed her in January 1978 to the prestigious modelling agency Wilhelmina Models. Gia instantly took the fashion industry by storm.

During her meteoric rise to the top, Gia redefined the standard of beauty—her dark features disrupted an industry that was dominated by tall, blonde, blue-eyed models. She appeared in countless magazine spreads, and worked with the biggest brands (including Diane von Fürstenberg, Christian Dior, Armani and Versace) and with legendary photographers (including Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon and Arthur Elgort)…she even starred in the iconic music video for Blondie’s 1980 hit “Atomic.” By the time Gia was 18, she was making over $100,000 annually, which made her the highest-paid model at the time—the reason why many in the fashion industry consider her the world’s first supermodel.

Cooper quickly became Gia’s confidant, so when Cooper died of lung cancer at the age of 40 on March 1, 1980, a time when Gia’s career was at its peak, Gia was utterly devastated. Cooper’s death sent her into a downward spiral, and it was a contributing factor to her heroin addiction, which she told friends was a way to ease the pain.

Gia’s drug abuse quickly affected her work and her fashion career rapidly declined. Famed fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo (1921–2004), who was one of Gia’s biggest supporters, recalled a session with her 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.”

Gia would later become infected with HIV and died in Philadelphia on November 18, 1986, of AIDS-related complications. She was only 26 years old.

Throughout her short career, Gia appeared on a number of covers, including her five famous Cosmopolitan covers, each shot by Scavullo, who exclusively shot the magazine covers for more than 30 years. The Cosmo covers are a key part of Gia’s legacy, but so are her iconic covers for the industry bible: Vogue. Gia appeared on the April 1979 issue of British Vogue, the April 1979 and August 1980 issues of Vogue Paris, the August 1980 issue of American Vogue, and the February 1981 issue of Vogue Italia.

According to Gia’s aunt Nancy Adams, Vogue was always top of mind when it came to her career. “Gia said that all she wanted to do was one cover of Vogue: that was it, just one cover,” recalled Adams.

Here’s a look back at all five of Gia Carangi’s Vogue covers.

A Look Back At All Of Gia Carangi’s Vogue Covers - Vogue UK, April 1979

British Vogue, April 1979
Photographed by Alex Chatelain
Gia made her Vogue cover debut on two different editions of the magazine: British Vogue and Vogue Paris, appearing on the cover of both magazines’ April 1979 issues…completely uncoordinated.

The April 1979 issue of the British edition of Vogue magazine was shot less than a year after the model made her editorial Vogue debut in the October 1978 issue of American Vogue (Gia wouldn’t appear on the American Vogue cover until the following year).

Beatrix Miller, the editor of British Vogue from 1964 to 1986, enlisted French fashion photographer Alex Chatelain, who did a lot of work for the European editions of Vogue in the 1970s and ’80s, to shoot Gia for the cover. Stylist Gilles did Gia’s blown-out hair while Jacques Clemente did her makeup.

A Look Back At All Of Gia Carangi’s Vogue Covers - Vogue Paris, April 1979

Vogue Paris, April 1979
Photographed by Helmut Newton
At the same time, Gia also made her debut on the April 1979 cover of the Vogue Paris. A dramatically different cover from her British Vogue cover.

The April 1979 issue of Vogue Paris (renamed Vogue France in 2021) was shot by the legendary fashion photographer Helmut Newton, under the direction of Vogue Paris editor Francine Crescent, whose editorship would later be described as prescient, daring and courageous. It wasn’t the first time that Newton had shot Gia; in fact, their previous collaboration for the March 1979 issue of Vogue Paris was partially how she secured the cover shoot. Newton’s now famous photo layout “Woman Into Man” (or cross-dressing women) for the March 1979 issue featured striking black and photos of Gia that were taken by the legendary photographer at the George V Hotel in Paris. They are among some of Newton’s most recognizable to date, as well as Gia’s.

A Look Back At All Of Gia Carangi’s Vogue Covers - Vogue Paris August 1980

Vogue Paris August 1980
Photographed by Albert Watson
In August 1980, Gia was back on the cover of Vogue Paris. This time editor Francine Crescent commissioned Scottish fashion photographer Albert Watson to shoot the model.

A Look Back At All Of Gia Carangi’s Vogue Covers - Vogue US, August 1980

Vogue, August 1980
Photographed by Richard Avedon
Gia finally appeared on the cover of the career-defining American Vogue on the August 1980 issue. Editor in chief Grace Mirabella personally selected Gia to appear on the cover, which was shot by famed fashion photographer Richard Avedon. Alberto Fava did Gia’s makeup, while Harry King styled her hair.

A Look Back At All Of Gia Carangi’s Vogue Covers - Vogue Italia February 1981

Vogue Italia February 1981
Photographed by Renato Grignaschi
Gia’s last cover for Vogue was the February 1981 Vogue Italia cover, shot by Italian photographer Renato Grignaschi, who photographed Gia on a number of occasions during her short career. Famed makeup artist (and at one point serious love interest of Gia’s) Sandy Linter did Gia’s makeup while Bruno styled her hair for the shoot.

Gia’s career was in a steep decline by the time the February 1981 issue of Vogue Italia hit newsstands; in fact, Linter wasn’t even on speaking terms with her when the magazine came out, fearing any association with Gia would harm her own career.

As modelling offers disappeared, Gia was desperate to quit using drugs, so she moved back to Philadelphia with her mother and stepfather in February 1981 and underwent a 21-day detox program. But her sobriety was short-lived and Gia could never completely kick her habit. Through the next few years, she was briefly clean, and worked odd jobs selling jeans in a shopping mall in Pennsylvania and at a nursing home as a cafeteria checkout clerk, sleeping on friends’ and lovers’ sofas. In December 1985, though, she was diagnosed with AIDS and the following year, she passed away on November 18, 1986.

Want more Gia? Take a look back at Gia Carangi’s five Cosmopolitan covers or check out 10 memorable images of the supermodel.

Tags: American Vogue, British Vogue, cosmo, cosmopolitan, Francesco Scavullo, French Vogue, Gia, Gia Carangi, Helmut Newton, Italian Vogue, top story, topstory, Vogue, Vogue covers

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