Biography of Gia Karanji
Gia Karanji is a famous American model of the late 1970s and early 1980s. She is famous for her collaborations with fashion houses such as Armani, Christian Dior, Versace and Yves Saint Laurent. At the age of 26, she passed away from AIDS. In the biographical drama Gia (1998), the girl was portrayed by Angelina Jolie.
In the photo: Gia Karanji
Childhood and youth
Gia Marie Karanji was born on January 29, 1960 in Philadelphia, USA. Gia was the daughter of Italian restaurant owner Joseph Carangi and Irish and Welsh housewife Kathleen Adams. Carangi has two older brothers, Joe and Michael. One of them told about Gia’s childhood like this: “She had a small four-poster bed, where dolls lay everywhere. She was an ordinary little girl, that’s how I remember her.”
Little Gia Karanji with her mother
Despite the seeming idyll, Gia’s childhood cannot be called cloudless. The family life of the model’s parents was stormy – they constantly argued and quarreled. “Jia and I sat on the steps of the house every evening and listened to how they swear. It was terrible,” recalls the girl’s brother. As a result, the marriage fell apart miserably, and in 1971 Kathleen left, leaving the children to her husband, which was a real blow to Gia.
Gia Karanji in his youth
Later, Karanja’s mother was accused of “breaking her daughter’s childhood”, and it was because of her that the girl became addicted to drugs. Relatives, however, recalled that little Gia became a real manipulator and a spoiled child who did not receive enough maternal attention.
Model Gia Carangi
As a teenager, Karanji became completely unmanageable: she violated curfews, experimented with alcohol, pills and marijuana. Her best friends were the Bowie Kids, a group of obsessed fans of the musician David Bowie who copied his “defiantly bizarre, glamorous” style.
Karanji, on the other hand, was interested in the musician not only for his unusual appearance, but also for his ambiguous sexual preferences. Later, one of her friends said that Gia was a real tomboy (tomboy – tomboy, tomboy). Indefatigable sexuality was the only thing that Karanji was sure of and was very proud of. “She was very open about her intentions. She could easily kiss the person she liked on the lips, grab him and the like, ”recalls a friend.
Gia Carangi’s famous nude photoshoot
Together with the Bowie kids, Carangi often went to concerts and hung out in gay clubs in downtown Philadelphia. Gia’s behavior upset her mother – she even took her daughter to a psychologist, but this did not help. Then Kathleen decided to keep her daughter busy and invited her to try herself at a model age – the schoolgirl had an angelic face and a fine figure.
Gia Carangi at Cosmopolitan
However, the modeling business found Karanji himself. In a nightclub, 17-year-old Gia was noticed by Maurice Tannenbaum, who at that time was a hair stylist and aspiring photographer. Shocked by the beauty of the girl, Maurice offered her a free photo session. And realizing that he had found a real diamond, he soon took Karanji to New York to introduce her to the whole world. “She was very excited, very nervous, very, very nervous,” Tannenbaum recalls of her first casting call at Wilhelmina Cooper’s fashion agency.
In early 1978, 18-year-old Gia packed her bags and finally moved to New York. Thanks to a contract with the agency of Wilhelmina Carangi, she managed to instantly fly to the top, which is a blatant rarity in the fashion world. Photographers liked Gia’s style and slightly cheeky demeanor. “She reminded me of James Dean. Very cool, but also very vulnerable,” recalls photographer Andrea Blanch.
Photographers liked Gia’s style and slightly cheeky behavior
Photographer Francesco Scavullo – in the future a close friend of the girl – remembers well the day when Gia entered his studio: “In my entire career, I met maybe only 3 girls who made my jaw drop. And Gia is definitely one of them.”
Gia starred in the most fashionable magazines
By the end of 1978, Gia starred in the most fashionable magazines (including American Vogue) and earned hundreds of thousands of dollars. Fashion photographer Chris von Wangenheim arranged her first nude photo shoot – this is how the legendary photos of Gia behind a metal mesh appeared.
Legendary photos of Gia behind a metal mesh
But along with the money and success in Gia’s life, cocaine was firmly established, which was then sold literally on every corner. The addiction was aggravated by personal grief – her mentor Wilhelmina Cooper died of lung cancer. In the spring of 1980, Karanji found the “perfect” way to deal with the blow – heroin.
Along with fame, drugs have firmly entered Gia’s life.
Photographers soon began to suspect that Gia’s unbridled behavior was due to drug abuse. The model could easily get nasty, often late or not appear on the set at all, often filmed “high”.
The November 1980 issue of Vogue shows just how far Gia has come in her addiction. In the photographs, you can see distinct traces of injections on the girl’s hands.
Gia Carangi for Vogue November 1980
In November 1980, Gia left the Wilhelmina agency and signed with Eileen Ford. However, the famous Ford Models agency was able to endure Gia’s antics for only three weeks – as a result, the contract was terminated. A few months later, Karanji disappeared from the New York fashion scene to deal with her addiction. The girl underwent several courses of treatment, which did not bring any special results. The death in a car accident of her close friend, photographer Chris von Wangenheim, became an excuse for Gia: she began to use heroin non-stop.
Gia Karanji and Cindy Linter
After several years of abuse, the girl developed a terrible abscess on her hands, and huge cysts appeared on her back. In addition, during the next treatment, Gia gained weight, but was still full of desire to work.
Shot in the winter of 1982, the April issue of Cosmo was Gia’s last cover. In the photo, the girl hides her hands behind her back: many were sure that this was due to injection marks, but photographer Francesco Scavullo assured that in this way the model tried to hide her excess weight.
Gia Karanji, 1982
Rapidly spreading rumors about Gia’s addiction led photographers to refuse to work with her. Those who dared to invite Karanji to the studio were horrified. “She fell asleep next to the set and burned the skin on her chest with a cigarette!” recalls one of the photographers. In the spring of 1983, while filming in North Africa, Gia was found to have a package of drugs – this was the last straw.
Under pressure from her family, Gia declared herself bankrupt and underwent a six-month rehabilitation course. After treatment, Karanji remained to live in the suburbs of Philadelphia, got a job as a saleswoman in the jeans department and as a cashier at a local supermarket. In parallel, the girl attended courses at a local college and studied photography.
Gia Karanji hid injection marks under her sleeves
The idyll did not last long: after 3 months, the girl returned to Atlantic City and went into prostitution to earn money for drugs. She was raped and beaten several times, but the girl didn’t care anymore.
Gia Carangi’s personal life
After moving to New York, 18-year-old Gia barely joined the world of fashion, which is famous for its easy attitude to sex: from people, she expected, first of all, love and compassion. In search of a stable relationship, Karanji fell in love with those she barely knew, often experiencing the pain of unrequited feelings.
Gia felt extremely lonely
“She just wanted someone to hug her. It was very sad,” recalls a friend of the model. Gia felt incredibly lonely and even asked her brother Michael to live with her in New York.
One of Gia’s most famous companions was makeup artist Cindy Linter (born 1947), whom the model met in 1978. The girls were not only lovers, but also colleagues: their joint photos are striking in their sensuality. There were also rumors that Gia was the girlfriend of actor Mickey Rourke.
One of Gia’s most famous companions was makeup artist Cindy Linter.
In 1981, Gia met 20-year-old college student Elissa Golden, a heroin addict. Their relationship lasted several years with varying success. Karanji’s girlfriend pulled Gia along to the very bottom: the model began to drive while intoxicated and steal from family members and friends.
For the last three years of her life, Gia was especially close to Rob Fay, whom she met in rehab. Rob became the only person whom Carangi’s mother let into her daughter’s room, who was dying.
At the end of 1985, Gia was hospitalized with pneumonia, where it turned out that the girl had AIDS. In the last months of her life, Karanji was finally able to achieve what she craved all her short life – the undivided attention of her mother, who literally moved into her daughter’s ward.
Last photo of Gia Karanja
On November 18, 1986, 26-year-old Gia passed away. At the time of her death, Karanji looked so terrifying that the funeral director advised her to bury the girl in a closed coffin.
Grave of Gia Karanja
Gia’s body rests at Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery in Fisterville, Pennsylvania. The funeral was quiet – as the family wished, shocked by the facts from the life of the girl and her diagnosis, which few people knew about in those years.