By her mid teens, Gia Carangi had developed a beautiful face and an incredible figure.
Kathleen, certain that modeling could change her daughter, encouraged Gia Carangi to model. Gia Carangi was a natural: “I didn’t have to tell her what to do,” said a family friend and first photographer to work with Gia Carangi. “She already knew what to do in front of that camera and that’s a great model.”
At age seventeen Gia Carangi was discovered. Maurice Tannenbaum, who was at the time a hair-stylist and aspiring photographer remembers: “I saw her one night at the DCA, which was a club, and was reluctant to walk over to her, I was just taken by her and she was fascinated by the idea that I wanted to photograph her and she wanted to be photographed. You could see this raw beauty.” Not long after, he took her to New York to try her luck there as a model. “She was very excited, very nervous, very, very nervous. She came with her mother but her mother stayed in a coffee shop while we went off to see Wilhelmina.” Wilhelmina Cooper, a former model herself, ran a modeling agency in New York. She was so excited about Gia Carangi that she forgot to give her a contract.
In early 1978, 18-year-old Gia Carangi packed her bags and moved to New York City. One photographer remembers Gia Carangi in one of her first go-sees. Bill Friedman said in an interview for The Gia Carangi Project. With Wilhelmina’s push, Gia Carangi managed to rise to the top instantly, something that almost never happens in the fashion world. Photographers loved Gia’s street-smart attitude wrapped in jeans and leather: “Gia Carangi reminded me of James Dean. She was very cool but she had a tremendous vulnerability,” said photographer Andrea Blanch. Francesco Scavullo also remembers the first day Gia Carangi walked into his studio: “There’s only been maybe 3 girls in my whole career that have walked into my studio and I went ‘wow’. Gia Carangi was the last who came in here and I said ‘wow.”
Gia Carangi was said to have had the most beautiful breasts in the business and she needed no taping for the Cosmo covers. By the end of 1978, she had already appeared in several magazines (including American Vogue ) and was making something in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. But still, Gia, who was still 18 at the time, was looking for stability in her life. Gia Carangi was looking for love and compassion at a time when people were looking for sex, money, and drugs. In her search for loving and stable relationships, Gia Carangi fell instantly in love with people she barely knew.
Gia Carangi felt incredibly lonely and even asked her brother Michael to go live with her in New York City. Model Julie Foster remembers in her interview for the E! True Hollywood Story: “Gia Carangi was looking for anyone’s love, she would show up at my house sometimes in the middle of the night and I’d let her in and she just wanted someone to hug her. It was very sad.”