Gia Carangi Biography

Gia Carangi poses for her fashion photo shoot
Gia Carangi, America’s first Supermodel poses in white top for her photoshoot

Gia Marie Carangi (January 29, 1960 – November 18, 1986) was a top US fashion model of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Gia Carangi was a precursor to the Cindy Crawford, Rachel Hunter, Elle MacPherson “Supermodel” era, she appeared on the covers of several fashion publications of her time. The fashion magazine covers featuring Gia include British Vogue April 1st 1979, Vogue Paris April 1979, American Vogue August 1980, Vogue Paris August 1980, Italian Vogue January 1981 and several issues of American Cosmopolitan between 1979 and 1982.

Gia Marie Carangi was known in modelling circles as “Gia”, moved from Philadelphia to New York City at the age of 17, and quickly rose to prominence, reaching international fame with such name magazines as Vogue and others.

Gia Carangi was the favourite model of many distinguished fashion photographers including Francesco Scavullo, Arthur Elgort and Chris von Wangenheim. Gia Carangi posed for photos at many countries worldwide and led a fast life, thanks to her exotic appearance and lesbian lifestyle.

Gia Carangi’s sexual orientation has been disputed. While some think Gia Carangi was 100 percent lesbian, others point out to the fact she had many relationships with males and call her bisexual.

Gia Carangi frequented New York’s jet-set night spots, such as Studio 54, and developed a heroin problem during the latter part of her life. Because of Bipolar Disorder, Gia Carangi experienced extreme mood swings and would walk out of a fashion shoot if she didn’t feel like doing it.

Gia Carangi constantly medicated herself with heroin. Gia Carangi made several attempts at fighting her heroin addiction, attending rehabilitation centers multiple times. In 1983, Gia Carangi was profiled on ABC’s 20/20 magazine, in a piece focusing on the dark side of modeling.

Gia Carangi poses outdoor
Gia Carangi, full image during her 1978 photo shoot for a Calvin Klein Harper’s Bazaar Italia

In June of 1986, Gia Carangi was diagnosed with HIV, becoming one of the first famous persons to be diagnosed with the disease, and also the first famous female diagnosed.

Gia Carangi died of complications resulting from AIDS in 1986, at the age of 26.

Posing in bathtub Gia Carangi
Supermodel Gia Carangi’s bold pose in bathtub modelling in 1970’s

A biography was published in 1993 by author Stephen Fried and a biographical film, Gia, debuted on HBO in 1998 which helped bring Gia Carangi back to the public’s attention. Angelina Jolie played Carangi in the movie.

In 1996, actress-screenwriter Zoë Tamerlis (a.k.a. Zoë Lund, Bad Lieutenant), herself a heroin addict who would die of drug-related causes in 1999, was commissioned to write a screenplay based upon Gia Carangi’s life. This version of Gia was not produced, but after Tamerlis’s death, footage of her discussing Gia Carangi’s life was incorporated into a documentary entitled ‘The Self-Destruction of Gia‘.