Gloria Vanderbilt used an interview to tell son Anderson Cooper about lesbian past


You generally can’t get much by news reporter Anderson Cooper; unless, of course, you’re his mother, fashion designer and artist Gloria Vanderbilt. Gloria and Anderson are releasing both a documentary on Gloria’s life, Nothing Left Unsaid, and a memoir,The Rainbow Comes and Goes. The two recently sat down with Jess Cagle from People and Entertainment Weekly for a promotional interview. People is parsing the interview out, as they typically do. During the interview, Gloria, 92, dropped a bit of a bombshell on everyone, including her son. She divulged that she had had a lesbian relationship at the age of 13 with another girl at her boarding school named Cynthia.

For anyone unfamiliar with Gloria’s life, she was the center of a contentious custody battle, after her father’s death, between her mother, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt and her paternal aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. In an attempt to prove Gloria’s mother was negligent, her aunt “accused” Gloria’s mother of being a lesbian. At the time of the trial, 1934, this accusation was such that the press was not even permitted to write about it. Thus, Gloria spent most of her life believing that a lesbian relationship was damning enough to lose your own child.

Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt have written a book together and they are the subjects of an upcoming documentary, but there are still things the mother-son duo don’t know about each other.

In a recent interview with PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly editorial director Jess Cagle, Cooper, 48, learned that his mother, 92, was once in a same-sex relationship.

“I, myself, when I went to [Miss Porter's School in] Farmington, [Connecticut] I went through a brief so-called lesbian relationship with a girl in school,” Vanderbilt revealed after Cooper discussed coming out to the author.

In response, the CNN anchor appeared shocked, saying, “What? Hello,” and adding, “this is news to me. You didn’t mention this in the book, Mom.”

“Cynthia, her name was, and she came once to visit my aunt in New York on holiday,” continued Vanderbilt. “We had this sort of lesbian relationship and it felt so great. It felt so good and yet I thought, ‘There’s something about this,’ and this is before the thing I knew about my mother. I thought, ‘No, this is something that’s not really what I want.’ It was very brief.”

Vanderbilt said her understanding of homosexuality was largely shaped by the public gossip surrounding her own mother, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt. Cooper, who came out as gay in 2012, explained that during a 1932 custody trial Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt was “accused” of being a lesbian.

“That word wasn’t spoken. The press wasn’t supposed to write about it,” Cooper said. “My mom knew that something terrible had come out in the court, but she didn’t know what it was and she didn’t know what being a lesbian meant at the time, obviously.”

[From People]

I must emphasize how huge the custody trial over Gloria was. Because of the subjects – the American dynasties Vanderbilts and Whitneys – the press was all over it. Gloria had a $2.5 million trust to be managed by her guardian; that is roughly $45 million today. Gloria, who was 10 years old, was called “Poor Little Rich Girl” by most of the papers in the country. The coverage of this trial redefined the standard for sensationalism in journalism and all because her mother was “accused” of being a lesbian. The mere word “lesbian” must have struck such a note with Gloria that she waited until she was 92 and promoting a book to break the news to her son – in front of the press – that she’d had a lesbian relationship. And even with that cloud hanging over her, Gloria openly and lovingly accepted Anderson’s homosexuality when he came out to her.

I love how calmly that Gloria delivers the information and how calmly Anderson takes it. After everything they have been through together, Anderson is probably unfazed by much of what his mother says. Given Gloria’s long and storied life, filled with tragedy, survival and reinvention, I imagine Gloria is not yet done surprising us.

Here is the video:

Photo credit: Getty Images

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37 Responses to “Gloria Vanderbilt used an interview to tell son Anderson Cooper about lesbian past”

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  1. Alix says:

    And why isn’t she leaving him any money in her will?

    • Size Does Matter says:

      I read a book about the Vanderbilts not too long ago called Fortune’s Children. It follows the wealth through the generations and demonstrates how being given a fortune can damper a person’s initiative and ability, to put it mildly. Some members of the family came to believe that large inheritances were negatives.

      • Christin says:

        The original maker of the family wealth told his son that any fool could make a fortune, but it takes a man of brains to hang on to it. The third and fourth generations weren’t as smart, apparently.

        Gloria’s uncle or cousin built a ‘retreat’ in NC in the 1880s that is open to the public and run by his direct descendants. The main house is 250 rooms, took six years to build and covers four acres. The property is the size of a small town. That relative died at 51.

    • Tammy says:

      I believed he has stated a few times he is not interested in the Vanderbilt money and that he could make his own.

  2. Carol says:

    She’s 92?!!! She looks amazing. This lady knows style. She’s far more fashion forward yet dresses appropriately for her age, than any Kardashian.

    • Rainbow says:

      She looks like that at 92 or are these pictures old?

    • Gerta says:

      I wish people would stop saying someone looks ‘amazing’!! when in fact they have had such a truckload of work done they are just shy of a face transplant…

      • Michelle says:

        She looks amazing for a woman with a ton of plastic surgery. Often they wind up looking insane and cat faced. I’d have put her at in her 70s with work. She definitely does not look 92… her wig game is pretty on point as well.

  3. Jh says:

    Lesbian relationship at 13? Um. Ok.

    • Naya says:

      And thats a problem because?

      • Amanda says:

        IMO 13 is too young for a real relationship. At that age kids should be focusing on school and friends.

      • Naya says:

        I seriously doubt that by “relationship” she meant that they were picking out furniture at IKEA together. A lot of straight girls have a boyfriend at that age, it just means that they sit together on the bus, write each other bad poetry and kiss awkwardly once in awhile. Pretty sure the real sticking point here is the “lesbian” bit. Theres a sense in which people think that kids need to be protected from same sex relationships in ways that they wouldnt from opposite sex ones.

      • JH says:

        Not a problem at all. It’s just the way the headline was phrased. “Lesbian past” does not read as a pre-teen school crush.

    • Sixer says:

      She does say “sort of”. I had one of those very intense female adolescent friendships when I was a mid-teen. Bit older than 13 IIRC, but not much older. It culminated in a couple of minor make-out sessions, after which we both concluded that we probably only liked boys in that way and then went back to being normal, platonic friends. I don’t think this sort of thing is particularly unusual, is it? Especially if you are at a single-sex school (which I was and it looks like she was).

      • Magnoliarose says:

        Sixer- No, not unusual to me. I had one similar to yours and discovered I liked boys. I chalk it up to simply figuring yourself out as your sexuality blossoms.

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        I don’t think the intense friendship or the making out is unusual at all. I think it’s a very common experience.

      • Sixer says:

        Exactly, you two. It didn’t read to me as though she was confessing to some full-blown lesbian stage in her life that she’d hitherto kept secret: more something like that.

      • Shambles says:

        That sounds like what she’s talking about, Sixer. I think most people go through that discovery/experimental stage, especially with the crazy hormones of very early adolescence. Some people discover that they only like boys in that way, some discover that they might like both. Either way, that stage of life is perfectly healthy and okay.

    • Colette says:

      I had a heterosexual relationship at age 13,when I was in the eight grade.It lasted a year.So what’s the difference?

  4. lower-case deb says:

    genes and good doctors! wowwww… 92!

  5. Wiffie says:

    I had NO IDEA That was his mom?!?

  6. Ewissa says:

    Her face looks like melted wax -or more like Olaf from Frozen when melting down ….

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      She is an intelligent, talented woman who has been through a lot in her life. She’s 92 years old. Nice of you to ridicule her looks, because that’s what’s important here.

      • Tulip says:

        Ewissa’s comment was vicious to be sure. It brings up interesting points though. Very few of us are going to have the resources when we’re 92 to get the surgery, hair dye and clothes it takes to look as good as she does-IF we can even make it to 92. Others have praised her looks-is that praise even appropriate when a part of it inadvertently praises the power of money?

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        I think maybe we should all, including me, try to be the best we can be with what we have and not worry so much about looks, especially at 92?

    • Tammy says:

      She’s 92. What’s she supposed to look like? And I don’t know why but I am always amazed at some of the comments on these posts. Can we please stop ridiculing people for how they look?

  7. Christin says:

    I wasn’t aware of the custody battle, though I knew she came from a very wealthy family (Vanderbilt medical and Biltmore are well known in my region of the world).

    And, her jeans were one of THE brands to wear in the late 1970s/early 1980s. The swan logo and her signature were on my pockets when I could find a pair at the local outlet store. Memories!

    • Ponytail says:

      I feel terrible because this is pretty much all I know about her – the custody case (wasn’t there a TV film called “Poor Little Rich Girl” ?) and the designer jeans. And the jeans were more vivid – my mum had a pair of lilac ones, with the little swan logo, and she was SO upset when she got a spot of bleach on the legs.

      • shutterbug99 says:

        Poor Little Rich girl is the story of Barbara Hutton – the Woolworth’s heiress. It’s quite a tale!

      • Christin says:

        Yes – colored denim! Her fashions are still sold in some stores. She also had a popular fragrance that used the swan logo.

        Hutton’s life was an interesting story. She was one of Cary Grant’s wives. The press nicknamed them “Cash and Car(r)y”.

    • mee says:

      her jeans were awesome. i had them in many pastel colors.

  8. Miss M says:

    She is 92?! Wow
    she told something about her past that is not on the book she is promoting?! Of course, she did…😂

  9. Cris says:

    I adore Anderson Cooper. I also read Fortune’s Children about the Vanderbilts, which discusses how the fortune was originally made by Cornelius (sp?) Vanderbilt, and frittered away later by relatives. From what I understand, Anderson wants to stand on his own and does not want any Vanderbilt money. He had a brother who committed suicide by walking onto a New York balcony with Gloria in the room and jumping to his death. Strong stuff for any mother to move on from. Anderson is also incredibly dry and funny. Watch him sometime when he co-hosts Kelly and Michael. He is a riot.

  10. WTW says:

    I love her style at 92. She’s giving me goals! I actually double checked her age because I thought they meant 82. Either way, she’s showing how you can still be hip and fashionable at any age. I’m 39, and I hate the thought of having to wear boring clothes as I get older.

  11. raincoaster says:

    Her writing is terrific, very stylish and poetic. I have a memoir of hers, and always mean to buy the rest.