Gia being the youngest of three witnessed a violent marriage between her father and mother. Her mother left the family when Gia was eleven years old. “Those who knew her, blamed her fractured childhood for the instability and drug dependence that plagued her adult life” as said in an article in DIVA magazine written by Louise Carolin. Her father owned several Hoagie shops in Philadelphia, and worked all the time. Gia felt abandoned. Described as a tomboy in her teen years, she was a hardcore David Bowie fan. David Bowie is a famous singer, songwriter and actor from London, England. Gia associated herself with the lesbian community although she did not come out as a lesbian officially.
Gia frequented the popular nightclub Studio 54, where she used cocaine often. Wilhelmina Cooper, founder of Wilhelmina Models, died of lung cancer in 1980. Gia’s addiction to heroin began shortly after. Gia was broken over the death of her agent and mentor, who she grew close too. She developed violent temper outbursts, walking off photo shoots, and falling asleep in front of the camera. Marks and bumps were visible where she injected herself with heroin. Her modeling career took a turn for the worst. Modeling offers ceased to exist, The industry began to shut her out. Leaving Wilhelmina, Gia signed with Ford Models, although quickly dropped weeks later. Gia moved back to Philadelphia in 1981 with her mother and stepfather. Attempting to quit drugs, she entered a detox program, her efforts failed.
Hopes for a comeback, Gia signed with Elite Model Management. Gia graced the cover for Cosmopolitan in April of 1982. This would be her last photo as a cover girl. Sean Byrnes, a close assistant to renowned fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo is quoted saying “What she was doing to herself finally became apparent in her pictures. I could see the change in her beauty. There was an emptiness in her eyes.” Unfortunately, heroin took over yet again in her life. Her status as a top model tarnished. The majority of her earnings from modeling spent on drugs. Gia had been in and out of drug rehabs. For employment, she worked in a clothing store, then a check out clerk, and last employment in a cafeteria for a nursing home. In the early summer of 1986, Gia is admitted to general hospital in Warminister, Pa after being raped in Atlantic City. Gia had Pneumonia. Days later, doctors diagnosed her with AIDS.
Addicted to shooting up heroin, she contracted HIV that progressed into AIDS. Gia died in November of 1986 due to AIDS-related complications. Only 26, she became one of the first famous women to die of AIDS. A small funeral was held on November 23rd, 1986. Not a single person from the fashion world attended, mainly because they did not know until well after her death. Gia had everything readily at her feet. She was a supermodel struggling with a drug addiction, in a world where her beauty sucked from her until there was nothing left. Her legacy will live forever, but her last days and death, a very tragic end.