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Her first major modelling job was with Versace when she was 18. She had attitude and "took no shit" from the dignitaries of the fashion industry. She would walk out of photo shoots if she wasn't in the mood.She was the favourite model of many top fashion photographers, including Arthur Elgort, Helmut Newton and Francesco Scavullo, who was for 30 years Cosmo's cover photographer. At the age of 17, Gia Carangi was a pretty high-school student - height 5ft 8in, stats 34-24-35, dress size 8-10 - working behind the counter at her father's little restaurant in Philadelphia, Hoagie City, and doing her best never to miss a David Bowie concert. Then a local photographer asked her to pose on the dance floor and the pictures were seen by Elgort, who photographed for the New York department store Bloomingdale's. She was, even at the age of 18, a diva who would cancel two whole weeks' worth of bookings because she didn't like the way her hair was cut.It was that which led to her finally being blackballed by those who only months before could not get enough.By the end of 1984 Gia had entered a vastly different world.She had friends in the profession, often make-up artists.But her schedule didn't allow her the time for other activities.
"The problem was that people were more interested in hiding the marks than helping her," said Gia's former lover, Elyssa Stewart, who says the problem persists in the industry but that models now shoot heroin under their toenails or tongue, where track marks cannot be detected.
As 10,000 compete to be 'Britain's Next Top Model', Paul Vallely tells a salutary story And these represent only a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of young women who hope to add their name to those of Kate Moss, Jodie Kidd, Heidi Klum, Tyra Banks, Karen Mulder, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, Helena Christensen, Noami Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Elle Macpherson, Eva Herzigova, Jerry Hall, Gia Carangi, Ingrid Boulting, Marie Helvin, Lauren Hutton, Verushka, Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton in the litany of modern modelling fame. Did you catch the name in the middle there: Gia Carangi?
Younger readers, unless they have seen the eponymous 1998 film Gia in which Angelina Jolie played Carangi, may need some introduction to the woman who was once called "the world's first supermodel" and "the hottest cover girl" of the late Seventies and early Eighties.
In May that year, at just 21, Gia required surgery on her hand because, according to Stephen Fried, "she had injected herself in the same place so many times that there was an open infected tunnel leading into her vein".
Things were starting, just two years in, to fall apart. She walked out on shoots or fell asleep during jobs. Fashion editors knew about all the drugs but did not care.
The abuse occurred only once, but she was traumatised by the incident.