Vanderbilt had cancer, he said.

"Earlier this month, we had to take her to the hospital. That's where she learned she had very advanced cancer in her stomach, and that it had spread," Cooper said.

"What an extraordinary life. What an extraordinary mom. And what an incredible woman," he said, his voice quavering a bit at the end of the remembrance.

Watch @AndersonCooper's obituary for his mother Gloria Vanderbilt. "What an extraordinary life. What an extraordinary mom. And what an incredible woman." pic.twitter.com/YXz66LOr7W

— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) June 17, 2019

Vanderbilt had full lips, eyes that turned up at the corners and a patrician bearing. She was, in fact, descended from shipping and railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of the richest men in American history. She was born in 1924, and her father died shortly thereafter. Vanderbilt was raised by a beloved nurse because her mother was away in Europe living a high society life, and by 1934, the tabloids were calling her "poor little rich girl" because of a sensational custody battle instigated by her grandmother and aunt.

In 1981, she told radio host Lloyd Moss, "As a child, I did not feel that I was treated as a person. I felt really that I was treated as an object. And nobody ever really, kind of, thought, 'What is she really like? What does she like? What are her talents? What does she want really?' "

When Vanderbilt's aunt — Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, who founded the Whitney Museum of American Art — won the custody battle, Whitney fired Vanderbilt's beloved nurse.

Eventually, Vanderbilt developed her own creative drive and earned her own income. As she told Moss, "If you have to really work for it, when you do achieve it, even though it really takes longer, it means more."

She did make it, and having a famous name helped. Vanderbilt was known for vivid paintings and collages, and she was asked to design everything from china to linen. By the 1970s, she was designing glamorous skinny jeans. Her signature was embroidered on the back right pocket of every pair, and a tiny gold swan was embroidered on the front. She even modeled the jeans herself in TV ads.

Vanderbilt also attracted talented, interesting men throughout her life. She was married four times, and her husbands included the conductor Leopold Stokowski, with whom she had two sons, and director Sidney Lumet. Later in life, her companion was the trailblazing photographer and musician Gordon Parks.

Vanderbilt's fourth marriage to writer Wyatt Cooper, with whom she had two more sons, was marked by tragedy. Cooper died in his 50s, and in 1988 their older son, Carter Cooper, killed himself by jumping from an apartment balcony as he was talking to his mother.

Vanderbilt recalled that day to her younger son, CNN journalist Anderson Cooper, in a 2011 interview: "I said, 'Carter, come back,' and for a minute I thought he was going to come back, but he didn't. He let go. And there was a moment when I thought I was going to jump over after him." But then she thought of Anderson.

Vanderbilt opened up about her life in memoirs, and she also wrote art books and novels. But she said that her children were her greatest achievement. She was a woman who seemed eager to share her life lessons.

"I believe that we have to cherish the pain we experience, as we cherish the joy," she told Lifetime. "Because without one there wouldn't be the other, and it's what makes us alive. And I think that's very, very important."

Vanderbilt told friends and interviewers that she believed in being positive. Over her fireplace, she had painted the message: "Be kind to everyone you meet, for everyone is fighting a great battle."

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Gloria Vanderbilt has died. She lived 95 years with a name that represented wealth. She was a descendant of a man who built one of America's first great fortunes, a shipping and railroad tycoon of the 1800s. In time, she reshaped what the Vanderbilt name meant, linking it to fashion and to fame. Jacki Lyden has this remembrance.

JACKI LYDEN, BYLINE: Gloria Vanderbilt had full lips, eyes that turned up at the corners and a patrician bearing. She was, in fact, descended from shipping and railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of the richest men in American history. Her mother, also named Gloria, had her in 1921. Her father, Reginald Vanderbilt, died shortly thereafter. Gloria was raised by a beloved nurse because her mother was away in Europe, living a high society life. By 1934, the little rich girl of the tabloids was at the center of a sensational custody battle, instigated by her grandmother and aunt. She talked about it with the radio host Lloyd Moss.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GLORIA VANDERBILT: As a child, I did not feel that I was treated as a person.

LLOYD MOSS: Yeah.

VANDERBILT: I felt really that I was treated as an object. And nobody ever really kind of thought, what is she really like? What is she like? What are her talents? What does she want, really?

LYDEN: Gloria's aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, who founded the Whitney Museum of Art, won the battle against Gloria's mother. Whitney then fired Gloria's nurse. As Gloria Vanderbilt matured, she developed her own creative drive and earned her own income.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VANDERBILT: If you have to really work for it, when you do achieve it, even though it really takes longer, it means more.

LYDEN: Having a famous name helped, and she did make it. She was known for vivid paintings and collages, and she was asked to design everything from china to linen. By the 1970s, she was designing jeans - glamorous skinny jeans - and on every pair of those jeans, her signature was embroidered on the back right pocket, a tiny gold swan embroidered on the front pocket. She even modeled the jeans herself in TV ads.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VANDERBILT: They're my new stretch denim jeans, and they are a pleasure to wear.

LYDEN: Gloria Vanderbilt attracted talented and interesting men. She married four times. Her husbands included the conductor Leopold Stokowski, with whom she had two sons, and director Sidney Lumet. In later life, her companion was the trailblazing photographer and musician Gordon Parks. She had her share of tragedy. Her fourth husband, the writer Wyatt Cooper, died. They had two sons. In 1988, her older son, Carter Cooper, committed suicide by jumping from an apartment-floor balcony as he was talking to her.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VANDERBILT: And I said, Carter, come back. And for a minute, I thought he was going to come back. But he didn't. He let go. And there was a moment when I thought I was going to jump over after him. But then I thought of you.

LYDEN: That would be her younger son, CNN journalist Anderson Cooper. They discussed the suicide in a television segment about loss. Vanderbilt opened up about her life in memoirs. She also wrote art books and novels. But she said that her children were her greatest achievement. She was a woman who seemed eager to share her life lessons.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VANDERBILT: I believe that we have to cherish the pain that we experience as we cherish the joy because without one, there wouldn't be the other, and it's what makes us alive. And I think that's very, very important.

LYDEN: Vanderbilt told friends and interviewers that she believed in being positive. Over the fireplace in her studio, she'd painted the message - be kind to everyone you meet, for everyone is fighting a great battle.

For NPR News, I'm Jacki Lyden.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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