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The Lasting Impact of Gia Carangi

By Shakira Brissett | May 6, 2024

Photo Credit: Pixabay

The fashion industry is a world full of trendsetters, including models, photographers and designers who all leave their mark on the fast-paced industry. A prime example of this is Gia Carangi.

Gia’s Rise to Fame:

In 1978, Carangi was signed to Wilhelmina Modeling agency, and overnight her career launched her into being an A-list celebrity.

The black leather jacket photoshoot was the main photo shoot that helped launch the troubled model’s career. Photographer Lance Staedler had Carangi wear his own leather jacket for the shoot, with no shirt and black pants. Staedler encouraged the make-up artist to give Carangi a heavy smokey eye, so that the black and white images of the photographs would garner more attention from people. 

The photos had a grunge aesthetic, and Carangi naturally brought an androgynous style in the photo, which was not seen a lot in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Since Carangi was a perfect blend of feminine and masculine energy, it made her stand out from the competition, and photographers from all over the world wanted to book her.


Gia’s Legacy:

Just like a shooting star, Carangi’s career shot off quickly into the stratosphere of modeling, and her future seemed to be bright, but a dark cloud loomed over her head, stemming from the trauma she suffered as a child. Sadly, Carangi’s modeling career ended as quickly as it started due to her increasing use of heroin. On Nov. 18, 1986, Carangi passed away from AIDS at the age of 26. Just like many icons who lived short lives, she left a lasting impact on the fashion industry. 


I believe most UAlbany students will find her to be interesting because of how brave she was in being innovative as a model by merging her own rebellious spirit into her career. She was ahead of time because of her ability to bring androgyny and the grunge aesthetic into her modeling. Many models today try to emulate her, but very few of them can capture the essence of being an innovator. The fashion industry has tried to bring back the past, but when something has already been done it’s hard to capture the same impact.


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