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?
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.For the life of Gia tells a story of modelling which is not one of fame, fortune and a glamorous land where the sun always shines and the party never stops, where dreams perforce come true and everyone is officially beautiful.Gia, in the days before the term supermodel had been coined, appeared on the cover of Cosmo and Vogue in America, Britain, France and Italy.Though, later in life, her mother returned to her, Gia never got over her sense of abandonment.The abuse occurred only once, but she was traumatised by the incident.
So was she when her mother left her husband, home and children for another man.