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Thing of Beauty: The Tragedy of Supermodel Gia and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

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Thing of Beauty Mass Market Paperback – June 1, 1994

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Editorial Reviews Review

Trashy celebrity bios are usually diminished by the fact that we've already heard the stories about Lonnie and Burt, or Madonna and Sean, or whoever the current target is. Author Stephen Fried manages to get all the sleaze value plus a lot of surprises by choosing supermodel Gia Carangi as his topic. Although her face is widely recognized, Gia finished her modeling career in a blaze of heroin and disease just before the time when models became celebrities with name recognition. Her life is the perfect fodder for the exploitation market, but Fried goes beyond that with fluid prose and a reporter's nose for tracking down sources. His stories about her teenage years, with their mix of late nights in Philadelphia's gay clubs, manic worship, and glam-style imitation of David Bowie, as well as tales of Gia's ability to seduce her friends, male and female, are the product of a lot of work and make for very interesting reading. Gia's unabashed homosexuality and early death from AIDS make her story a palimpsest of life on the edge in the America of the 1980s.

From Publishers Weekly

Charts international cover girl Gia Carangi's descent from $10,000-a-day modeling jobs to heroin addiction and death from AIDS at age 26. Photos.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books; Reprinted edition edition (June 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671701053
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671701055
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.2 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (167 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #319,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen Fried is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author who teaches at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Pennsylvania. He has written five widely praised books: THING OF BEAUTY: THE TRAGEDY OF SUPERMODEL GIA (which inspired the Emmy-winning HBO film Gia and introduced the word "fashionista" into the English language); BITTER PILLS; THE NEW RABBI; HUSBANDRY; and APPETITE FOR AMERICA: FRED HARVEY AND THE BUSINESS OF CIVILIZING THE WILD WEST--ONE MEAL AT A TIME (a New York Times best seller that was also named one of the ten best books of the year by the Wall Street Journal.)

His latest book, co-authored with former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, is A COMMON STRUGGLE: A PERSONAL JOURNEY THROUGH THE PAST AND FUTURE OF MENTAL ILLNESS AND ADDICTION (Blue Rider).

He is currently writing DR. RUSH: BLOOD, REVOLUTION, FRIENDSHIP, MADNESS AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN HIPPOCRATES for Crown, and also lectures widely on the subjects of his books.

A two-time winner of the National Magazine Award, he has written for Vanity Fair, Glamour, The Washington Post Magazine, GQ, Rolling Stone, Ladies Home Journal, Parade, and Philadelphia magazine (where he got his start.) Fried lives in Philadelphia with his wife, author Diane Ayres.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Jackie Micucci on December 26, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
After I saw the HBO movie "Gia" I found myself yearning to know more about this woman's life. "Thing of Beauty" not only presents the real and compelling story of Gia from her troubled upper middle class adolescence in suburban Phillie to her rise as the "first supermodel" to her downfall to heroin, which led to her untimely death from AIDS, but is also a great historical/pop culture account of the late '70s and early '80s. Instead of giving a one dimensional look at Gia and getting caught up in the whole sapphic side of her personality like the movie, the book presents a full view of a complex and very tragic woman literally eaten alive by the world of fashion. Had I not picked up this book I never would have known that Cindy Crawford, refered to in the early stages of her career as "Baby Gia," literally owes her success to Gia. (The pictures show an uncanny resemblance.) This book was over 400 pages of tiny text and I devoured it in two days.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Leigh-Ann on February 25, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book is more than a biography. I bought the book to better understand Gia's life after seeing her movie. I expected to read about her life. Unfortunately, the author Stephen Fried was too devoted to the minute details of the fashion industry to stay focused on his subject. This is an insider's view of the fashion industry from the 1970s-1980s; Gia was merely an example of this life. It's obvious Fried spent hundreds of hours researching his book. Unfortunately, he didn't spend the necessary time editing the superfluous information out of his book. In a 25 page chapter, he seemed to mention Gia as an afterthought in the last three pages. Gia didn't come into greater focus until the 13th chapter of the book. (The book only has 18 chapters!) When Fried did examine Gia's life, I was impressed with the vivid insights he provided. Yet if he had cut out 100 hundred pages from the 403 page book, it would have been a tighter and more enjoyable story.
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Ema Nnep on November 21, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I can remember when I was in elementary school and I saw Gia on the cover of Cosmopolitan and I thought to myself, " I wish I could grow up to look like her." I was completely stunned when I found out years later that Gia, the model I had wanted so desperately to look like, had died in horrifically.
I bought the book because of that memory, to see if I couldn't learn something about the woman beyond the image on the glossy cover of the magazine and I found myself mourning for a girl who was lost and had no chance of finding her way out the darkness she was mired in.
The book introduces you to Gia's mother, father, her siblings,and the people she loved most in her life. It was amazing to me that someone so gifted at birth with beauty saw nothing beautiful in herself and spent her life trying to escape the world she created around herself. I got a sense that her mother never realized the damage she did to her daughter by abandoning her children to her ex-husband and she would never accept the responsibility for the pain she inflicted on her daughter. She manipulated her daughter whenever she could. She wanted to live through Gia and in doing so she sucked the joy from her daughter's life.
Having lived the life of an manipulated, stifled child, I could clearly see where the darkness began to seal around Gia. I think that she would have been able to traverse the pitfalls alot better if she had had a friend or two who had wanted only her best interests to be served and not grab a piece of Gia for themselves.
She was a fractured young woman in need of stability and it was only offered to her in segments and at a very high cost. The people around her only brokered the bits and pieces they knew about her.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By J. Lizzi on December 6, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Hats off to author Stephen Fried, who has undertaken what may be the most exhaustive investigative reporting effort to produce a biography that essentially covered a little more than a decade. The story of the late supermodel Gia Carangi is known by many, but only on the surface. "Thing of Beauty" captures the essence of how a beautiful, but wayward persona can self-destruct when mixed with the capricious intensity of the fashion modeling industry. Sad as Gia's story may be, this book is a great read, and covers not just the storyline of modeling phenomenon, but also of a segment of modeling evolution from the 70's to the 80's.

Given the wide range of choices in characterizing Gia's personality, Mr. Fried could easily have written her off as a hopeless, nut-case, junkie who just happened to be beautiful ... or as an impertinent teenager who never grew up ... or even as an overnight sensation who couldn't handle fame. He didn't. Instead of clinging to demeaning stereotypes, the author brings the reader closer to Gia through countless hours of interviews with friends, family, fellow artists and noteworthy modeling industry personnel. Along with the excellent documentation of Gia's life, how the modeling business took shape during the time when her life was unfolding adds a fantastic complement to this tragic story. For each marker that Mr. Fried plants during Gia's story, I couldn't help but think back to what I was doing at exactly those times from the mid-70's to Gia's death in 1986.

Some say Gia would have self-destructed no matter what; others say that a BS job in a superficial industry wore her down. Far be it for me to judge, but you don't have to be a fashion/model fanatic to enjoy this book. It's simply a fascinating, moving biography.
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