Anderson Cooper, 50, is a familiar face on U.S. television screens. But, if you knew just how much he is worth, you would wonder why he is even working at all. Yet the life of a millionaire is not that easy, and when it comes to money and families there is always disagreements. In a recent interview with his mother, she unveiled some things that took him by surprise.
Anderson Cooper is actually a descendent of the hugely wealthy Vanderbilt family. Cornelius Vanderbilt, who made a large fortune in the rail and shipping industry throughout the 19th century, is his great-great-great-grandfather. His mother, Gloira Vanderbilt, was an heiress who later became a fashion designer.
Anderson Cooper was born on June 3, 1967, in New York, to Gloria Vanderbilt and the author Wyatt Emory Cooper. Vanderbilt, who is now 93 years old, was a socialite and a model from age 17, before finding a creative role in the fashion industry. She helped bring blue jeans on trend, and her designs are still sold today.
On The Scene
Of course, Vanderbilt hung out in exclusive circles. She was friends with and it was rumored also the lover of some very famous men. Author Roald Dahl, extravagant millionaire film producer Howard Hughes, photo-journalist Gordon Parks, acting legend Marlon Brando and even would you believe, singer Frank Sinatra. Word on the grapevine, is that she was Truman Capote’s inspiration for the larger-than-life Holly Golightly in his novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s. This was the inspiration for the iconic film starring Audrey Hepburn.
Family Feud Begins
Vanderbilt was you could say stinkingly rich. As a child, her wealth even played a starring role in a famous court case, which the media at the time called “the trial of the century.” In 1934, her aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, sued her mother, for financial control over the child’s fortune following the death of her father when she was just 18 months old. The aunt’s claim was that her young niece’s mother was an unfit parent and was spending the child’s inheritance on parties and un necessary items for herself rather than in her daughter.
And what’s more, the aunt actually won custody of young Gloria. But the trial was such a scandalous news sensation that it left psychological scars on the little girl. Among the outrageous things Gloria’s mother was accused of was a lesbian affair with British aristocrat Lady Milford Haven, who was married to a cousin of the King of England. This was a huge scandal.
Curse To Follow
Following the trial, Vanderbilt grew up and after three marriages she wed and had two sons with Wyatt Emory Cooper. Sadly, the eldest, Carter Vanderbilt Cooper, born in 1965, committed suicide at the age of 23 by jumping from the balcony of his mother’s 14th-floor apartment. The other son, Anderson Cooper, we already know about. But questioning the loss of his older brother played a part in Anderson’s decision to become an enquiring journalist.
Death Hits Him Hard
Cooper partially attributes his ability to report from war zones and witness grand-scale human tragedies like famine or the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, to having lost people closest to him in his life. This was the driving force for his career.
Standing On His Own Two Feet
Despite his impressive family connections and graduating from Yale, it was actually not as easy as one might think for Cooper to get a foot in the door of news journalism. The young man used his own money to travel to war zones, where he would make fake press passes to gain entry. Eventually, in 1995, he was given a job at ABC. From there, Cooper began to helm CNN’s American Morning news show.
Head Presenter Gets His Own Show
By 2002, he had become head presenter in the channel’s prestigious weekend prime-time slots. That responsibility led to his own show, Anderson Cooper 360°. At the age of 35, Cooper was on top of his game. But it was his very raw, very human approach to the stories he covered that really made him a star. When he reported on Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Cooper’s emotional reactions to the aftermath really cemented his place in the world of journalism.
Big Secret Revealed
Cooper came out as gay in 2012, although his sexuality had been an open secret at CNN for a long time. Unlike the scandalized reaction his grandmother’s same-sex affairs in the 1930s, the response to Cooper’s announcement was mostly positive. However, Cooper revealed in an interview with People magazine in 2016 that his mother’s reaction to the news had been negative.
What Would His Mother Say?
Cooper said, “We never talked about the actual moment that I had come out to her, because we both had different understandings of what I had said.” People reported that after her painful childhood experience, Gloria had for a while assumed that same-sex relationships were “bizarre and not normal.” Thankfully, she has come to understand that there is nothing wrong with them and that, “there’s no difference. Love is love.”
It Is Is Time To Tell
‘If I’m asking people to tell me their story, I feel like I should tell part of my story,’ Cooper spoke out in reference to his work as a reporter and CNN host. That of course also includes his sexuality, and his brave decision in 2012 to publicly announce this.
What Would They Think?
Cooper revealed, actually that most people is his life had known since he was a teenager.’Yeah, I mean, I came out in high school to my friends,’ said Cooper during the interview. ‘And part of if it, in the back of my mind, was that I had heard that my grandmother had been accused of being a lesbian. And I’d known that as a child it had affected my mom.
Lay It All Out On The Table
Cooper admits about him and his mother’s relationship:’We have never had what would be described as a conventional relationship. My mom wasn’t the kind of parent you would go to for practical advice about school or work. ‘What she does know about are hard-earned truths, the kind of things you discover only by living an epic life filled with love and loss, tragedies and triumphs, big dreams and deep heartaches.’
Mother And Son
When asked about her mortality in the CBS interview with her son, Vanderbilt stated that she was ‘not necessarily’ reaching the end of her life, going on to say further; ‘Well, I think something wonderful is going to happen – maybe tomorrow? And I like to think maybe sooner!’ Cooper then responded; ‘Yeah, my mom is the most sort of youthful and optimistic person I know. She still believes there’s like a guy waiting on a boat in the south of France.’
Nothing Left Unsaid
He acknowledged that his mother has experienced a lot in her life “The things my mom has been through, and of course while I’ve been alive but also even before, have been huge tragedies. My brother committed suicide in front of her, my dad dying and a lot of other things.”
Visiting His Grave
Vanderbilt and Cooper were filmed going to visit the grave of Carter, his brother. In one scene, the pair can be seen crying while placing flowers on the grave, as Vanderbilt discusses the grief of losing a child.
Still Grief Stricken
Vanderbilt, 92, spoke recently in an interview alongside Anderson, that the grief after her son’s death was unbearable at the time, and that she cried so much she felt that she had not more tears. The heiress has never fully let go of her son, saying; ‘I love to talk about him. It brings him alive, it brings him close. It helps me sort of share how I felt about him, feel about him.’
Love And Loss
It also came a decade after Vanderbilt lost her husband, and Cooper his father when Wyatt Cooper died of heart disease. ‘For me, it certainly changed who I was,’ said Cooper, 48, of losing his father. ‘I think the person I was before was a lot more interesting and outgoing. I became probably much more introverted, and very concerned about what catastrophe was going to happen next. ‘And it made me much more of an adult.’
A Shocking Revelation
Despite Cooper finding it difficult to be truthful to his mother about his sexuality, the two kept a close relationship through the years. Gloria seemed fully supportive of everything her son achieved in his career and personal life. But, in 2014, some jaw-dropping news broke that perhaps threw some doubt on that. Speaking to celebrity interviewer Howard Stern, Cooper announced that his mother had told her son that he would not be receiving any of her fortune when she passed away.
Furthermore, the famous journalist was even completely fine with that news. “My mom’s made clear to me that there’s no trust fund. There’s none of that,” Cooper said. “I don’t believe in inheriting money… Who’s inherited a lot of money that has gone on to do things in their own life? If I felt that there was some pot of gold waiting for me, I don’t know that I would’ve been so motivated.”
Cooper also pointed out that his father Wyatt Emory Cooper, hadn’t come from money, but he had made a success of his life even so. “My dad grew up really poor in Mississippi,” Cooper said. “I paid attention to that because I thought that’s a healthier thing to pay attention to than, like, some statue of a great-great-great grandfather who has no connection to my life.”
Doubted Where He Came From
Cooper was very skeptical about the concept of inherited wealth. In 2014, the newsman was featured on the PBS genealogy show Finding Your Roots. And Cooper was not pleased by what he found. It turned out that his family tree had a particularly negative branch – a slave owner.
Family Owned Slaves
Wyatt Emory Cooper had grown up in poverty in the South, but a few generations back his family had been rich enough (which means very rich) to own a plantation with 12 slaves. So Cooper’s fourth paternal great-grandfather, Burwell Boykin, had made his own fortune from slavery. And the researchers at Finding Your Roots found out that Boykin had also made his own grave through slavery. He was not happy to hear.
Shocking Revelations Unfold
A 1860 U.S. Census Mortality Schedule revealed a highly unusual cause of death for Boykin, “Killed by Negro.” His killer, called Sandy, killed the slave-owner after being locked in a shed as punishment for trying to abscond. Sandy was then caught and summarily hanged for murder. Cooper told the Finding Your Roots cameras that he had “no doubt” that his ancestor deserved what he got. “He had 12 slaves, I don’t feel bad for him,” he said, adding, “Honestly, part of me thinks that’s awesome.”
What Else Would Be Revealed?
And the Vanderbilt family also has historic links to slavery. Although none of them actually owned a slave, they did own plantations where slaves were “employed.” In an interesting detail, one of these captive workers, Jim Robinson, was actually the great-great-grandfather of Michelle Obama. In 2008, Cooper’s cousin Whitney Tower invited the former First Lady to the plantation where her ancestor was buried.
Mixed Feelings About Wealth
So it may not come as a surprise, that Anderson Cooper has quite mixed feelings about his family’s wealth. He donates a lot of money to charity, including gifts to the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the American Heart Association – with, perhaps, his father in mind – and GLAAD, an organization which tracks LGBT issues in the media. Cooper has also made it clear that his parents raised him to be aware of his inherent privilege. And they also taught him to understand the importance of self-sufficiency.
On His Own
In 2016, Cooper explained the thinking to People magazine. He said, “I think my mom and dad both wanted to get across to me that… I obviously grew up with great privilege and was very lucky. [I was] able to afford college and not have student loans. [And] they would pay for college. But beyond that, it would be up to me to make a living.”
Astounding Net Worth
Currently, Anderson Cooper’s net worth is a very whopping $100 million. But if he ever has children himself, he says that he will be carefully considering whether to leave them money. “If maybe I felt like they had a good sense of responsibility, maybe I would try to leave some money. I don’t know,” he admitted to Howard Stern. In the same interview, he called his mother “the coolest person I know.” Some things, it seems, are just more important than money.