CNN shared the news on Monday in an obituary narrated by her son, Anderson Cooper. In the nearly seven-minute-long video, Cooper spoke of his mother's life in the public eye thanks to her birth into the prestigious Vanderbilt family. Vanderbilt died Monday morning after a recent cancer diagnosis.
Born in 1924, Vanderbilt's early days in the spotlight were largely due to a custody battle between her mother and aunt, "the likes of which the world had never seen," Cooper said.
Despite her wish to keep her life private, Cooper spoke of his mom's determination, drive and professional accomplishments.
"She was determined to make something of her life, determined to make a name for herself and find the love and family that she so desperately craved," Cooper said. "... Over the course of her life, my mom was photographed by all the great photographers. She worked as a painter, a writer, an actress and designer. If you were around in the early 1980s it was pretty hard to miss the jeans she helped create."
Vanderbilt was married four times: to PatDiCicco from 1941 to 1945, Leopold Stokowski from 1945 to 1955, Sidney Lumet from 1956 to 1963, and to Wyatt Cooper from 1963 to 1978. She was mom to four sons: Christopher and Leopold Stokowski and Anderson and Carter Cooper, the latter of whom committed suicide at age 23 in 1988.
"She was the strongest person I've ever met, but she wasn't tough. She never developed a thick skin to protect herself from hurt. She wanted to feel it all. She wanted to feel life's pleasures, its pains as well," Cooper said as videos and photos of his mom flashed on screen. "She trusted too freely, too completely, and suffered tremendous loses, but she always pressed on, always worked hard, always believed the best was yet to come."
"... She was always in love. In love with men or with friends or books and art. In love with her children and her grandchildren and then her great-grandchildren," Cooper added. "Love is what she believed in more than anything."
In the video, Cooper revealed that Vanderbilt was taken to the hospital earlier this month and learned she had "very advanced cancer in her stomach and that it had spread."
Of his mother's reaction to the news, Cooper recalled her saying, "Well, it's like that old song: Show me the way to get out of this world, because that's where everything is."
"Later she made a joke and we started giggling. I never knew we had the exact same giggle," Cooper said, while videos of Vanderbilt laughing in the hospital played. "I recorded it and it makes giggle every time I watch it."
"Gloria Vanderbilt died as she lived -- on her own terms. I know she hoped for a little more time, a few days or weeks at least. There were paintings she wanted to make, more books she wanted to read, more dreams to dream, but she was ready. She was ready to go," Cooper said. "She spent a lot of time alone in her head during her life, but when the end came she was not alone. She was surrounded by beauty and by family and by friends."
"The last few weeks, every time I kissed her goodbye, I'd say, 'I love you, mom.' She would look at me and say, 'I love you too. You know that,'" Cooper continued. "And she was right. I did know that. I knew it from the moment I was born and I'll know it for the rest of my life. And, in the end, what greater gift can a mother give to her son?"
"Gloria Vanderbilt was 95 years old when she died," Cooper concluded, getting choked up. "What an extraordinary life. What an extraordinary mom. And what an incredible woman."
Gloria Vanderbilt died this morning, according to her son, CNN's Anderson Cooper.
In a statement to CNN, Cooper expanded on his mom's life and legacy.
"Gloria Vanderbilt was an extraordinary woman who loved life and lived it on her own terms. She was a painter, a writer, a designer, but also a remarkable mother, wife and friend," Cooper said. "She was 95-years-old, but ask anyone close to her and they will tell you she was the youngest person they knew, the coolest and most modern. She died this morning in the way she wanted to, at home, surrounded by family and friends."
ET last spoke to the mother-son duo in 2016, while they were promoting their HBO documentary, Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper.
"My mom is full of surprises and she always has been. So yeah. I mean, she's revealed things even to me in the last couple weeks that I had no idea about," Cooper said of learning about his mom while making the movie. "It was kind of amazing even after all this time, even though we know each other very well, there's a whole lot of secrets that came appearing up in this film that I really had no idea about."
While the pair sweetly quipped back-and-forth about Cooper's potential children -- "I just hope I'm still alive [for that]," Vanderbilt said -- and her own dating life, she emphatically stated that she "absolutely" still believed that love was right around the corner.