As the clock ticks down to the 2020 presidential election, news anchors will be busier than ever – and one of the faces we’ll be seeing a lot of is that of Anderson Cooper. The charismatic silver-haired journalist has been a fixture at CNN since 2003, and now hosts Anderson Cooper 360° (via CNN). As if his plate weren’t already full, he’s also a part of the 60 Minutes team on CBS, not to mention a doting new dad. Sleep will be an even rarer commodity for him on November 3, when he’ll covering election night for CNN.
Cooper is that magical journalistic combination of trustworthiness and approachability: You rely on him to give the straight facts every night, but you also get the impression that he’d be happy to go out for dinner or drinks with you after his shift ends. Just seeing his trademark gray locks and bright-blue gaze is as reassuring to this generation as news legend Walter Cronkite was 50 years ago.
As famous as he is, there are some fascinating facts about Cooper that might come as a surprise.
Anderson Cooper comes from New York royalty
Though you wouldn’t know it to look at his name, Cooper is actually a direct descendant of one of the most prominent names in American business. His mother was the late fashion icon Gloria Vanderbilt, the second great-granddaughter of millionaire Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt (via Famous Kin). The Vanderbilts were once one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in the country, thanks to Cornelius’s domination of the railroad industry in the 1800s. But succeeding generations helped the family fortune dwindle through their spending habits and charitable works, and by the time Gloria was born, the riches were pretty much a thing of the past (per Forbes).
Although Gloria became a successful entrepreneur in her own right, she had none of her grandparents’ money to give to her surviving son by the time she died last year. “My mom made clear to me that there’s no trust fund,” Cooper told Howard Stern on his radio show (as reported by USA Today). But far from feeling resentful, Cooper credits his ambition and career to his lack of family money: “From the time I was growing up, if I felt that there was some pot of gold waiting for me, I don’t know that I would’ve been so motivated,” he explained to Stern.
Anderson Cooper's life has been colored by tragedy
Privilege doesn’t shield anyone from heartbreak, and Cooper is a prime example of this. In 1988, his father, author/screenwriter Wyatt Cooper, died suddenly of a heart ailment at the young age of 50 (via The New York Times). Anderson was just 10 at the time. He would later tell Oprah that he tried to suppress the pain for years: “The loss was so deep. I sort of felt it easier to kind of run from it than address it and think about it.”
Then in July 1988, Cooper’s older brother Carter died by suicide by jumping off the balcony of the family’s apartment as his horrified mother watched. In an essay for CNN some 30 years later, Cooper bared his soul. “[N]ot a day goes by when I do not find myself thinking about what happened and asking, ‘why?'”, he wrote. “Learning to live without knowing why is one of the many things I continue to struggle with.” Cooper also has two much older half-brothers from his mother’s previous marriage to conductor Leopold Stokowski.
Then last year, Gloria Vanderbilt passed away at age 95. Cooper, who was very close to his mom, said in a statement (via USA Today): “She was a painter, a writer, and designer but also a remarkable mother, wife, and friend.”
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Anderson Cooper has a favorite Dr. Seuss book
This past April, Cooper became a first-time dad with the birth of his son, Wyatt Morgan, via a surrogate. The baby’s first name is in memory of Cooper’s father, and Morgan is a family name on the Vanderbilt side. “As a gay kid, I never thought it would be possible to have a child, and I’m grateful to those who have paved the way,” he posted on Instagram, adding that while he wishes his parents and brother could see Wyatt in person, he believes they are “happy to know that their love is alive in me and Wyatt, and that our family continues.” (Cooper shares parenting duties with his ex-partner, per Today).
In September, Cooper posted another adorable Instagram photo of himself and Wyatt, not quite five months, smiling for the camera. “He loves being read to and so far Dr. Seuss is his favorite, particularly One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” Cooper posted. “Ok, that’s my favorite, but he does seem to like it a lot.”
Anderson Cooper has a hidden talent
Cooper’s reputation for being an award-winning journalist, bestselling author, and devoted father is unquestioned. But there’s another skill that not many people may know about. After college, he studied at the University of Hanoi for a year, so he still speaks fluent Vietnamese (via ET).
Some other random interesting tidbits: One of his inspirations is former talk-show host Phil Donahue, and Cooper even dressed as Donahue one Halloween (via Today). He had a short stint as a model for Ralph Lauren, Macy’s, and other outlets from ages 10-13 (per Mental Floss). He interned at the CIA for a time, but decided the job was too “mundane” to pursue any further. He overcame dyslexia as a child, and after graduating from Yale, he traveled to war-torn areas in Burma and Somalia to film the troubles there, pretending to be a journalist. He got his start in TV journalism when he sent his footage to a small educational cable network (per Biography).
Who knows what else we might find out about Anderson Cooper in the course of his election coverage?
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