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A scion of the scandal-ridden Vanderbilt family has written a tell-all about her life growing up in the dynastic family, which was once the richest in the US.
Entrepreneur, singer and actress Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin, 44, is part of the eighth generation descending from Cornelius Vanderbilt, and promises her book is a more accurate account than that written by her cousin, CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
Anderson is the son of the late socialite Gloria Vanderbilt and released his book Vanderbilt: Rise And Fall Of America’s Greatest Dynasty in 2021.
Consuelo told DailyMail.com at a Memorial Day party at the 25th anniversary of the Southampton Inn that Anderson’s version of events wouldn’t have had ‘inside knowledge’ because his mother, Gloria, was ‘ostracized’ from the family.
Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin has written a tell-all about her life growing up in her famous family – once the richest and most controversial in the US
‘He didn’t have inside knowledge right into the depths of the family,’ Consuelo said.
‘His mother Gloria was ostracized from our family. And so coming from his perspective, there is always everyone’s own interpretation of what their truths are.
‘What he [Anderson] sees is of his own truth, it’s not my truth or my own interpretation of my side, but that’s his interpretation of his side.’
Gloria died of stomach cancer in 2019, at the age of 95, and bequeathed her entire fortune to Anderson, her New York Apartment to her other son, Stanley, but nothing to her estranged son, Christopher.
Consuelo has forged her own way in life, with a music career – some of her singles have neared the top of the Billboard charts – and her endeavors as businesswoman.
She is part of the eighth generation descending from Cornelius who acquired the family’s once enormous fortune when he set up his own Staten Island Ferry company from a $100 loan his mother gave him.
She is the daughter of the late Serena Vanderbilt Van Ingen McCallum and Breck Costin who divorced when she was a child.
She kept her name after marrying actor Raphael Feldman in 2007. The ceremony was officiated at the Viansa Winery in Sonoma, California.
Anderson Cooper’s book about his family history, Vanderbilt: The Rise And Fall Of An American Dynasty, is being developed into a drama series for Amazon Prime Video
The CNN anchor, 55, is the great-great-great grandson of shipping and railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt and the son of fashion designer Gloria Vanderbilt (pictured in 2010)
Also known as the ‘Rebel Heiress,’ Consuelo was named after her great-great-great-great aunt Consuelo who became the Duchess of Marlborough and who is said to have coined the term ‘heir and a spare.’
While she admired her cousin Anderson’s book-writing efforts, she wants to tell her own truth.
His tome lifted the lid on the private lives, immense tragedies, dozens of affairs, suicides and enormous glamor of the storied and scandalous dynasty, which he described as ‘The Crown on steroids.’
‘He’s just coming in from a different perspective, that’s all,’ Consuelo told DailyMail.com.
‘I feel where I really respect him and what is very important to me as an artist, he never used the Vanderbilt name, in any level, in any capacity to make himself build his notoriety.’
Consuelo says her book will detail her own perspective living inside the Vanderbilt family, unlike Anderson whose mother Gloria was famously estranged from the clan.
But far from reveling in the reputation of her family who were famed for their banking and property development nous, Consuelo says she is a committed career woman who has made it on her own.
‘That word heiress, I hate that word more than anything else on this planet I really do,’ she told DailyMail.com.
Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan, the 9th Duchess of Marlborough, who Consuelo was named after
Cornelius ‘Commodore’ Vanderbilt (pictured) was an upstart from Staten Island who quit school at the age of 11 and began working in his father’s ferry business
Consuelo married actor Raphael Feldman in 2007 at Viansa Winery in Sonoma, California. The couple pictured in 2015
Consuelo said she wouldn’t have been able to be an artist if she had the life her mother had.
‘I don’t think had I lived in the same way as my mother, my great-grandmother as my grandmother I would say they were restricted in certain ways,’ she told DailyMail.com.
‘I’ve struggled, I’ve worked, I’ve had to make my life on my own which is why it’s always important to me as an artist to always have my own name.’
As a relative of the Duke of Marlborough, Consuelo has fond memories of her childhood visiting Blenheim Palace where her namesake and her husband resided.
‘I haven’t been to London since I was a little girl. I was raised in England. I moved to England when I was six years old,’ she said.
Consuelo says the most common misconception people have is about the family’s wealth.
While Consuelo says while the Vanderbilt name has opened doors, it has also had its drawbacks.
‘I think that there’s always a stigma right about the name,’ she told DailyMail.com.
She added: ‘Yes it has opened doors but it’s also played against it too.
‘People immediately think you should be able to fund the entire business and I retort: “Would Cornelius have funded the entire company, do you think being the richest man in America, he would have done that?”‘
Consuelo, who cofounded concierge business Soho Muse – which serves as a LinkedIn-style platform for high-rolling creative types, says she has only recently started using the Vanderbilt name for business reasons.
‘Introducing the Vanderbilt name as an entrepreneur has been something new and recent where I feel like I can make a difference,’ she said.
When asked if there is a Vanderbilt trust fund Consuelo remained coy, telling DailyMail.com: ‘I don’t want to get into the money side of it. But I feel very blessed for the life that I have.’
And in parallels to Anderson, devastated Consuelo watched her own mother, Serena, die in 2008 at just 55 from cancer, surrounded by her family including sister Alexandra, which she says she has documented in her memoir.
‘I can’t say too much only, I have the most wonderful, amazing publishers, it’s about the family, and also from the personal side, my own journey,’ she told DailyMail.com.
‘It’s about being a woman, being an entrepreneur and losing my mom at a very young age, being an artist, and turning into an entrepreneur really coming from that perspective. It’s through my eyes what it’s like to come from the Vanderbilt family – it’s fruitful and delicious.
‘I was raised between two worlds and it has given me the living… breath of being able to see what it means to actually see the struggles of [building] someone who is a self-made man, and then watching the world of where my mother came from, and my mother could never live the life that I lived.’
Consuelo’s earliest ancestor was a farmer named Jan Aertsen, who arrived in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (modern-day New York City) during the 1650s.
Like her ancestors, Gloria spent lavishly ‘almost heedlessly, on anything that might bring pleasure: on houses and furnishings, gifts for friends, charities, and fine clothes’
In 1988, Gloria’s son Carter (pictured with his mother and brother in 1976) leapt to his death in front of her from her apartment terrace
Together, Gloria and Wyatt had Anderson and brother Carter, who was two years older. The family pictured in 1971
Jan was from the village of Bilt in the Utrecht region of Holland and his name was recorded ‘van der Bilt,’ or ‘from the Bilt,’ which evolved later to ‘Vanderbilt.’
But it was Cornelius ‘Commodore’ Vanderbilt who lived in Staten Island with his family before quitting school at the age of 11 to work in his father’s ferry business and began their colorful life.
When he was 15, Cornelius used a $100 loan from his mother to buy his own boat for piloting passengers through the rough currents between Staten Island and Manhattan.
Within six months, he had run his own father out of the ferry business.
According to Anderson’s book in 1846, he committed his wife to an insane asylum by claiming that she was unstable during menopause when he was actually having an affair with his children’s governess and wanted to enjoy her company freely.
By 1873, Cornelius had taken control of what was then known as the Harlem Railroad, and merged it with the Hudson River and New York Central Railroad companies.
This led him to commission a new station that united all three railroads under one roof.
The Grand Central Depot, which would later be finished by his son, is the iconic Grand Central Terminal of today.
When Cornelius died on January 4, 1877, he left his entire fortune – estimated to be $100 million – to his oldest son, William ‘Billy’ Henry Vanderbilt.
On his deathbed, Cornelius gave William a haunting instruction: ‘Keep the money together.’
The fortune was squandered by various scions of the family – who only knew how to ‘live well, marry well’ and spend lavishly – over the years until it all but dwindled completely except for some properties that still remain in the Vanderbilt name.
William erected the Triple Palace, the family’s first mansion on Fifth Avenue.
The property featured three grand and sprawling connected houses with interiors so ornate, it took between 700 workmen to complete.
The mansion was later inherited by his grandson, who auctioned off the ‘outdated’ priceless 19th century furniture in 1942 to Warner Bros. Studios and the home was demolished in 1945.
One of the most prolific members of the family was Anderson’s iconic socialite Gloria, who much like Consuelo made her own fortune, after her own mother, Gloria Morgan, pilfered her $2.5 million trust fund left to her by her late father, Reggie, who died when she was 18 months old.
In 1823, Reggie married 18-year-old Gloria Morgan, who was 24 years his junior (pictured on their wedding day)
Gloria Morgan left her daughter in the care of her nanny and spirited away to Europe and stayed up all hours of the night
Reggie had frittered away his $7.3 million inheritance and left his young wife in debt when he died. Gloria Morgan pictured with her husband and daughter
Gloria’s aunt Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney sued for custody of the little girl, citing the ‘neglect and immoral influence’ of her mother. Gloria (pictured) was 10 years old at the time
She was famously described as ‘poor little rich girl’ after an explosive court case that saw her party-loving mother lose custody of her after a long legal battle, which saw Gloria’s aunt win custody of her.
Anderson’s father Wyatt was Gloria’s fourth husband. The couple married in 1963 and had two sons, Carter and Anderson.
Sadly, tragedy struck – first when Wyatt died during open heart surgery in 1978 and again when Anderson’s brother Carter died by suicide, leaping from his mother’s 14th-floor apartment at the age of 23.
At the time, Gloria had begged her son to step away from edge of the New York apartment’s terrace, but he jumped to his death leaving her traumatized until the end of her life.
During the promotion for his book back in 2021, Cooper admitted he didn’t know much about his mom’s side of the family after her death.
But after reading some family letters, he decided to explore their history after his mother’s death in 2019, setting out to write an historical account.
‘My mom had a very fractured relationship with the family she was born into,’ he told CNN.
‘She never really connected to any of them, so she never told me stories about her childhood growing up, she never really spoke about it.’
Anderson said he rarely spoke of his connection to the Vanderbilts and said the association made him ‘cringe’.