Gianni Versace's Untold Love Story

Content warning for murder

"I never fall down. I always fight."
– Gianni Versace

It’s unlikely that most people would be unfamiliar with the name Gianni Versace, if not for the man himself, then for the label, he began. Gianni Versace was a well-known man, and the details of his life and death are readily available, so it’s easy to imagine that there isn’t much to say about him that hasn’t already been said. There is much still left unsaid, however, about the man who had his life entangled with the Gianni’s for fifteen years. His name is one that rarely shares a headline with Versace's, but it is not one that lacks importance: Antonio D'Amico.

Gianni Versace was a revolutionary man in the world of fashion, having grown up surrounded by it; his mother was a dressmaker, and Versace furthered her path by learning from her. He opened his first boutique in 1978. His designs drew influence from the classics, while also having their own vibrant, modern look. Critics varied wildly in their opinions of him; his clothes were either game-changing or gaudy – sometimes both at the same time. Given these elements and reviews, Versace’s brand grew quickly. Through his hard work and extraordinary passion, he was soon making clothes for celebrities such as Prince, Princess Diana, and Elton John. With his famous friends, in addition to his groundbreaking work, Gianni Versace quickly became a household name. He took advantage of his famous connections by putting them in the front row of his fashion shows. It was a new tactic and one that only further catapulted him into the public sphere.

During his time in the public sphere, Versace developed a complicated relationship with the press.  While he was very open about every aspect of his life and his work, he also knew how the press worked, and he used the system to his advantage. He created controversial designs and used the press’ debate over his work to push himself higher into the realm of fame. He also understood, though, that not everyone could deal with publicity with the strategic grace he could, and he did his best to help celebrities hide their scandals. He had a house set up where his celebrity friends would hide until they were ready to face the press. Unfortunately, this generosity was not only extended to those who deserved it, but to people who truly and thoroughly deserved no kindness - Woody Allen is a prime example. Allen later gave Versace a role in one of his films, however, which makes one wonder if the house was an act of altruism on Versace or just another calculated step to push himself higher.

Regardless of how he earned his place in the spotlight, Versace had it, and the press loved to talk about him. That is, with one glaring exception. Gianni Versace was openly gay, and because that was something most of the press believed it to be a flaw, they did their best to brush over it. In the case of Versace, the press had to airbrush an entire person out of their stories. Antonio D’Amico, a model of the Versace label, was also Gianni Versace’s boyfriend for fifteen years, before Versace’s murder in 1997.

D’Amico met Versace in 1982 and had a successful career with the Versace company outside of his relationship with the owner. He worked in designing and modeling, which led to him working on projects outside of the label after Versace’s death. As Versace was based in Italy, and even though he traveled often, his relationship with D’Amico was not recognized under the law. Thus, after Versace’s death, D’Amico was willed a significant allowance and access to the houses, but these were quickly stripped away by Gianni’s siblings. 

They left D’Amico with only a small sum, a fraction of what Gianni had wanted to be left to the man. The family was very vocal about their distaste for the man, and the press stayed firmly on the family’s side, rarely mentioning D’Amico in relation to Gianni, despite their long relationship. Many outlets were calling him an ex, even though their relationship was only ended by Gianni’s death. The rare outlets that do mention him often fail to mention his gender or his achievements outside of his relationship with Gianni. This deliberate erasure offended friends of the couple including Elton John, who is still close with D’Amico.

It was clear that even though Gianni was open about his sexuality and his relationship, the press was not ready to be, and still seems reluctant to address it. Such a huge name in fashion and popular media cannot be ignored, so instead, most in the press do their best to forget that this particular aspect of Versace’s life existed. In doing so, they erase D’Amico, proving how little they value the relationships between queer couples.

Gianni and D’Amico were together for fifteen years, only separated by death. Though Gianni’s home country did not recognize same sex marriages during this time, it was likely if it had, the two may have married, or at the least been recognized as a common law relationship. This, however, is wishful thinking. After Gianni had died, D’Amico was erased from the man’s history. We don’t get to hear about how the couple met or what their relationship was like. It is well known that the press loves a love story, but it is often forgotten that they have a very particular taste. They want only to hear from the heterosexual couples and prefer that any same sex couples keep their romance private. Public displays of affection between queer couples are seen as inappropriate or distasteful, whereas the same act would be deemed sweet and cute if it was between a heterosexual couple. So we keep it private, and history misses out on hearing some of the greatest love stories of all time.

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