Designer, model, muse and mother, the representation of the ultimate power woman comes in the shape of THE legendary Donatella Versace. One of fashion’s biggest forces, she is the artistic director of Versace and vice president of the Versace company which recently has been acquired by Michael Kors Holdings in a $2.1billion deal. However, we know very little about the designer’s personal life; who is Donatella really? A real life (fashion) hero on the outside for sure, with her iconic signature platinum hair and immaculate tan. Madame Versace represents the 21st century strong independent women out there, fearless and at times controversial, all done with an impeccable sense of humor, of course. Here is what we can tell you about this larger-than-life designer.
1. Donatella was her brother the late Gianni Versace's muse.
The Versace founder introduced his little sister to the company at a very young age. She was the only woman in the family (older sister Tina, died at 12 years old of a tetanus infection) so she and Gianni, nearly a decade apart in age, grew inseparable. He even told her how to dress when they went out and would constantly get in trouble together; Donatella revealed in her autobiography that they once stole money from their mother’s wallet – and their father’s car keys! – so they could go to a concert together.
The late Gianni Versace and his little sister Donatella at the Gianni Versace Haute Couture Summer 1996 launch at the Ritz Paris Photo: Getty Images
2. Gianni was the mind behind her iconic blonde hair.
One of the many influences that Gianni had on Donatella’s life also took part on her world-famous hair style. It was only when she was 11-years-old when he persuaded Donatella to go iron-straight blond, just like Gianni’s music heroine Patty Pravo.
3. She didn’t have any formal fashion education.
Donatella attended the University of Florence with a major in foreign languages with the hopes of becoming a teacher. She would often travel to Milan and help with Gianni’s growing business, so, thankfully, for those who love her fashion, it ended up becoming a career for her!
4. Versace’s sister line Versus was a gift from her late brother Gianni.
Versus was launched in 1989 with the hopes to reach a younger market. By that time, Donatella had already proven her skills as a designer and her brother was so impressed that he decided to gift her the brand. Versus had a rough path and closed in 2005, yet Donatella resurrected the brand in 2009 along with designer Christopher Kane. Together they brought the label back to life and today it has a firm following of celebrity fans.
5. She is a working mom-of-two.
Donatella tied the knot with model Paul Beck in the 80’s and had two children, Allegra and Daniel. Allegra had some of the toughest teenage years after her uncle Gianni's tragic murder and famously struggled with anorexia. These days Donatella's daughter, who inherited half of the company after Gianni’s death, has been appointed to the board of directors for Versace. Daniel, meanwhile, was the recipient of Gianni’s art collection, which is reportedly worth nearly $50million.
Donatella with her son Daniel, daughter Allegra and former husband Paul Beck after attending the ballet Thanks Gianni with Love to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the designer's death Photo: Getty Images
6. She is one of Lady Gaga’s closest friends.
That’s right! After many collaborations together and Gaga being the first artist with exclusive access to the Versace archives for her music videos, she became the face of the brand. In return, Lady Gaga wrote a song for her album Artpop dedicated to Donatella and has seen rocking Versace hits in her biggest music moments. Remember that epic Super Bowl presentation? Donatella even helped her put the dress on herself!
Lady Gaga and Donatella Versace pose backstage before the Super Bowl LI Halftime Show at NRG Stadium back in February this year. Gaga is seen rocking a Versace look Photo: Getty Images
7. That Versace dress that Jennifer Lopez wore to the 2000 Grammys was a total accident!
Donatella confessed she had sent the dress to her accidently without being able to finish it! The neckline was cut too low for JLo's liking, so Donatella suggested making use of double-stick tape as a last-minute panic move. As a result, the green tropical print look became one of the biggest fashion moments in red carpet history!
Jennifer Lopez at the 42nd Grammy Awards back in 2000 wearing the scandalous Versace dress Photo: Getty Images
8. Thanks to that dress, Google developed the image search feature.
Yep, after JLo’s viral red carpet appearance, the dress became one of the most searched moments in Google. The furor was so significant that the company noticed its users behavior in trying to find a photo of the star's outfit – so the search engine came up with the “Google Image” option, making it easier for people to look for visual content.
9. Donatella is NOT a fan of The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.
While the series became a massive worldwide hit, and it was praised by critics for its impeccable casting and production, the Versace family released a statement pointing that the show should be viewed as a “piece of fiction.” Yet the close friendship between Donatella and Penelope Cruz, who portrayed her in the show, continued on as normal, and she sent the actress flowers after the first episode was screened. Penelope has said that before working on her character, she sought Donatella’s permission, and was granted it, since it was more of a “personal homage” to the designer.
The cast of American Crime History: The Assasination of Gianni Versace – Darren Criss, Penelope Cruz, Edgar Ramirez, and Ricky Martin – at the Los Angeles Premiere Photo: Getty Images
10. Donatella Versace has never made a garment herself.
While you might be surprised as she runs one of the world’s biggest fashion empires, we can confirm the impossible: Donatella Versace doesn't sew! However, while that might keep her from being a contestant on Project Runway, it hasn't stopped her from being one of the world's most creative minds and best-known designers, evolving her role within her beloved brother's company and running it for more than two decades.