In the decades that have passed since Gianni Versace was murdered on July 15, 1997, interest in him (and his namesake brand) hasn’t waned. As Anna Wintour told The New York Times right after his tragic death, Gianni had a truly lasting impact on fashion.

“He was the first to realize the value of the celebrity in the front row, and the value of the supermodel, and put fashion on an international media platform,” she said. The 50-year-old was also praised for being a great person, with Jon Bon Jovi gushing, “He was the most warm, caring, sensitive family man.”

Sure enough, his legacy had staying power. As sister Donatella Versace took over Versace’s creative direction, she kept the momentum going and in 2018, she sold the label to Michael Kors for a whopping $2.1 billion, as The Guardian confirmed.

However, despite all of their successes, the Versace clan has also been plagued by controversy. Much of the family drama was purportedly shown in 2018’s “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” which was largely based on a 1999 book titled “Vulgar Favors.”

The Versace family was quick to denounce the book and told WWD, “This TV series should only be considered as a work of fiction.” And yet, despite their best efforts, they haven’t been able to deny away all of the skeletons that are now out of the Versace closet.

Were Donatella and Gianni Versace at odds?

Gianni Versace was the mastermind behind his eponymous label, but sister Donatella Versace was also an integral part of the brand. She was his muse, a fellow decision maker and, as she told New York magazine in 2006, his voice of reason.

“I thought of myself as the one who really was able to tell Gianni the truth, because with a big designer, nobody is able,” she shared. However, both siblings acknowledged that they fought as hard as they loved. According to The New Yorker, Gianni once admitted, “We can fight at six o’clock and have a nice dinner at eight.”

Indeed, Donatella’s then-husband, Paul Beck, told Vanity Fair in 1997 that their disputes were so explosive, he couldn’t bear them. “I thought somebody was going to kill someone,” he said. What’s more, “the argument would be over something like where to put the sweaters in the new boutique.” Things became especially bad in 1996.

After Gianni was diagnosed with ear cancer, Donatella took the helm and when he returned to work, their relationship nearly imploded. “It was war,” Gianni admitted; Donatella recalled, “It was a moment when I didn’t feel any communication.” It would be six months before they reconciled and even then, Vanity Fair reported they were still fighting (this time about models) during Gianni’s final fashion show.

Despite everything, there was no bad blood. “Thank God that I have her and she has me,” Gianni once said; in 2017, Donatella told The Guardian, “My brother was the king.”

Donatella Versace struggled with addiction

Donatella Versace hid her cocaine addiction for nearly two decades but spoke about it candidly following a 2004 intervention that helped her get sober. As she told Vogue in 2005, the drug was her party go-to. Initially, brother Gianni Versace had no idea she was using drugs, but it eventually became an open secret, as Donatella showed no qualms about it.

“You don’t do drugs because they’re not fun,” she said in New York magazine in 2006. “They are a lot of fun, but you know, the celebration gets too often celebrated.” And its appeal only became stronger after Gianni’s murder in 1997. As she told the outlet, “I found an easy way to numb everything: drugs.”

Through the 18 years of her struggles with addiction, Donatella managed to keep her work and family commitments, but later realized just how much it impacted her kids. “I was there all the time because I was a very present mother, but I realize the intimacy was very difficult with me,” she shared.

Even so, the turning point didn’t come until 2004 when, Elton John, her kids, and friends staged an intervention during daughter Allegra Versace’s 18th birthday party. “Elton said, ‘Donatella, you know what, we’re not forcing you, but you need to go to rehab. There is a plane waiting for you,'” she told The New Yorker in 2007. “I was ready. … You know, you think you’re in control, and you try to stop, but you’re not.”

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

The Donatella Versace-Antonio D’Amico feud explained

In addition to working alongside sister Donatella Versace, Gianni Versace also tasked longtime boyfriend Antonio D’Amico with designing for spinoff brands Versace Sport and Istante. D’Amico started dating Gianni in 1986. A decade later, he would be the one to find the designer after he was fatally shot outside his Miami home.

Not surprisingly, Gianni acknowledged him in his will, reportedly leaving him his homes, as well as a $57,000 monthly stipend, which The Sun claimed was actually £20,000 (or about $32,000) a year. Either way, D’Amico maintained that most of the cash was spent on taxes and that Donatella pushed him out of the properties. “I gave back all the homes after Gianni died because I didn’t want to be anywhere near Donatella,” he told the outlet.

Indeed, Donatella and D’Amico did not get along. “I respected him as the boyfriend of my brother, but I never liked him as a person,” Donatella once admitted in The New York Times. As for D’Amico, he said in The Sun, “I tried to treat her like she was family, but towards the end I thought of her as a monster.”

What’s more, he alleged that Donatella wanted him out of the family business and that drugs made her paranoid. “I don’t know why she hated me so much,” he mused. “Maybe she was jealous of me because I had power from being so close to Gianni and he would listen to me more than her.”

Did the Versace family try to keep Gianni’s health a secret?

Gianni Versace’s health has been the topic of much debate. After the designer was slain, Donatella Versace admitted to New York magazine in 2006 that he had secretly been suffering from ear cancer.

“The last two years of his life, Gianni was hiding, hiding up in his apartment in Via Gesú, because his ear was so big,” she revealed. “It was impossible to do a surgery because of the position.” She added that her brother had been preparing for death, even penning his will, when, all of a sudden, “It was declared cured six months before he was murdered.”

Then, in July 1997, he was killed in cold blood by Andrew Cunanan. According to FBI investigative notes seen by ABC7 I-Team, authorities thought Cunanan “may, or may not be, targeting former lovers or clients who may have given him AIDS” and soon, rumors spread. In 1999, journalist Maureen Orth published a book called “Vulgar Favors” in which she alleged that case detective Paul Scrimshaw told her, “I was able to find out from autopsy results that he had tested positive for HIV.”

According to the Daily Mail, Orth also claimed the Versace family retrieved Gianni’s body less than 24 hours after his death and cremated it as quickly as possible to keep his health a secret. The family renounced her allegations in a statement published by The Hollywood Reporter, saying, “[Orth] admits it would have been illegal for [Scrimshaw] to have reviewed the report in the first place (if it existed at all).”

Gianni Versace’s alleged mafia connections

Amidst all of the rumors that have encircled Gianni Versace and his legacy, one of the most outlandish came after his death when he was accused of working for the mob. In 2010, Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi published a book called “Metastasi” in which he explored the inner workings of the Calabrian mafia known as ‘Ndrangheta.

During his research, Nuzzi spoke with Giuseppe Di Bella, a former ‘Ndrangheta member-turned-informer who made some big claims about Gianni’s alleged criminal activities. “There were rivers of money from drugs, extortion, protection rackets, loan sharking — mountains of money — and it had to be made clean,” Di Bella alleged, according to The Telegraph.

“Bars, restaurants, property and luxury goods were used, but also clean businesses like that of Versace.” What’s more, the former mafioso claimed that the fashion icon was actually killed by the mafia because he owed them money.

He wasn’t the first person to see a possible connection between Gianni and the mob, though. As ABC7 I-Team learned in 2014, authorities first thought the designer may have been killed by the mafia.

According to a note in the FBI file, which the outlet was able to read, “Miami Beach homicide detectives requested FBI agents respond to the crime scene, initially thinking that Versace may have been killed as a result of a murder for hire or some organized crime connection.” Meanwhile, the Versace family denounced such claims, calling them fake and threatening to take legal action, if needed.

Gianni wasn’t the only Versace sibling to die unexpectedly

Gianni and Donatella Versace are by far the most recognized members of the Versace clan, but the famous pair actually have two older siblings: Santo and Tina. While Santo joined the family business and is the chairman and president of Gianni Versace Spa, Tina died tragically in 1952, three years before Donatella was born.

While the designer has rarely spoken about the sister she never knew, Donatella did tell The New Yorker in 2007 exactly what happened. As she shared, Tina scraped her knee at a carnival, which resulted in a tetanus infection. Having been improperly treated by the doctor, Tina became gravely ill and died within 24 hours. She was 12 years old. “Sudden death is frequent in my family,” Donatella told the mag. According to the Mirror, Tina’s exact cause of death was peritonitis, which Mayo Clinic explains is fatal unless treated quickly.

Tina’s heartbreaking death would change Donatella’s parents forever. As the fashion icon once told Harper’s Bazaar (via Refinery29), the loss also had a lasting impact on her own life. “I felt when I was little, ‘Oh, I’m going to have to fill someone else’s place,'” she confessed. “This was why I was born as a baby, because my parents couldn’t get over the loss of my sister, who I never met.”

Why Allegra Versace stays away from the limelight

Donatella Versace married American model Paul Beck in 1985 and, the following year, they welcomed daughter Allegra Versace. From the moment she was born, Allegra shared a special bond with her uncle, Gianni Versace, who even picked out her name, per The New Yorker. As Donatella told New York magazine in 2006, “[Gianni] was always with Allegra.” 

Not surprisingly, Gianni’s murder when she was just 11 rocked Allega’s world. “For years, I lived in the dark,” sh told La Repubblica in 2011. “I remembered nothing of my life before that terrible day.” In addition to heartbreak, she also experienced anxiety. Gianni left her 50% of his company and, as she shared, “I feared […] I would have to be as great as him, but I knew it was impossible, that I would never be capable of it.”

Allegra has also struggled with anorexia. Donatella confirmed her daughter’s illness in 2007, per Reuters, but was adamant that she was doing well while attending Brown University. Indeed, Allegra found solace in the United States, studying and working out of the limelight. As she told La Repubblica, “I wanted one thing above all: Not to be a nobody, not to be recognized, not to be hunted down.” However, a former Versace employee told the New York Post in 2018 that Allegra continues to grapple with the disease. ​​”If Allegra sees her own photos or sees herself on TV, she loses her mind,” they claimed. “She’s got body dysmorphic disorder.”

If you need help with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA’s Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).

Kevin Sorbo’s serious accusations against Gianni Versace

Before Kevin Sorbo became an actor, he was in Italy working as a model and landed face to face with Gianni Versace. Appearing on “The Adam Carolla Show” podcast in 2017, Sorbo revealed that the encounter, which took place in 1984, was anything but positive. “I’ve got my sexual harassment story,” he told Carolla.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Sorbo shared that it was his height that initially caught the late designer’s attention. “At 6-foot, 3-inches, he wanted me to do fashion shows with these 6-foot-tall women,” he recalled. Versace reportedly began inviting him to different events before eventually meeting alone. At that point, the actor said the designer offered him an ad campaign and began to touch his leg. Sorbo claimed he told Versace he was straight but that the designer was persistent, supposedly telling him, “This is why I like you. You’re not a girly man. You are a man’s man.”

Sorbo later spoke with The Hollywood Reporter and clarified that, despite the incident, they did continue working together. “He booked me for his fashion shows but I never got his campaign, but I knew the game, just like I know the game of Hollywood,” he said. When E! News reached out to a Versace rep for comment, they didn’t respond.

Did Gianni Versace owe Fabio a ton of cash?

While rumors swirled that Gianni Versace may have owed money to the mafia, Italian model Fabio also claimed that the late designer owed him some serious cash. In 2021, Fabio appeared on the “People in the ’90s” podcast and opened up about his journey to becoming a supermodel. As he recalled, it was 1987 when he moved from Italy to New York and quickly signed with Ford Models. A day later, he had already booked his first big job with Gap and things only got better from there.

One of his biggest successes came in the early 1990s when he was cast as the face of Versace’s Mediterraneum cologne. “The Versace campaign was extremely successful at that time because it was the biggest contract a model— not just a male model, a model — ever got,” he recalled. “So I got a contract even bigger than Cindy Crawford and the rest of the female models.”

Fabio said he was contracted to earn millions and yet, he didn’t see much of what he was owed. Alleging that Gianni Versace failed to pay him $1 million, he claimed, “Unfortunately Versace wasn’t a very honest man, God bless his soul, but the truth is the truth.” Versace reps didn’t comment on the allegations, but Fabio didn’t suffer too much. In addition to his career in fashion, he also became a romance novel icon, gracing hundreds of book covers and amassing a tidy fortune. 

Versace has been marred by allegations of discrimination

Over the years, the Versace brand has faced legal action for allegedly racist and sexist actions. The first lawsuit came in 2008 when Reuters confirmed that Fay Rodriguez was taking the company to court because she claimed she was verbally abused and not paid for her overtime hours. Rodriguez, who worked as an assistant to Versace USA’s chief executive officer, Patrick Guadagno, from 2007 to 2008, also alleged gender discrimination and said she was fired after filing an official complaint with HR.

Jump to 2016 and CNN learned that a former retail employee named Christopher Sampiro was suing the company for similar reasons. Sampiro, who was a sales assistant in a California store, alleged he was informed by his manager to use the code word “D410” whenever a Black shopper entered the store.

Sampiro said he then pointed out to the manager he himself was Black, after which he said he was treated unjustly and fired just two weeks later. Versace denied the allegations, telling CNN, “We do not tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, national origin or any other characteristic protected by our civil rights laws.” Sampiro hoped his suit would spark a class action lawsuit, per WWD, but it is unclear how either case ended.