The second season of American Crime Story centers on the assassination of the fashion designer Gianni Versace at the hands of 27-year-old serial killer Andrew Cunanan. Ryan Murphy's ambitious project ends up touching on all the social and interpersonal dynamics at work surrounding that incident, from discrimination of the LGBTQ+ community to the competitive and fiercely loving relationship between Versace and his sister, Donatella.
The Versace siblings and their commitment to the brand is a prominent theme in the show. To this day, Versace is a privately owned label, run by Gianni's relatives. Donatella took over the Versace label after Versace's death, and still remains the creative director. Their other sibling, Santo, is the president and chairman of the fashion label.
On last night's episode of American Crime Story, viewers learned about the fourth Versace sibling, Tina. Tragically, Tina never got to witness her family's rise to prominence — she died at the age of 12.
Fortunata Versace — Tina for short — was the eldest child of Antonio and Francesca Versace, a dressmaker. In a 2007 interview for the New Yorker, Donatella revealed what happened to her older sister, who passed away before she was born. In 1952, Tina visited a carnival along with her parents and younger brothers, Santo and Gianni. Tina fell and scraped her knee, and contracted tetanus from the fall. The doctor treated Tina with wrong medicine. Less than 24 hours after the fall, Tina died, still wearing her party dress.
"Sudden death is frequent in my family," Donatella Versace told the New Yorker reporter, referring to both Tina and Gianni's assassination.
Donatella was born in 1955, three years after Tina's death. She rarely speaks about her sister in interviews, though when she does, she mentions the sadness that always hung over her parents. Donatella told Harper's Bazaar that her mother "never recovered." She grew up feeling that she was, in some way, Tina's replacement.
"I felt when I was little, ‘Oh, I’m going to have to fill someone else’s place.' 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. See, I’m telling the truth finally... It gave me a little bit of insecurity," she told Harper's, as reported by Yahoo!
Tina's loss is even sadder when one takes into account just how crucial sibling ties became for Santo, Gianni, and Donatella. In the show, Donatella and Gianni rely on each other to challenge themselves, and better the company. They often clash and bicker in the process, before reverting back to the same place of love. In this respect, the show captured real life.
“We can fight at six o’clock and have a nice dinner at eight,” the real Gianni said in an interview, according to the New Yorker.
The siblings are torn apart within the first ten minutes of ACS: Versace, with Versace's death. But after last night's episode, we know it wasn't the first time the Versace family experienced, as Donatella called it, "sudden death."
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