Gia Carangi is a Philadelphia native who moves to New York City to become a fashion model and immediately catches the attention of powerful agent Wilhelmina Cooper. Gia's attitude, beauty and willingness to pose nude help her rise quickly to the forefront of the modelling industry, but her persistent loneliness drives her to experiment with mood-altering drugs like cocaine. She becomes entangled in a passionate affair with Linda, a make-up artist. However, after a while Linda begins to worry about Gia's drug use and gives her an ultimatum. Gia chooses the drugs. Failed attempts at reconciliation with Linda and with her mother Kathleen Carangi drive Gia to begin abusing heroin. Although she is eventually able to break her drug habit after much effort, she has already contracted HIV from a needle containing infected blood and dies of complications from AIDS in 1986 at the age of 26.