Anderson Cooper, after graduating from Yale in 1989, was ready to enter the workforce as an investigative reporter. His brother, Carter Vanderbilt Cooper, committed suicide at age 23 by jumping off the balcony of their family penthouse. The tragedy propelled Cooper to tell stories of survival. "I wanted to figure out how to survive,” he told Maclean’s magazine in 2006. "My brother hadn't survived. I wanted to go places where people were surviving and there had been tragedies and people were getting through them."
His first attempt at breaking into journalism, starting from the bottom, did not pan out. "I started out trying to get a job answering phones at ABC and I couldn't get it—which I guess shows the value of a Yale education,” he joked in a 2004 interview with Media Bistro. So in 1991, Cooper—with no professional training or experience—borrowed a Hi-8 video camera, asked a friend of his to mock up a fake press pass, and set off to Thailand.
Armed with his phony press credentials, a camcorder, and the faintest idea of a plan, Cooper set out to document Burmese refugees at the Thai-Burmese border as they attempted to overthrow their country’s military dictatorship. He sold the footage to Channel One, a closed-circuit television station where he had previously worked as a fact checker. Eighteen months later, he was hired as a correspondent.
For two years, Cooper toiled in political flashpoints like Bosnia, Croatia and Rwanda. His boots-on-the-ground approach to these rather harrowing stories gave him experience in front of the camera and showed a willingness to get into the thick of it. At 25, based solely on his work at Channel One, Cooper received an offer to work at ABC News—three years after they turned him down for a job answering phones. Now, Cooper works at CNN, hosting his own program, Anderson Cooper 360. He is worth a reported $100 million, and probably does not answer his own phone.