'Albert entered the modeling world in an era when supermodels were thrust into the international spotlight and became celebrities in their own right.'

Albert Delègue (1963-1995)
Story by The AIDS Memorial and Irwin M. Rappaport
A version of this story first appeared on The AIDS Monument on Instagram
Recorded by Gus Kenworthy

French male supermodel Albert Delègue was among the top male models of the early to mid-1990s. Albert grew up in Mérilhu, a small village in Southwestern France where he worked as a ski instructor. But Albert’s days as a ski instructor came to an end when, at age 26 while visiting Paris, a friend introduced him to Olivier Bertrand, the head of modeling agency Success, who signed him.

Bertrand told OK Podium magazine, “I realized immediately that he would become a top model. Two days after we signed him, he was already getting a very important contract.”

Hi, there. I’m Gus Kenworthy, and I won the Silver Medal in slopestyle skiing at the 2014 Winter Olympics. When I came out in 2015, I became the first-ever openly gay professional athlete in an action sport.

Albert entered the modeling world in an era when supermodels were thrust into the international spotlight, becoming celebrities in their own right. Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Claudia Schiffer, and Tyra Banks were instantly recognizable. Some of the male models who, like Albert Delègue, ascended to stardom in that decade include Mark Vanderloo, Alain Gossuin, Marcus Schenkenberg, Werner Schreyer, Greg Hansen and Cameron Alborzian.

In 1991, Albert secured a multi-year contract with Giorgio Armani estimated to be worth 5 million French Francs. Armani’s 1992 cologne ad featured the iconic Bruce Weber photo of Albert’s face pressed against a woman’s shoulder.

Herb Ritts photographed Albert for Versace in 1991. Albert was the face of other top brands, too: Calvin Klein, Valentino, Rene Lezard, Sonia Rykiel, and Kenzo. But Albert’s career lasted only five years, until 1994.

When Albert died on April 14, 1995, his family reported that the cause of death was a skiing accident that they said had happened eight months earlier and had left him paralyzed in the hospital. However, only five days after his death, their story began to unravel.

French newspaper L’Humanité reported that Albert died of AIDS, and similar reporting came out four days later from Spanish newspaper El Pais, which stated that he died of encephalitis developed as a result of the AIDS virus. Later, his family is said to have intervened with the press and censored any further stories about AIDS as the cause of death.

Fellow model Alain Gossuin thought that it was important to tell the truth about the scourge of AIDS. So when he was interviewed on French TV show “Tout es Possible,” he said that press reports of Albert’s death from AIDS were censored by his family. His interview was edited out of the show.

Homophobia was and still is so prevalent that families like Albert’s, and people living with HIV or AIDS, were and are ashamed to admit that they or their loved ones are HIV-positive or have AIDS.

Can you think of another disease where social stigma would convince parents to lie about their child’s cause of death?