The trim, silver-haired news anchor is the host of Anderson Cooper 360 and the hard-hitting daytime gab-fest Anderson. He's also one of the most prominent gay men on TV.

Cooper may have gray hair on his head, but he has blue blood in his veins: Anderson Hays Cooper's mother is Gloria Vanderbilt, the heiress to the railroad fortune. Raised at 10 Gracie Square, Cooper's early life was marked by trauma. His father, Wyatt Cooper, died of a heart attack when Anderson was 10; his older brother, Carter, committed suicide by jumping off the 14th-floor terrace of the family penthouse in 1988. Anderson attended Dalton and then went off to Yale, interning for two summers at the CIA in Washington. After graduating, he took a job as a fact-checker at Channel One; when he got fed up sitting behind a desk, he quit and headed to Asia and Africa where he shot pieces with his own video camera and sent them back to the upstart network. His work in far-flung locales earned him attention at ABC and after a brief stint living in Vietnam, he returned to New York to take a job as a correspondent on 20/20, later working the overnight beat for ABC's World News Now. Overcoming a major career misstep—Cooper left TV news in 2000 to host the ghastly reality show The Mole—he's been at CNN since December 2001. He was named the host of Anderson Cooper 360 in September 2003.

Cooper's standing at CNN has been rising for some time now. He landed a two-hour primetime slot and earned widespread kudos for his coverage of Hurricane Katrina, challenging Louisiana senator Mary Landrieu for the government's non-response to the disaster and later expressing actual human emotion on the air, breaking down in tears at one point. Sloppy kisses from the media and lengthy features in the Observer and New York followed; not long after, Cooper released his first book Dispatches from the Edge, and in 2011, he decided to cash in on his A-list status with the daytime talk show Anderson.

Cooper is gay and while that's no secret in Chelsea or media circles, he has never publicly commented on his sexual orientation. His reticence to discuss his sexuality has made him a favorite target of bloggers and gay publications such as Out, which made him the cover boy for its "Glass Closet" issue in 2007. At one point, Cooper was reportedly planning to discuss his sexuality as part of a magazine cover story; he later decided to back out, supposedly because skittish CNN executives were concerned it would affect ratings. [Image via Getty]