Famous handbag designer Kate Spade has been found dead in her home of an apparent suicide at the age of 55. News of the famous designer’s death started circulating the morning of June 5 after reports that Spade hanged herself with a scarf in the $6.2 million Manhattan apartment she shared with her husband and daughter broke early Tuesday.
Spade is survived by her husband, Andy Spade, and 13-year-old daughter Frances Beatrix Spade, who shares a name with Spade’s famous fashion line. Spade reportedly left a suicide note in which she told her daughter that her death wasn’t the teen’s fault.
Spade was also connected to a number of well-known relatives, including brother-in-law David Spade and niece Rachel Brosnahan.
Here’s what you need to know about Spade’s niece, Brosnahan:
1. Brosnahan Played in a Plethora of Roles in Television and Movie Before Landing Her Starring Role in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
Kate Spade was part of Rachel Brosnahan’s family on her paternal side. Her father, Earl, is Kate Spade’s brother, making Rachel her niece.
Brosnahan rose to fame for her portrayal of characters in the movies “Beautiful Creatures” and Netflix’s “House of Cards” before starring in Amazon’s critically acclaimed “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
The aspiring actress attended Broadway “bootcamp” as a teen and graduated from Highland Park High School before finishing her education at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2012.
Born in 1990 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Brosnahan began acting in her teens in both film and television before landing her big role as Genevieve Katherine Duchannes in Beautiful Creatures in 2013. According to her biography, she played an ill-fated prostitute named Rachel Posner on House of Cards, before starring as Midge Maisel on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, for which she won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Television Series Musical or Comedy earlier this year.
2. Brosnahan Claims that Spade was Influenced by Her Grandmother’s “Fabulous” Style
Brosnahan told told the Los Angeles Times in October 2015 that Spade gets her much of her influence from Brosnahan’s grandmother, but the actress inherited some of Spade’s style for fashion.
“People around me have said that I’ve inherited little pieces of Katie’s style,” she said in an interview with WWD. “For example, I love a good shoe and a good bag, and I know that she was largely influenced by my grandmother, her mother, June. Who actually, fun fact, Midge is slightly inspired by.”
“One of aunt Katie’s influences was my fabulous grandmother, June, who always had a closet full of amazing shoes and scarves and handbags,” Brosnahan said.
The actress also told Women’s Wear Daily that she admires fashion “from afar,” unlike her aunt Spade, who surrounded herself with it.
3. Spade was Proud of Her Niece and Celebrated Her Milestones as an Actress
Spade was a proud aunt who always found time to celebrate her niece’s accomplishments as an actress.
When Brosnahan won a Golden Globe for best actress in January for playing her role in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Spade told Page Six, “I am beside myself! My daughter [Frances] and I jumped up and down when she won. She deserves this recognition as she’s put her heart and soul into the role. We are insanely proud.”
4. She Started Showing an Interest in Acting After Performing in Musicals in High School
Brosnahan is the oldest child of three to a British mother and an American father. Her father worked at a children’s publishing company, according to her biography. Raised in Highland Park, Illinoise, Brosnahan began showing a serious interest in acting after performing in musicals at Northwood Junior High School, her biography reports.
“She is very self-motivated and always has been,” Brosnahan’s mother Carol Brosnahan said in a phone interview with the Chicago Tribune. “She wanted to teach herself from the beginning. She did it all on her own, and we were really just in the background.”
Brosnahan made her first debut while still in high school, appearing in Michael Bay’s horror film “The Unborn” in 2009. She had various small roles in other television shows such as “Gossip Girl” and “Orange is the New Black” before she started landed a recurring role in “House of Cards.”
5. Brosnahan was Incredibly Sick When She Auditioned for her Role in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
When Brosnahan auditioned for the role in Maisel, she told WWD that she was the “sickest I’ve ever been in my life.” However, she was determined to get the role and refused to miss the audition.
“Perspective: you know normally when you get the flu after four or five days you start to see the light? Like 10 days later, I still could not get out of bed I was so sick,” Brosnahan says. “I was snotting and sweating and at one point took my shoes off during the audition because my feet were so sweaty. They kept having to pause so I could like powder my face and blow my nose. It was a mess. But Midge is a mess and so I’m sure in some ways it helped a little bit.”
In the film, Brosnahan stars as a Fifties housewife who starts her life over as a standup comic after her husband leaves her for his secretary. She says that she has never played a character such as her role as Midge, especially regarding the confidence her character has, even in the midst of her life falling apart around her.
“I’ve never played a character — because honestly, there aren’t very many of them — who is so unshakably confident even when her whole life falls apart,” Brosnahan says of Midge.