This article originally appeared on PEOPLE.com
Anderson Cooper comes from American royalty, but says he won’t ever see part of the Vanderbilt family’s lavish fortune – which he’s totally okay with.
Sitting alongside his mother Gloria Vanderbilt in a recent interview with PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly editorial director Jess Cagle, the journalist revealed that he was told by his parents at a young age that he wouldn’t receive an inheritance.
“In think my mom and dad both wanted to get across to me that … I obviously grew up with great privilege and was very lucky and was able to afford college and not have student loans and they would pay for college, but beyond that, it would be up to me to make a living,” said Cooper, 48.
Gloria, 91, is the great-great-great granddaughter of shipping tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, and grew up under the custody of her aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Her fourth marriage was to writer Wyatt Cooper, Anderson’s father, which lasted until his death in 1978.
Of his parents’ insistence that he pave his own way, Cooper told Cagle, “I was always very appreciative of that because I never – I always looked at people who inherited money and they never seemed to really accomplish much on their own and it seemed to sort of change the person they were.
“I’m glad I never had that expectation hanging over me or that safety net to fall back on,” he continued. “I always thought, ‘I’m on my own and that’s the way it should be.’”
And the star took initiative at a young age, working as early as age 11 or 12 as a child model for brands like Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. In addition, Cooper saved money from lemonade stands and worked as a waiter in high school.
“It was important to me and I think important to my parents that I be on my own and figure things out on my own and kind of forge my own path, and I’m really grateful for that,” he said.
Cooper and Vanderbilt’s relationship will be featured in an upcoming HBO documentary and, before that, in a memoir, The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son Talk About Life, Love, and Loss, due out April 5. Watch more clips from the interview below!