Since beginning my blog, friends have gifted me with books on the subject. In Praise of Difficult Women, Life Lessons of 29 Heroines Who Dared to Break the Rules, is one of them. I’ve already featured Ruth Ginsburg and will circle around the stories now and again. Today I feature Elizabeth Taylor and her long and illustrious career.
Elizabeth Taylor has always been in my radar ever since I was a movie buff youngster. She truly was one of the most physically beautiful women ever. Difficult women share many commonalities. One trait they all possess is complete indifference to what people think and there was no one for whom this was more true than Elizabeth. Because she was an esteemed actress from the beginning of her young career, she never thought about being “entitled,” but rather just did it her way. She was both wondrous and terrifying: a hyper-feminine and hyper-sexual woman who wouldn’t be contained or controlled by public opinion.
From the time Elizabeth was a toddler, people would remark on her beauty; her black hair, alabaster skin, and her stunningly beautiful medium violet blue eyes under double eyelashes, a mutation called distichiasis. Her gorgeous good looks were disarming to some studio heads whose short-sightedness only looked for the “curly top types.” She had to fight hard for the role of Velvet Brown in National Velvet and willed herself to grow a couple of inches to land the role.
After her success in the Lassie movies, Elizabeth moved right into more grown-up roles and went on to a magnificent career and Academy Award winner, thrice. After retiring from making movies, she took up the cause of Aids after learning that her long-time friend, Rock Hudson, had contracted it. She spent the rest of her life promoting her foundation that supported finding a cure for the aids epidemic.
At the tender age of 18, Ms. Taylor wed, the first of eight times, Nicky Hilton and began her “industrial-strength” dating, as she swung from one man to the next. Mr. Right was always Mr. Right. She once said, “I’ve only slept with men I’ve been married to. How many women can make that claim?” There were major and minor husbands, but none lasting long. Through it all Elizabeth had many health scares, gave birth to three children, adopted a forth with Richard Burton and kept making movies.
And let’s not forget about her exquisite and lavish collection of jewelry bestowed upon her by many of her husbands and friends. In the links below, her beloved pieces and some of their histories are featured, plus the fashion icon’s many designer gowns that went on a world tour prior the Christies auction, which set records. Over 120 million dollars in sales were made in just the initial 4 day event. An item I found fascinating were her charm bracelets. Because Elizabeth lacked for nothing, friends and family found beautiful tokens for her to add to her bracelets. Some of those stories are precious.
She was the first actress to demand and get a million bucks for her movie Cleopatra, and later said the film was “surely the most bizarre piece of entertainment ever to be perpetrated.”
What I loved about “Velvet Brown” was her innocent spirit of hope. She wouldn’t take no for an answer and found a way to get a problem solved, something Elizabeth embodied through her own life, from Velvet Brown to Cleopatra. Hope and strong women are always present.
As the co-founder of amfAR and founder of The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, she received many awards for her advocacy, including the Légion d’honneur from France, the Presidential Citizens Medal, and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 65th Academy Awards. In 2000, Taylor was named Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.
“The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they’re going to have some pretty annoying virtues.”