Archived // Cover Story
"A LEGEND OF YESTERDAY & TODAY"
An Exclusive Interview With DAME ELIZABETH TAYLOR
By: Mimi Makabi
Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor might not have been born a Dame, but surely lived up to become one. A beauty like no other—with her trademark violet eyes that are framed by a double row of eyelashes, Dame Taylor is not only considered to be one of the world's most beautiful women, but has also become a name that is synonymous with the word “beauty”.
Despite never having taken an acting lesson, Dame Taylor is an iconic two-time Academy Award-winning actress, with a career that spans 60 years and includes some of Hollywood's most remembered movie classics. Just like her beauty, her presence and command of the screen has always been undeniable, making her “Hollywood’s Inimitable Leading Lady”. Classically famous for her stunning beauty, elegance, warmth, and unassuming gentleness that is expressed in the deep wells of her trademark violet eyes, Dame Taylor has captivated audiences from one generation to the next.
She has lived her entire life—both on and off camera, navigating the spotlight of fame. In the 1950s and 1960s, Dame Taylor was one of the most popular and prolific actresses of the day, starring in classics like Giant with James Dean, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Paul Newman, and Cleopatra—yet her greatest roles were played off screen. She came of age, after all, in a decade when movies were in black and white, innocence was still sold as a commodity to cinema audiences, and nobody, not even James Dean, used profanity on screen.
For over half a century, fans have followed Dame Taylor’s personal affairs as enthusiastically as they've flocked to her movies. As famous as she became for her memorable performances on screen, she also became equally known for her legendary love affairs—some with her high-profile leading men, and one constant and lifelong one with…her jewelry!
Through great triumphs and tragedies, Dame Taylor has lived a life more varied than any character she ever portrayed. Yet through it all, she has always found the time to give back and use her fame towards her commitment to philanthropy. She is best known for her admirable responsibility in tackling the AIDS crisis head-on and becoming the celebrity face for the campaign.
From her years as a child star to her humanitarian efforts as an adult, and the many chapters in between, Dame Taylor has truly lived an illustrious life. She is not only considered to be Hollywood Royalty, but has rightfully earned the title as “The Grand Dame” of the industry.
Here, in an intimate interview, Dame Elizabeth Taylor, the living legend that she is, shares her stories of the events and people that have shaped her life and what she considers to be her ultimate passion—All, in her own words.
In Her Own Words…
Maryam Makabi: You have been described as one of the Greatest Female Stars of All Time, the Silver-Screen Legend, an icon for beauty, humanitarian, AIDS activist, a legendary survivor, and a true one-of-a-kind Dame. What does this all mean to you?
Dame Taylor: “Each experience, each blow, each happiness, each magical moment – even each moment in the pits – has taught me something. The really bad moments taught me to rely on my inner strength and not to succumb. The magical moments have taught me to appreciate my life. Hang on to it and relish it – and not take even a second of it for granted.”
MM: Being considered one of the great actresses of Hollywood’s golden years, you have undoubtedly worked with some of the 'greats' across the industry. Who were a few of your favorites and why?
DT: “When I was young, MGM was a very exciting place to be. It was so tremendously thrilling to go into the commissary for lunch. They were all there – Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Spencer Tracy, Hedy Lamarr….every time Clark Gable walked in, I just about dropped my fork!”
MM: Of all your roles you’ve played, which did you enjoy the most and why? Which impacted you the most?
DT: “I think National Velvet is still the most exciting film I’ve ever done. And at the end, to be given the horse on my thirteenth birthday – well, it was one of the moments of my life.”
MM: What do you think of actors today vs. when you started working?
DT: “Oh, I think there's such a group of young talent out there, I couldn't begin to name them all for you. I'd be leaving somebody out. But I'm very impressed with the young actors.”
MM: How would you define beauty? What are the advantages and disadvantages of being beautiful?
DT: “My mother wisely made very sure when I was young that I wouldn’t get big-headed about my looks. She said, “You have nice eyes, but they’re only nice as long as the expression in back of them is nice. And that depends solely on what you are as a person inside. You are not beautiful, but you can be attractive when you’re nice inside.”
MM: As a young child, did you have any idea, any vision, of what you wanted to accomplish—what you wanted to be?
DT: “Probably if there hadn’t been a World War II, I would have been a debutante, lived in England, and married someone very secure and staid. I never would have become an actress. I would have had as many children as I could physically have had.”
MM: If you had your time again would you choose a simpler life, or would you have it exactly the way you've had it?
DT: “I did worry about the effect of my fame on my children. I once asked my kids if they would like it better if I weren’t in films and weren’t famous. Unanimously, they said, “No, we’re terribly proud of you.”
MM: Which person has most influenced your life both personally and professionally?
DT: “I've had two great loves in my life. I have been doubly blessed. And I consider myself so lucky. Some people never find the kind of love I’m talking of.... I had it twice. Of course Richard Burton... and Mike Todd. I loved them both with my life.”
MM: How has your success professionally allowed you to be charitable in the community?
DT: “I don’t mind using my fame for AIDS. I decided to make fame work for me in a positive way. I can’t be too greedy when it comes to AIDS. No one is immune from the pain caused by losing a loved one to the disease.”
MM: You have devoted much time and energy to AIDS-related charities and helped start the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and established The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF). Why are you so passionate about this particular cause?
DT: “It just tugged at my heart. So many were suffering – and nothing was being done! Never has a disease left so many helpless, leaving loved ones and families reaching out only to frustration and fear. It was bad enough that people were dying of AIDS, but no one should die of ignorance.”
MM: What are you the most proud of?
DT: “My children.”
MM: Along with your success on screen, you have also become an extraordinarily successful businesswomen and started The House of Taylor Beauty/ and Jewelry Collection. What inspired your passion for design and beauty? How did this all come to be?
DT: “Jewelry is one of my joys in life. I love collecting—I love to design, I love stones. Stones have a kind of life of their own. I think there’s something mystical about them. They have their own vitality. And I literally have dreams about jewelry—I design in my sleep!”
MM: You have also recently joined forces with the beautiful and talented Kathy Ireland in a partnership in The House of Taylor Jewelry Collection. Can you tell us how this came about and what’s it like working with Kathy?
DT: “Kathy Ireland is one of the sweetest people I know and she has the head of a hardened businesswoman…her instincts are so dead on. I’m awestruck by her business sense. As a person, she is a joy to be around. She is so unspoiled and beautiful inside and out. She still has a little girl quality that is very endearing in one so clever. I feel very protective of her. I know I don’t need to, but she brings that out in one. I love her dearly.”
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