“My grandmother was the queen of the smoky eye.”
Hollywood had nothing on her. From her early days as a naïve tomboy in “National Velvet” to the latter ones as a sultry queen in “Cleopatra,” Elizabeth Taylor was an eternal star in an industry of fleeting close-ups.
In the ranks of iconic women the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, and Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor perhaps shined the brightest. Definitely the longest.
Some would say it was destined: eyes so blue to the point of looking violet, fringed with ultra-thick double lashes caused by a genetic mutation; eyebrows highly arched and expertly penciled, framing every emotion; and fair skin that acted as a canvas for dramatic black liner and glossy red lips. She was the type you wouldn’t catch in a t-shirt and jeans, ever. More like a smoky eye, something big and sparkly, and a great sense of humor.
What’s it like growing up with such a force of nature as your grandmother? Well, we recently talked to her granddaughter, Eliza Carson, daughter of Maria Burton, and peeked behind the curtain of Elizabeth Taylor’s iconic beauty routine. Turns out, she was like every other doting grandmother in a sense. Just one with 68-carat diamonds to try on.
“I remember spending many times sitting in bed together watching movies and talking about life, makeup, and boys. My grandmother was an amazing storyteller. I mean, of course it’s easy to tell a great story if you’ve had a life like hers, but the way she told a story left you wanting her to tell another,” Carson tells us.
Another treasured tradition: Paying close attention as she watched her grandmother apply makeup in an exquisitely carpeted dressing room with all the fixings. “I remember her spending more time applying eye makeup and lipstick than anything else. She took her time blending eye shadows, lining her eyes, applying mascara, and perfecting her eyebrows. I may be biased here, but my grandmother did have the greatest eyebrows. Beautiful, full eyebrows that accentuated her eyes and that were totally unique to her.”
Her go-to accessories? “If my grandmother could only have two things getting ready, it would definitely be lip gloss and earrings!”
Her must-have bedside items? “I remember her always having face cream by her nightstand, along with several lip glosses, a comb, and small mirror at all times within arm’s reach.”
After her acting days came to a close, the icon pursued a beauty venture of her own. She launched her first fragrance, Elizabeth Taylor's Passion, in 1987. Her most successful fragrance, White Diamonds, was released just a couple years later and has since consistently been one of the most highly-sold celebrity fragrances on the market.
“The one thing I am never without is my grandmother’s perfume. Whether it’s Gardenia or White Diamonds, I wear her perfume as a way of channeling an image of her strength, dedication, and compassion and simply as a reminder of her,” Carson says.
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Taylor dedicated the last decades of her life to being an HIV/AIDS activist, testifying before Congress in 1990 and establishing the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF) in 1991.
“My grandmother’s greatest lesson was one of compassion, love, and kindness."
If anything, Taylor knew how to stick to her guns. She wore what she wanted, loved who she wanted, said what she felt, and didn’t apologize for a thing. Did it work? Well, it’s been 50 films and 70 years, and we’re still talking about Elizabeth Taylor.