One of the most popular actors of Hollywood’s Golden Era, Elizabeth Taylor enjoyed a long and legendary career. Born in London to American parents, Taylor moved to Los Angeles as a child in 1939, and wasted no time before landing her big break just a few years later. As a teen, she became a household name by starring alongside Mickey Rooney in the popular 1944 film National Velvet. By the 1950s, she became one of the most popular sirens of the silver screen, and by the 1960s, an Academy Award winner and the highest paid movie star alive. Today, she is best remembered for her performances in Cleopatra, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Yet for all of Taylor’s onscreen achievements, many remember the star, who died in 2011 at the age of 79, for more than her iconic roles. A passionate activist, she was prominent in the fight against the AIDS epidemic, using her celebrity to put a spotlight on the crisis. Today, Taylor’s lookalike granddaughter, Naomi deLuce Wilding, is carrying on her legacy by continuing this important work through The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. Read on to see her now, and to learn some of the many ways her famous grandmother shaped her life.
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Taylor inspired her granddaughter’s commitment to activism.
During the early ’80s, when AIDS was still considered taboo, Elizabeth Taylor was one of the first celebrities to speak out for the cause. She worked tirelessly to raise money and awareness for AIDS research, even acting as the Founding National Chairman for the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), and later starting her own foundation with similar aims. “I kept seeing all these news reports on this new disease and kept asking myself why no one was doing anything. And then I realized that I was just like them. I wasn’t doing anything to help,” she shared with amfAR. She reportedly went on to raise over $270 million dollars for the cause.
Her dedication to activism inspired many, including those nearest and dearest to her heart: her grandchildren. Naomi deLuce Wilding, who now serves as an ambassador for her grandmother’s foundation, told Glamour, “She considered activism to be her life’s work. She inspired us to do something good with our lives.”
Ms. deLuce Wilding added while speaking with TODAY, “I would love to hear her voice amplified, reiterated over and over again.”
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Taylor also helped spark her granddaughter’s career in fashion.
Besides her work on behalf of her grandmother’s foundation, deLuce Wilding has enjoyed a successful career as a fashion stylist and fashion director for Issue Magazine. While speaking with Glamour, she shared how her grandmother helped spark her career in the fashion world. “I can’t pinpoint exactly what inspired me to study fashion design at Central Saint Martins in London, but playing with my grandmother’s clothes and sewing with my mother influenced me,” she explained. “Nobody knew, but I borrowed clothes from her closet for my early shoots,” she added.
With a wardrobe like Taylor’s, it’s no surprise that those around her caught the fashion bug. “If you were a woman in Elizabeth Taylor’s life, she’d likely dress you up,” recalled the star’s granddaughter. “In my grandmother’s house in Switzerland, she had a bomb shelter that she’d turned into her wardrobe. Everybody would go down to pick out something to wear. If it looked good on you, chances are, she’d let you keep it,” she said.
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The pair were very close, and even lived together.
Though deLuce Wilding grew up in rural Wales with her mother—far from her grandmother’s Hollywood home—she later moved to Los Angeles to live with the movie star while launching her career. “More than anything, my grandmother gave me confidence. She made me feel like I could do anything,” she shared.
But theirs wasn’t a traditional dynamic, the stylist recalled. “Living with my grandmother was like living with an auntie,” she told Glamour. “Most grandmothers would say, ‘You can’t leave the house wearing that!’ Mine would see my bra strap showing, and say, ‘Just take your bra off.’ I am shy, and she pushed me to be daring.”
To her, the Oscar-winning actress was just “Granny.”
While the public was enamored with Elizabeth Taylor the movie star, her grandchildren say they remember her simply as the loving matriarch of the family. “She was just my grandmother—well, my granny. We were very close, and she had a strong influence on my life,” deLuce Wilding told Glamour.
“I remember sitting on the floor of her dressing room and just watching her get ready—just watch[ing] this sort of transformation unfold,” she further reminisced in an interview with TODAY. “Just because somebody is a superstar doesn’t also mean that they can’t be a loving, squishy, delicious grandma who was always welcoming us in,” she added.
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