I always find pleasure in observing stars in the old Hollywood era. My nights as a child were spent vigorously watching old films. Instead of the loud, chaotic cluster of sounds and cheesy jokes that tumbled through many films in modern cinema, I admired old movies that were beautiful in their simplicity and the raw charisma of the actors. I began to recognize how powerful their presence was, and as I encountered more and more icons of the past, one particularly stood out to me.

Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor is widely recognized as a violet-eyed, fierce and attractive actress in history. With so much emphasis on her beauty and her abundance of failed marriages, little is known about her HIV/AIDS activism and her reform on societal norms and views. Taylor shaped the course of fashion, the image of a passionate lifestyle, and acceptance towards emotionally dominant females.

I pondered how a single individual could hold such strength of character yet blur the line between a private and public lifestyle. In many ways, her story rings true in the hectic lives of many Hollywood personalities. Tabloids spread exaggerated, unflattering rumors about her wild love life. Her stardom eventually led to her downfall, clinging onto painkillers and alcohol for stability.

Yet, despite the negative attention she gathered, we still regard her as an icon. She highlighted the highs and lows of a passionate, human life, both through her private and film persona. Her roles embodied women who eagerly displayed their deepest emotions and wants. From these movie roles, a slew of affairs and rather petty dramas began. Overcoming the public scrutiny she faced, Taylor continued to work as a successful actress while exploring the world of the fashion industry and starting the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS foundation in her later years. 

My interest in fashion and pop culture’s evolving ideologies drew me to selecting Elizabeth Taylor. I deeply wish to be an activist for the LGBTQ+ community, but would not pursue a similar acting/entertainment career. I relate to Taylor in the sense of her desire to speak and defy societal expectations. Her riveting, liberating nature inspires me to pummel through obstacles standing in the way of eminence and my hopes for a more accepting society.

Excluding our similar interests, Elizabeth Taylor and I possess several differences that may hinder my ability to fully relate to her.

 

Valerie Zhang Elizabeth Taylor
Identifies as female Identifies as female
Chinese-Canadian (Asian) British-American (Caucasian)
Middle class upbringing Upper class upbringing
Supporter of LGBTQ+ rights Supporter of LGBTQ+ rights
Member of LGBTQ+ community Not a member of LGBTQ+ community
Interested in fashion and jewelry Interested in fashion and jewelry
Definitely not an actress Actress
Not working during childhood Working since childhood
Agnostic Jewish
Family not threatened by war Family threatened by war
Moved once Moved multiple times

 

I intend to recognize these barriers and any influence it may have on my connection to Taylor. Throughout this project, I wish to learn more about the hardships she faced when others solely praised her for her beauty. Additionally, I seek to reveal her true personality, separate from the one shown to the media. I hope to explore her activism efforts and how her personal relationships impacted her own lifestyle and concern for society. While uncovering the nature of Taylor’s eminence, I aspire to discover my hopes for our culture and how I yearn to change the course of our conduct and views.

“Big girls need big diamonds.” -Elizabeth Taylor