I wrote this post to honor the legendary Liz Taylor, my femme style icon.
I think the first time I “got” femme was when I saw Elizabeth Taylor as Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Looking drop-dead gorgeous in her clingy slip, Maggie fights with Brick about their living arrangements and hisses, “I’m not living with you. We occupy the same cage that’s all!” Me-YOW! La Liz could deliver a line like nobody’s business.
When I was in my twenties I couldn’t imagine ever being as sexy and femme as Elizabeth Taylor–or even on the same planet as her. (If Kitty Kelley is right that ET is “the last star,” then actually no one is on the same planet as Liz.) Watching her old films, I was intrigued by her seductive combination of vulnerability and strength–and those legendary violet eyes. (I want violet eyes!!!) Taylor is iconic for me not only because of her beauty and style, but also because of her resilience and willingness to admit her imperfections. My favorite Elizabeth Taylor quote? “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.”
Without a doubt, the actress’s most inspiring virtue was her passionate AIDS advocacy, which began in the early days of the pandemic when public figures (including President Reagan) failed to speak out or act to help people who were infected and desperately needed treatments. (Actually, Reagan did ultimately give one speech about AIDS in 1987, prompted in part by Taylor’s personal plea.) Deeply compassionate, Taylor fought against discrimination and for the lives and dignity of people with HIV and AIDS. She was a champion for AIDS research and prevention, becoming the national chair of the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and leading a global fundraising effort that has raised more than $233 million.
Here are two great ways to honor Taylor’s legacy of activism and continue the fight against HIV and AIDS:
- Support the Scientists Fighting HIV: amfAR is one of the world’s largest organizations dedicated to funding the “foot soldiers” on the frontlines of HIV and AIDS research, putting money into finding new and innovative treatments—and an eventual cure—for HIV and AIDS.
- Help People Living With HIV and AIDS: The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation has donated more than $12 million to organizations helping prevent the spread of the disease. Its grants go to groups working directly to help patients and to those living with HIV and AIDS.
Elizabeth Taylor died on March 23 of congestive heart failure. She was 79.