Back in 1990, Elizabeth Taylor came close to dying from pneumonia. Twenty-one years and many health scares later, it feels so surreal that the iconic actress is actually gone. For many of us, it’s affecting news and not just because she was in too many amazing movies to count—but because she was so herself.
After the jump, 10 reasons we think Elizabeth Taylor was awesome.
- Elizabeth followed her heart, even when it would bring harsh criticism. Over the years, she was married eight times to seven different men. Some ended in tragedy—like Michael Todd, who was killed in a plane crash—while some ended in scandal—like when she left Eddie Fisher (who had left his wife for her) for Richard Burton. Elizabeth says the reason for her many weddings was a great reverence for marriage rather than the opposite. “I was taught by my parents that if you fall in love, if you want to have a love affair, you get married,” she said. “I guess I’m very old-fashioned.”
- Her most recent boy toy was 49-year-old business man Jason Winters. Not too many women of Elizabeth’s generation would have dated someone of a different race or gone for a guy so much younger. But Liz said, “Jason Winters is one of the most wonderful men I’ve ever known and that’s why I love him.”
- Elizabeth had three Academy Awards on her mantle—for Best Actress in “Butterfield 8,” for Best Actress in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” and the Jean Herscholt Humanitarian Academy Award for her work fighting AIDS. Oh, and she was nominated for Best Actress an additional three times.
- She had violet eyes. How awesome is that?
- Liz was very accepting of her gay friends and vehemently defended their lifestyle even as they felt they needed to closet themselves to make it in Hollywood. Supposedly, Liz once made a bet with Rock Hudson over which one of them could seduce James Dean. Accepting her humanitarian Oscar, Elizabeth explained, “I call upon you to draw from the depths of your being — to prove that we are a human race, to prove that our love outweighs our need to hate, that our compassion is more compelling than our need to blame.”
- Queen Elizabeth II dubbed Elizabeth a dame, but she didn’t feel the need to make it part of her name a la Dame Judi Dench.
- Major newspapers pre-write obituaries for famous folks and keep them on file, just in case. Liz actually outlived the guy who penned her obit—he died in 2005.
- As many people writing about Elizabeth’s legacy have noted today, she was in many ways a template for modern celebrity—she commanded attention not only on screen, but folks were fascinated by her often tumultuous personal life. Still, she weathered the attention with more grace than today’s Britney Spearses and Lindsay Lohans.
- When James Belushi mocked Elizabeth for gaining weight on “Saturday Night Live,” she gave the perfect sarcastic response: “It’s a wonder I didn’t explode.”
- She was the first celebrity to have a fragrance. Mariah Carey, Antonio Banderas, and Donald Trump just knocked off the idea.