Town & Country
May 8, 2017
Taylor was as famous for her activism as she was for her acting. Today her grandchildren are making it clear that passion is the greatest inheritance of all.
A violet-eyed vixen who starred in dozens of movies and took home Oscars for her performances in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Butterfield 8, Elizabeth Taylor was also a trailblazer, the first actress to be paid $1 million, for 1963’s Cleopatra. She was a business mogul whose fragrances have made more than $1.5 billion. She was a superstar whose every move (and marriage) was chronicled breathlessly for nearly seven decades.
But for Quinn Tivey, Taylor had a different role.
“I always just knew her as Grandma,” Tivey says. “She was the woman I could lie in bed with to chat and watch movies.”
To hear some of Taylor’s grandchildren (there are 10, and four great-grandchildren) tell it, what made the greatest impression about her wasn’t her prominence but her passion.
“We didn’t experience her as a movie star,” granddaughter Laela Wilding, a 45-year-old graphic designer, says. “She became impassioned about activism, and I can’t think of anything more inspiring than our grandmother’s compassion and determination for other people.”
This action, says grandson Rhys Tivey, a 27-year-old musician and songwriter, was true to form. “My grandmother wanted to go right for the jugular of the problem,” he says. “She always wanted to do the hardest and most unlikely thing first.”
Since its creation, the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation has made grants to more than 675 groups in 44 countries, and although Taylor died from congestive heart failure in 2011 at 79, her organization—the overhead of which is covered in perpetuity by her trust—remains an active force in funding HIV education and advocacy programs, and supporting communities affected by the disease. Equally impressive is that so much of the work being done in Taylor’s name today isn’t just in her honor but is spearheaded by her own family.
For Quinn Tivey, an artist and co-trustee of the Elizabeth Taylor Trust, the idea of carrying on his grandmother’s work arose when, shortly after her death, he and his cousin Tarquin Wilding were asked to participate in an event in her honor.