On Feb. 27, Elizabeth Taylor would have turned 85. And even if you haven’t seen any of her movies, Elizabeth’s legacy is more relevant than ever. Elizabeth is known as an incredible activist, using her fame to put the AIDs crisis in the spotlight. Now, with the Trump administration threatening the rights of many different people, we can all learn something from Elizabeth’s work. In a new video from the The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation narrated by Miley Cyrus points out exactly why we should all take a look back at Elizabeth’s important work as we continue to fight for our rights today.
Elizabeth Taylor skyrocketed to fame as a child actress, growing up to appear in classic movies like “Cleopatra,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” As she grew older and the AIDs crisis started killing so many people, Elizabeth shifted the spotlight from herself onto the issue at a time when few people cared or publicly acknowledged it. Instead of sitting idly by, as many heterosexual people who believed AIDs only impacted gay people did, Elizabeth spoke up to get the AIDs crisis the attention it deserved.
“I am here for those the world does not want to see,” Elizabeth said.
By speaking those words, Elizabeth acknowledged that the world and the country had turned a blind eye to the thousands of people dying of AIDs. In the 1980s, AIDs cases were skyrocketing, but despite the increase, President Ronald Reagan did not speak publicly about the disease until it had already killed more than 20,000 people. She even helped found amFAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, which has put more than $450 million into programs and awarded more than 3,300 grants to research AIDs.
“Elizabeth shook the world into action, shifting her spotlight to the pandemic, never for applause,” Miley says in the video. “She fought.”
Elizabeth’s foundation shows her demanding attention to AIDs, announcing that “we will make a goddamn difference.”
The video comes just after the Trump administration reversed guidance that extended Title IX protections to transgender students in school, and a month after President Trump signed an order that could reverse global progress on HIV/AIDs prevention. It comes shortly after protesters gathered nationwide to rally against Trump’s policies on immigration, women’s rights and healthcare. The video comes as many in the country are demanding their voices be heard, just like Elizabeth did.
“My hero, Elizabeth Taylor said that with celebrity, comes responsibility,” Miley told Teen Vogue. “She was an illustration of someone who committed to using their own power and fame to bring awareness to something so much greater than her own power and her own fame. She always dedicated the spotlight to those in need, and she was a pioneer and she spoke out against hypocrisy and discrimination—compassion and care in a revolutionary time. For many Americans, it was Elizabeth Taylor who brought the issue of AIDS into the general mainstream.”
As many are taking a stand, Elizabeth is a shining example of how to use privilege to help others, and how to speak out when it seems impossible. On what would be her 85th birthday, we hope Elizabeth would be proud.