Actress Elizabeth Taylor had stunning beauty. She was such a gorgeous little girl that, when people would see her for the first time, they would gasp in astonishment, staring at her sapphire eyes wreathed in thick black lashes and the shiny black hair framing her porcelain face. “What a pretty child !” they would exclaim, prompting the well-rehearsed Elizabeth to curtsey and smile.
But Elizabeth was not always gorgeous, said her mother, Sara Taylor, a former stage actress. She considered Elizabeth to be quite an ugly baby when born in London on February 27, 1932.
At first glance at her newborn, Sara was repulsed:
“As the precious bundle was placed in my arms, my heart stood still. There inside the cashmere shawl was the funniest-looking baby I had ever seen. Her hair was long and black. Her ears were covered with thick black fuzz, and inlaid into the sides of her head….”(1)
Baby Elizabeth’s arms, shoulders, and back were covered with a thick downy pelt called lanugo, not uncommon in newborns.
“The infant looked like a little monkey,” remembered Viennese art dealer and family friend Ernest Lowy. (2)
Compounding the problem, Elizabeth’s eyes were screwed tightly shut. For ten days, the doctor tried to pry them open unsuccessfully, finding only the whites visible.
Then one day, Baby Elizabeth suddenly snapped open her eyes and gazed up at her new mother. Sara found herself gazing down into two pools of deep violet fringed by thick black lashes – double rows of lashes! Then the baby smiled. Sara considered this a special greeting from her daughter and told the nurse so.
The nurse chuckled, reminding Mrs. Taylor that infants can’t express emotion:
“That was no smile,” the nurse indicated, “only a little gas.” (3)
The dark fuzz fell off and a swan emerged.
(1) Ladies’ Home Journal, March- April 1954
(2) Heymann, C. David. Liz: An Intimate Biography of Elizabeth Taylor. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1995, 2011.
(3) Walker, Alexander. Elizabeth: The Life of Elizabeth Taylor. New York: Grove Press, 1990, 1997.
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