Starstruck: Elizabeth Taylor

While studying up for our previous Starstruck article on Mila Kunis’ eyes, I heard Natalie Portman give an interview on the topic. Portman–demonstrating once again that she’d rather be smart than famous–said “[Mila’s eyes] was incredibly beautiful. It was like an Elisabeth Taylor thing that she had.”

I was curious by what she meant with that comment and the world wide web parted for this surfer…

Elizabeth Taylor, in her infinite beauty had violet-blue eyes. It is an extremely rare color, often reserved for people with albinism. Whether this is what Portman was talking about, I’m not sure, because Taylor also had a genetic mutation of her eye lashes: she had an extra pair.

Elizabeth Taylor's eyes

When she was born, her doctor tactfully (*sarcasm*) told her parents that she had a genetic mutation. Any parent would be distraught over hearing this but when he finally explained that distichiasis means simply extra eyelahses, Taylor’s mom said “Well now, that doesn’t sound so terrible.”

Though distichiasis itself means extra eye lashes, it can come with other complications. It is not simply a cosmetic effect, though it is associated with ptosis (droopy lid) and strabismus (cross-eyed). The extra lashes tend to grow inward and damage the cornea. Further, there are associations with congenital heart defects, lymphodema (extreme swelling of extremities), and mandibulofacial dysostosis (facial deformity).

The only issue I could find regarding her distichiasis was when she was a young girl, acting in Lassie Come Home, she was sent back to hair and make up for having too much mascara on. She wasn’t wearing a drop.

Taylor was clearly blessed genetically, not just for her rare violet eyes, but for her mutatiously beautiful eye lashes. Her distichiasis  (in the public eye) was isolated and did not lead to any of these very serious outcomes. However, it is worth saying that Taylor was hospitalized over 70 times for various reasons (one of which was an ulcerated eye), almost died four times (by her count) and finally succumbed to congestive heart disease in March, 2011.

Just because Taylor did not share publically any health problems related to her distichiasis, doesn’t mean she didn’t face those struggles. Even the most famous and public of figures have secrets. So maybe she wasn’t as lucky with genetic roulette. I must admit though, she made a very beautiful mutant.

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