How Elizabeth Taylor’s Grandchildren Are Keeping Her Legacy Alive

How Elizabeth Taylor’s Grandchildren Are Keeping Her Legacy Alive
May 8, 2017 Puria Keshmiri

Adam Rathe
Town & Country
May 8, 2017T

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.

GRANDSON QUINN TIVEY
TIAGO MOLINOS

“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.”

GRANDDAUGHTER LAELA WILDING IN A MICHAEL KORS COLLECTION JACKET AND SKIRT ($995) TIAGO MOLINOS

Indeed, activist was perhaps the greatest role Taylor ever played. In 1985 she made her first foray into fundraising as co-chair of a dinner for AIDS Project Los Angeles, which raked in a reported $1 million—a huge accomplishment at a time when the disease was rarely discussed. This put the actress on a philanthropic path she would follow the rest of her life.

Taylor had little sympathy for the stigma associated with AIDS at the time, and she forged ahead, helping in 1985 to start amfAR, for which she appeared in television spots and even testified in front of Congress. In 1991, using as seed money the $1 million that magazines, including People, paid for photos of her wedding to Larry Fortensky, Taylor launched the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation to give grants to organizations that provide direct care to people living with HIV and AIDS.

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.”

GRANDSON RHYS TIVEY IN A THOM BROWNE SHIRT AND SWEATER TIGO MOLINOS

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.

ELIZABETH TAYLOR AT THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL IN 1976. FIROOZ ZAHEDI/TRUNK ARCHIVE

“Hearing from people personally about how the work that she had done touched so many people, my cousin and I were both so moved,” the 31-year-old recalls. “I immediately thought, I need to get more involved. I want to dive into the deep end of this. Through that experience we had the opportunity to see how crucial it was for her family to be participating in her legacy.”

For some family members it was the chance they’d been waiting for. “When she was alive, her foundation was such that she didn’t really need our help,” says Laela Wilding. “It wasn’t until she passed away that there came a need for people to carry on what she had started.” Laela’s sister, Los Angeles gallerist Naomi Wilding, 42, adds, “I think I can speak for the family in saying that it’s an opportunity we were always hoping would come to us.”

GRANDDAUGHTER NAOMI WILDING IN MICHAEL KORS COLLECTION BLOUSE, TROUSERS, AND HEELS TIAGO MOLINOS

It’s certainly something they’ve made the most of. Today the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation supports a variety of causes—from advocating for HIV criminalization reform on Capitol Hill to backing a needle exchange program in Vermont and funding cancer screenings for HIV-positive patients in Haiti—and has partnered with groups including the Elton John AIDS Foundation (on healthcare for LGBTQ people in the Deep South) and sponsored AIDS-Watch’s advocacy in DC.

Additionally, the foundation has done extensive work in partnership with PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) and GAIA (Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance) in Malawi, where a number of Taylor’s relations traveled in 2016 and where, since 2008, nearly 1 million patients have been treated at GAIA/Elizabeth Taylor Mobile Health Clinics. The foundation is committed to the UNAIDS 90-90-90 program, which aims to, by the year 2020, help 90 percent of people living with HIV to know their status, get 90 percent of all people diagnosed with HIV to receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and make sure 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy have viral suppression.

ELIZABETH CARSON IN A MICHAEL KORS COLLECTION DRESS AND TRENCH COAT TIAGO MOLINOS

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