Elizabeth Taylor couldn’t take a breath without having it documented by the burgeoning gossip press. As one of the biggest names in Hollywood for decades, Taylor knew that she carried a spotlight wherever she went. However, she never gave in; Taylor never toned it down to please anyone. This also applied to her fervent work to spur tangible social change.
Through her advocacy work, Taylor was able to turn the relentless media attention into something positive. The second phase of her career was driven by an intense dedication to activism. She became a powerful advocate for AIDS and HIV awareness in the early ’80s. She co-founded the National AIDS Research Foundation, and she remained dedicated to her advocacy work until her death in 2011. Taylor left behind a powerful legacy that’s since inspired her grandchildren to follow in her footsteps.
Born in 1971, Laela Wilding is the eldest child of Michael Wilding Jr., Taylor’s eldest son by her second husband, Michael Wilding. As a graphic designer, she was drawn to a career in the arts, but her true passion is her advocacy work. She’s said that, as a child, she didn’t see Taylor as the legend she is today. Back then, she was just Grandma.
“We didn’t experience her as a movie star,” she told Town & Country. “She became impassioned about activism, and I can’t think of anything more inspiring than our grandmother’s compassion and determination for other people.” After her grandmother’s death in 2011, Laela felt a calling to help carry Taylor’s massive legacy. “When she was alive, her foundation was such that she didn’t really need our help,” she admitted. “It wasn’t until she passed away that there came a need for people to carry on what she had started.”
In addition to her work with the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF), she also serves on the board of directors at Our House of Portland, which provides vital resources and services to HIV-positive people in the Portland, Oregon, area. Laela has said that although Taylor would “be disappointed that there hasn’t been greater progress,” alluding to the social stigma that still keeps HIV-positive people from seeking treatment, her grandmother deserves massive credit for her contributions.
Naomi deLuce Wilding
Born in 1976, Naomi is the second oldest of Michael Wilding Jr.’s children and a dedicated philanthropist as well. In 2000, she moved from her hometown of West Wales to Los Angeles to be closer to her family. She’s since found success as a fashion stylist and, later in her career, as the fashion director at Issue magazine. However, Taylor’s strong values have guided Naomi to always have a hand in activism and philanthropy.
Naomi has also shared fond memories of Taylor from her childhood. “I remember sitting on the floor of her dressing room and just watching her get ready—just watch this sort of transformation unfold,” she recalled. “Just because somebody is a superstar doesn’t also mean that they can’t be a loving, squishy, delicious grandma who was always welcoming us in.” However, more than anything, Taylor wanted to instill strong values in her grandchildren.
“She had an idea that she was responsible for raising the younger generations in the family, you know,” Naomi told Today of her grandmother. “It was important to her that she instilled those values in us too.” In addition to her ambassador work at the ETAF, she’s pursued her own avenue of advocacy work. In 2014, she and her husband, Anthony Cran, opened Wilding Cran Gallery in the Los Angeles Arts District. Through the gallery, Naomi is able to support social causes through arts education programming.
Quinn was born in 1986 to Liza Todd, Taylor’s only child with her third husband, Mike Todd. He has a background in film and television production as well as a master’s degree in visual arts. He’s also taken an active role in Taylor’s foundation, serving as both a leading officer and an ambassador. However, that isn’t the only way he serves his grandmother’s memory. At Taylor’s request, Quinn became the co-trustee of the Elizabeth Taylor Trust.
Just last year, Quinn wrote to People about ETAF’s “HIV Is Not A Crime” initiative, which aims to abolish discriminatory laws that lead thousands of innocent HIV-positive people to be incarcerated. “These unjust laws are fostering stigma and discrimination and act as barriers to progress,” he wrote. “Grandma would have been incredibly proud of the work being done through the ‘HIV Is Not A Crime’ initiative. Grandma stood up for what she believed in, living boldly and courageously.”
After he heard testimonies from the people Taylor’s work impacted, he decided to take a more active role in her foundation. “Hearing from people personally about how the work that she had done touched so many people, my cousin and I were both so moved,” Quinn has expressed. “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.”
Named after her legendary grandmother, Elizabeth Carson is the daughter of Maria Burton, Taylor’s adoptive daughter with her fifth husband, Richard Burton. Elizabeth was close to her grandmother throughout her childhood, even living with her for a short spell. While her grandmother’s timeless glamour left an indelible impression on Elizabeth, it was the icon’s humanitarian work that had the greatest impact on her life.
In an interview with Town & Country, Carson recalled how Taylor helped her get ready for her high school proms. “For my Junior and Senior Prom, she did my hair and makeup,” she said. “Once, while we were discussing makeup, I told her we should go to Sephora, which turned out to be a terrible idea. We had fun for the first 15 minutes, but then she was recognized, and we quickly had to be escorted out.”
Inspired by Taylor’s unwavering dedication to what’s right, Elizabeth pursued a career in social work. She now works for the Department of Child Protection in Manhattan in addition to her ambassador work for the ETAF. As a social worker, Elizabeth has described seeing the full effect of her grandmother’s work to secure rights and treatment for people that are HIV positive. “Whenever I hear of a baby born from an HIV+ mother test negative because of advancements in medication and prevention, I am literally brought to tears,” she wrote for the ETAF website.
Born in 1991 to Liza Todd, Rhys Tivey was pulled towards the arts from a young age. After growing up on a small horse farm in upstate New York, Rhys moved to New York City to pursue his Bachelor of Music in Jazz performance. As a trumpeter, vocalist, and songwriter, Rhys has used his musical expertise to give back to the community. He’s taught music and yoga at public schools in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx through nonprofit groups like MIMA Music and the East Side House Settlement. He’s currently working as a vocal coach, offering online lessons through his website Voice Brave.
His website says he also has worked with organizations to fight climate change, even volunteering for the Citizens Climate Lobby. He’s also championed his grandmother’s legacy by becoming an ambassador for ETAF, joining his cousins in the fight to preserve Taylor’s legacy. “My grandmother wanted to go right for the jugular of the problem,” he once said of Taylor. “She always wanted to do the hardest and most unlikely thing first.” It’s these principles that have guided his own contributions to the organization.
Tarquin, Michael Wilding Jr.’s third and youngest child, was born in 1989. As an actor and aspiring filmmaker, Tarquin was no doubt influenced by his grandmother’s prodigious career. “My grandmother was a total badass! I can’t help but be inspired by her unbreakable courage, and boundless generosity,” he wrote on the ETAF website. He’s also spoken at length about how honored he feels to be able to participate in such an important organization.
“I often think about how lucky I am to have been born into a group of such wacky, caring, sensitive people,” he said. “We admire my grandmother for her boundless generosity, and I believe that we all feel grateful to be able to honor and continue her legacy. Especially together.” Tarquin, like many of his cousins, is an ambassador for the ETAF.
Lowell Wilding was born in 1991 to Christopher Wilding, Taylor’s second child with Michael Wilding. Like his cousins, Wilding stepped up after Taylor’s death in 2011 to help preserve not only her philanthropic legacy but her personal and professional ones as well. In addition to his ambassador work, Lowell has had a hand in compiling the Elizabeth Taylor Archive for the Elizabeth Taylor Trust.
“I was always in total awe of the good my grandmother was able to accomplish in her lifetime,” Lowell wrote for the ETAF website. “She could so easily have done nothing, like so many others. Instead, she fought, she cared, and she worked for people suffering from HIV/AIDS. I hope to do whatever I can to preserve and continue that legacy.”
Born in 1983, Caleb was adopted by Christopher Wilding and Aileen Getty, a woman with an interesting family background herself. Getty was the granddaughter of J. Paul Getty, an oil tycoon who was once the richest man in the world. Getty’s brother, Mark Getty, co-founded Getty Images. Entrenched in high society from a young age, philanthropy and patronage of the arts were values upheld by Getty’s entire family, similar to that of Elizabeth Taylor.
Caleb’s mother was actually diagnosed as HIV positive, inspiring her to add HIV and AIDS awareness to her long list of philanthropic pursuits as well. The Aileen Getty Foundation offers a holistic approach to activism with branches supporting climate activism, animals’ rights, and community support. Caleb’s involvement in his family’s various organizations isn’t well documented, however, he has been photographed attending charity events with his mother. Caleb himself prefers to stay out of the limelight and isn’t known to speak publicly, but he does make the occasional public appearance in solidarity with his family.
Born in 1984, Andrew Wilding is the only biological child of Christopher Wilding and Aileen Getty. Like his grandmother, Andrew was drawn to the filmmaking industry. He has directing, cinematography, producing, acting, and composing credits listed on his IMDb page. His personal life remains a bit of a mystery. Like his brother, Caleb, Andrew tends to avoid the spotlight.
However, his childhood was undoubtedly touched by his mother’s diagnosis with HIV. In a 1996 interview with POZ, a magazine published for the community affected by AIDS and HIV, Getty said that she was open with her children from the very start. She also said that she thought of Elizabeth Taylor as a second mother even after her eight-year marriage to Christopher fell apart. Getty’s struggle with HIV only strengthened Taylor’s resolve in her advocacy. Like Caleb, some of Andrew’s only public appearances are in solidarity with his mother’s philanthropic work.
Born sometime in the early ’00s, Richard McKeown is Elizabeth Taylor’s youngest grandchild. He’s the youngest child of Maria Burton, and he’s named after his famous grandfather. His life, likely due to his young age, is the biggest mystery of Taylor’s grandchildren. The only news available about Richard is about his parent’s brutal custody battle in 2004.
Burton reportedly filed a restraining order against Richard’s father, Tom McKeown, and was seeking full custody. WalesOnline reported that Elizabeth Taylor herself was a pillar in Burton’s efforts to untangle herself from the marriage. The tabloids grossly heralded tantalizing stories about McKeown’s alleged plans to murder Taylor, Burton, and his then-3-year-old son, but the shocking rumors were completely unsubstantiated. It remains to be seen if Richard has plans to follow in his famous grandmother and grandfather’s footsteps, or if he will favor a quiet life like many of his cousins.