Elizabeth Taylor wasn’t one for understatement: she had eight marriages, won two Oscars and was a bold pioneer in AIDS activism. And let’s not forget those captivating violet eyes. Now, according to Slate’s Brow Beat blog, Taylor’s large, liquid eyes had the unusual benefit of a genetic mutation, one that left her with a double row of eyelashes.
Double rows of eyelashes are usually the result of a mutation at FOXC2, a gene that influences all kinds of tissue development in embryos. FOXC2 mutations are thought to be responsible for, among other things, lymphedema-distichiasis syndrome, a hereditary disease that can cause disorders of the lymphatic system in addition to double eyelashes.
The eyelash mutation isn’t always as cosmetically enhancing as Taylor’s turned out to be — the extra eyelashes can sometimes grow inward and damage the cornea. And it turns out that 7 percent of people with lymphedema-distichiasis syndrome also suffer from congenital heart disease.
Taylor had a history of heart problems; she had surgery in 2009 to repair a leaky valve, and her death on March 23, 2011, was caused by congestive heart failure.
Whatever its ultimate role in her health, the mutation served her movie career well. Said close friend and former co-star Roddy McDowall: “Who has double eyelashes except a girl who was absolutely born to be on the big screen?”