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.
(MORE: Elizabeth Taylor, 1932–2011: Hollywood’s Star of Stars)
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.
(MORE: Are You at Risk for 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?”
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