Legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor’s eyes were famous for being stunningly beautiful and distinct. Widely known for having the most striking eyes in Hollywood, Taylor had what appeared to be rare, natural purple irises. They also sometimes looked bright blue — and over the years, their glowing hue led fans to ask questions such as, “Are Elizabeth Taylor’s eyes violet?” or “Does she have lavender eyes?”
We did a little digging to answer these questions and here’s what we found: Her eye color was actually natural — for the most part. Colored contacts weren’t commercially available until 1983, so Taylor wasn’t faking it. However, she was born with a very specific and rare amount of the pigment melanin. The appearance of the iris, or the colored ring around a person’s eye, is determined by how much melanin it contains. For example, people with dark brown eyes have irises that contain much more melanin than green-eyed folks.
Elizabeth Taylor’s Violet Eyes
Elizabeth Taylor’s eye color has a few explanations. “There are various shades of blues and grays, with many in-between,” Norman Saffra, chairman of the ophthalmology department at the Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, explained to Live Science. “Violet may have been her typical pigmentation.”
Eye color can change based on the amount of light they’re absorbing — and this can also be altered by the clothes we wear. For example, a white shirt will reflect light onto your irises, making your eyes appear slightly lighter. Fair-colored eyes do reflect more light, so they are more affected by this change. Taylor, with her stunning eyes, was a master of this art, often donning bright, colorful garments in deep red, emerald, and canary yellow to complement her vibrant eyes.
Of course, makeup was probably also a key factor behind Liz Taylor’s oscillating eye color. The actress was often spotted wearing blue or purple eye shadow to flatter her violet eyes, or donning a deep brown shadow and eyeliner as a contrast to make them pop. But lighting and beauty strategies aside, the legendary actress was obviously naturally gorgeous!
Keep scrolling for striking, rare photos of Elizabeth Taylor’s eyes at their most dazzling.
Elizabeth Taylor’s Eyes in Photos
- Elizabeth Taylor’s eyes were legendary — and once you catch a glimpse of them, it’s easy to see why. With her pale skin and dark hair, her stunning eyes stood out even more.
- But were her famous peepers blue, or are they purple? Sometimes her eyes looked a vibrant cobalt blue, especially when paired with bright red lips.
- But much of the time, they looked to be a clear purple — and Taylor was certainly known for having violet-hued eyes.
- The classic, old-Hollywood star even had a fragrance — Elizabeth Taylor Violet Eyes — named after her in 2010.
- The real answer: They were not purple at all, but a vibrant dark blue. Her eyes merely appeared to be purple when exposed to certain lighting, makeup, or clothing (and plenty of retouching of her images, we’re sure!).
- Taylor also had a rare genetic defect that resulted in her having two layers of eyelashes, which really helped give her colorful eyes that dramatic pop. Here she is speaking to reporters in 1968.
- Purple-colored clothes and accessories — like her headband in this 1945 photo — helped make her eyes look much more violet.
- True purple eyes are extremely rare, and almost always occur in people with albinism. We love how striking hers looked in this mid-1960s snap.
- Taylor — who got her big break in 1944 when she starred in National Velvet — was frequently photographed in colorful outfits, which helped give her stunning eyes that extra sparkle.
- The actress would later win Best Actress Oscars for Butterfield 8 and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
- Even when photographed in black and white, her captivating peepers still manage to shine through. The light catches them in such a way that they appear almost translucent. Wow!
- This had-to-be-retouched 1955 photo shows the British-born actress donning a green gown that made her eyes look bright green. (We’re not going crazy, right?!)
- This emerald green dress really makes the starlet’s eyes pop! The rich jewel tones contrast with Taylor’s classic red lipstick, creating a look so striking it’s hard to turn away.
- Hair short or long, it didn’t matter: Her eyes were always her most telltale feature.
- In 1963, Taylor starred in the famous historical drama Cleopatra as the Egyptian queen herself. (Notably, the set of the film fostered the saucy affair between the stunning actress and Hollywood icon Richard Burton.) Just check out that dramatic eye makeup!
- Is it any wonder the actress had a famously long list of husbands over the years? One look in those eyes, and we’d be hooked, too!
- Seen here with short locks, Taylor shows off her demure expression and scintillating eyes.
- Even as she got older, her unmistakable gleaming eyes still dazzled. Sadly, Taylor passed away in 2011 after suffering congestive heart failure. She was 79.