Beautiful Mutant

Elizabeth Taylor: Beautiful Mutant - The late Elizabeth Taylor was widely known for her violet eyes so much so that she named her newest fragrance after them. I was slightly crushed, then, to discover that, by most official accounts, Taylor's eyes were actually a deep blue that appeared purple when enhanced by lighting and makeup. (Truly violet eyes occur only in albinos.)

While she might not have had bona fide purple eyes, as anyone who saw Elizabeth Taylor onscreen knows, they were still arresting: large, liquid, and framed by a thick fringe of eyelashes. With respect to those eyelashes, Taylor apparently hit the jackpot, genetically. According to biographer J. Randy Tarborelli, just after her birth, Taylor's parents were ushered into the doctor's office and told that their newborn daughter had a mutation:

"Well, that sounded just awful," the girl's mother later recall[ed], "a mutation. But, when he explained that her eyes had double rows of eyelashes, I thought, well, now, that doesn't sound so terrible at all."
Elizabeth Taylor: Beautiful Mutant

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 herself had a history of heart problems in 2009, Taylor underwent surgery to repair a "leaky valve", and her death on Wednesday was attributed to congestive heart failure.

The late actor Richard Burton, who accounted for two of Taylor's eight marriages, was oddly dismissive of her beauty, saying that she had a double chin, an overdeveloped chest, and short legs. But, he conceded, "she has wonderful eyes." ( )

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