Elizabeth Taylor’s AIDS activism ‘finally gave her a sense of purpose,’ says granddaughter

Elizabeth Taylor enjoyed a decades-long career in Hollywood that started when she was just 10 years old, but it was her tireless work raising awareness on AIDS/HIV that she was most proud of.

“She spoke of it as being something that finally gave her a sense of purpose,” her granddaughter Naomi deLuce Wilding told People magazine on Monday. “She spoke of being relatively ambivalent about her fame and her acting career. She loved it, but when she found activism, it really made sense of her passion.”

The movie icon became involved in the struggle against AIDS in 1985, becoming even more galvanized in her social activism after her friend and former “Giant” co-star Rock Hudson died from AIDS-related complications in 1985 at age 59.

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While Taylor was determined to point out the injustices impacting those struck with the disease, the death of her beloved friend hit close to home, The New York Times previously reported.

Elizabeth Taylor with Rock Hudson (L) on the film set of "Giant," directed by George Stevens in 1956. Photo by API/GAMMA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images.

Elizabeth Taylor with Rock Hudson (L) on the film set of "Giant," directed by George Stevens in 1956. Photo by API/GAMMA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images.

Taylor helped establish the American Foundation for AIDS Research and helped raise money for it. In 1997, Taylor said, “I use my fame now when I want to help a cause or other people.”

According to People, The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation is supporting AIDSWatch 2019, marking the organization’s fifth year as a partner with AIDS United for the two-day advocacy event in Washington, D.C.

DeLuce Wilding, 43, along with Taylor’s other grandchildren, are determined to keep the star’s legacy alive.

“It keeps us involved,” DeLuce Wilding told People magazine. “It makes us also feel like we’re part of a community, which is really important to us.”

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Naomi deLuce Wilding, Tarquin Wilding, Kasimira Miller and Laela Wilding attend the Positive Leadership Award reception at the Rayburn House Office Building on April 13, 2015 in Washington, D.C. 

Naomi deLuce Wilding, Tarquin Wilding, Kasimira Miller and Laela Wilding attend the Positive Leadership Award reception at the Rayburn House Office Building on April 13, 2015 in Washington, D.C.  (Larry French/Getty Images for the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation)

The publication also revealed Taylor’s grandchildren, along with The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation Ambassadors, will lobby Congress “to hold the presidential administration accountable to its goal to end the epidemic by 2030.”

Taylor herself went to Washington, D.C. to lobby for the cause in 1986, 1990 and 1992.

“She always said her plan was not to die until there was a cure for AIDS,” said DeLuce Wilding.

Taylor passed away in 2011 at age 79 from complications of congestive heart failure. DeLuce Wilding insisted Taylor helped paved the way for other celebrities to take a stand at Capitol Hill.

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“She was one of the first celebrities to get up and not only do things like start a foundation but to be so outspoken,” she explained. “She had a role in creating that expectation that we have now for celebrities to a certain extent. I think she’d be proud of herself.”

Biographer Mark Griffin recently published a book titled “All That Heaven Allows,” which further explores the complex and fiercely private life of Taylor's onetime friend and colleague Rock Hudson.

According to the book, Hudson was diagnosed with AIDS in June 1984. Reports claimed it was first lady Nancy Reagan who noticed Hudson had what appeared to be a cyst on his neck during a White House gala before a doctor gave him the tragic diagnosis.

“I think understandably he was devastated by his diagnosis,” Griffin told Fox News in January of this year. “He told his secretary, one of his closest friends at that time, that he was shamed by the fact that he had been diagnosed with AIDS. There were tabloids out there that would have gone crazy with a story about a major Hollywood celebrity having AIDS. Especially a romantic idol like Rock Hudson. It would have shattered his image.”

“He was very careful about who he did confide in and who he shared this information with. Some of the people I interviewed said he took the initiative when he found out he had been diagnosed to have his very good friend, the actor George Nader, help him write anonymous letters to some recent partners, making them aware that he had AIDS. He was advising them to go to their own physicians and be checked.”

Actors Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor (holding her award) at Golden Globe Awards. —  Photo by Time Life Pictures/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Actors Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor (holding her award) at Golden Globe Awards. —  Photo by Time Life Pictures/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

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Hudson then did what he knew best — threw himself into work. Despite being sick, Hudson took on the role of Linda Evans’ love interest in the hit series “Dynasty” from 1984 until 1985. It would be his last role.

“Aaron Spelling, who produced ‘Dynasty,’ was also trying to convince Rock to sign on for a spinoff series called 'The Colbys,'” said Griffin. “Spelling was offering Rock the moon and all sorts of star perks, but Rock just wouldn’t have it. … Another project that came along at that time was a sequel to 1959’s ‘Pillow Talk’ with Doris Day. … He thought it was an outstanding concept for this particular film. That may have gone forward if it weren’t for the fact that Rock’s health was deteriorating so rapidly.”

Hudson may still be celebrated as an icon in film history, but Griffin wonders what the star’s life would have been like if he could have freely expressed himself without fear of losing the love of his audience.

Rock Hudson

Rock Hudson (Getty)

“It’s a sad fact, but I think so much of who he was and the most important aspects of himself couldn’t be shared,” said Griffin.