Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Elizabeth Taylor Eyelashes

It is unbeleivable that the words "genetic mutation" could have been uttered at the birth of the film star regarded by many as the world's most gorgeous woman.

Yet those were the words heard by Taylor's parents at her birth on February 27, 1932, in a tactless remark by the doctor who delivered her.

It soon transpired that the "mutation" in question was nothing more sinister than an extra set of eyelashes, a rare medical condition known as "distichiasis". 

While the cause of the extra lashes is indeed a mutation - a result of an abnormal development of the FOXC2 gene - the effect of the luxurious lashes, also known as an "accessory row", was entirely captivating, framing Taylor's deep violet eyes, and only adding to what admirers called her "incandescent" beauty.

In fact, Taylor's mother, on hearing of the issue, is rumored to have responded with what became her typical sang froid: "Well," she said coolly. "That doesn't sound too horrible at all."

It would seem though, for all the benefits one would expect to accompany extra-luxurious lashes (savings on mascara, for one), that Elizabeth was one of the lucky ones who escaped the complications that can accompany distichiasis.

The condition - more commonly seen in pure-bred dogs than in humans - is known to cause painful and unpleasant symptoms, especially when the hairs on the second row of eyelashes do not grow in a straight line or are positioned too close to the eye.

While normal eyelashes grow on the outside of the eyelid, the second row - also known as distichia - can develop deep within the gland of the eyelid rather than on the surface.

As the lashes grow, they protrude from the soft part of the lid, where they rub against the eye causing irritation, tearing and even vision impairment as surface cells on the cornea are damaged.

Treatment includes the wearing of protective contact lenses or removal of the secondary lashes.

Of course nowadays we are  informed that these apparently mutated lashes did nothing to prevent Taylor from being a huge success in the Entertainment Industry. Quite the contary...

Encouraged by her mother, Sara, to be a child star, Elizabeth Taylor first entered the public eye when she appeared in the film" Lassie Come Home" at the tender age of nine.

According to J Randy Taraborelli's biography of Taylor, star of the film Roddy McDowall, then 13, recalled: "On her first day of filming, they took one look at her and said: "Get that girl off the set - she has too much eye make-up on, too much mascara."

So they rushed her off the set and started rubbing at her eyes with a moist cloth to take the mascara off.

"Guess what? They learned that she had no mascara on. She has a double set of eyelashes. Now, who has double eyelashes except a girl who was absolutely born to be on the big screen?"

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