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Famous Asthma Sufferer: Elizabeth Taylor

This month's famous allergy and asthma sufferer spotlight is on Elizabeth Taylor, one of the world's most recognized actresses and beauty icons.

Born in 1932 to Americans living in London, Elizabeth Taylor was the daughter of a former actress and an art dealer. She enjoyed an early life of privilege. Shortly after World War II started, the Taylor family returned to the United States where Elizabeth's acting career began.

Publicly noted for her exceptional beauty from the tender age of eight, Elizabeth's silver screen debut almost occurred as Scarlett O'Hara's daughter, Bonnie Blue Butler, in the movie Gone with the Wind. However, Elizabeth's father did not want his daughter to be an actress and he refused to let her take the part.

Through family connections, Elizabeth eventually met the chairman of Universal Pictures. In the mean time, her beauty continued to garner attention. At nine, she appeared in the movie There's One Born Every Minute, and a year later she earned a part in Lassie Come Home.

It was the beginning of an acting career which led to her being named seventh on the list of Greatest Female Stars of All Time by the American Film Institute. Her role in National Velvet at the age of twelve gained her star recognition, and it was the turning point of her career.

As an adult, Elizabeth Taylor was catapulted to superstardom through roles inCleopatra, Butterfield, and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? For her performances in these last two movies, she earned Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

Elizabeth Taylor is also known for living the stereotypical "Hollywood lifestyle," as evidenced by her infamous eight marriages to seven different husbands. She also has a passion for jewelry and has owned several extremely expensive and well-known pieces including a 69-carat diamond purchased by husband Richard Burton. Taylor is also known for her friendship with the late Michael Jackson and her AIDS-related charity work.

Throughout her life, Elizabeth Taylor has had to deal with a number of debilitating conditions, including severe back problems (which may have begun after a fall from a horse on the set of National Velvet), congestive heart failure, two hip replacements, skin cancer, a benign brain tumor, and, of course, asthma.

Ironically, her asthmatic condition seems to contradict another of her passions - perfume. While many asthma sufferers experience symptoms when confronted with heavy scents like perfume, Elizabeth Taylor has launched three perfumes (Passion, White Diamonds, and Black Pearls) which earn about $200 million in annual sales.

Elizabeth Taylor's status as a beauty symbol also belies the stereotype of asthmatics being frail and atrophied. Taylor demonstrates yet again the fact that famous allergy and asthma sufferers are a source of encouragement for "normal" people battling the conditions.