Elizabeth Taylor: How She Is The Secret Style Icon Rappers Are Inspired By

A first look at how the late icon's famous jewellery collection inspired today's rappers

elizabeth taylor

Photo: Getty

Seven years after her death, the violet-eyed little lady with a big personality and bigger jewellery was how the world came to remember the late Oscar-winning actress and humanitarian Elizabeth Taylor. Alongside her infamous eight marriages, public struggles with substance abuse and torrid affairs, Taylor’s chaotic personal life almost overshadowed her talent. However, what we never forgot about was the historic baubles that she famously flaunted in public.

With high-profile gems including the teardrop Cartier Taylor-Burton diamond, is there anything that we can’t get enough of? Following Taylor’s legacy, the darlings of hip-hop from Cardi B to Gucci Mane are taking notes on how to floss it like the actress whether they’re at a red carpet event or on Instagram.

Pop culture and social media are mano a mano, shifting and creating a radically different landscape. In spite of the radically images between La Liz and today’s rappers, there’s a deeper link that connects the two and two together as explained by Tim Mendelson. Mendelson serves as her Chief of Staff and has worked for the actress for more than 25 years.

“While Elizabeth never followed trends, she often set them. We didn’t realize just how far her influence extended until last July. We were excited when Tyler, the Creator, went on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and said that Elizabeth Taylor was his “jewelry idol.” Then we started noticing that a lot of rappers like Gucci Mane, Offset and Cardi B, had similar tastes in jewelry as Elizabeth, and like her, preferred to wear their jewelry instead of hiding it away in a safe,” says Mendelson.

If this parallel seems far-fetched, we’ve got the receipts to back it all up. For instance, look no further than Cardi B. As the heiress to Taylor’s head-twirling tabloid headlines, bold personality, eye for extravagant jewelry and tempestuous love life, she is a budding icon in the making.

While we remember her for the meme-making days during Love and Hip Hop: New York and record-breaking hits, the “Bodak Yellow” rapper will never be caught without her eight carat engagement ring, which looks nearly identical to the Burton Taylor gem. Valued at half a million, this ring was gifted by Cardi’s husband Offset, who proposed to her at a concert. Wearing it everywhere from the cover of Rolling Stone to making a smoothie at home, it looks like she can’t live without wearing it.

A Healthy Queen

A post shared by Cardi B Source (@sheiscardi) on

elizabeth taylor

Close-up view of a 69.2 carat Cartier diamond in a red case, which was sold at auction for $1,050,000 in 1969 and subsequently purchased by actor Richard Burton for his wife Elizabeth Taylor.(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Related article: The Most Iconic Old Hollywood Engagement Rings

Although the Burton Taylor diamond was purchased at an auction, Mendelson says that there is a deeper meaning behind it.

“Her ring is symbolic of a rare kind of love and passion.  People want a little bit of the fairy-tale romance that Elizabeth and Richard experienced,” says Mendelson. 

While Cardi has yet to race to the altar seven seven times, it seems like Offset is the Richard to her Elizabeth. However, this isn’t the only time that the “Finesse” rapper channeled the late Oscar winner. In an Instagram video, Cardi unboxed a present from the Elizabeth Taylor Foundation, which contained a Barbie doll, set of rings and bottles of Taylor-branded perfume.

If the connection between Cardi and Elizabeth can’t get any deeper, it turns out that that the former’s maternal grandmother once spritzed White Diamonds all over her body. Recently, the Bronx-born chart-topper took her devotion to Taylor even further with a jaw-dropping pixie cut, big earrings, bold brows and a cleavage-revealing velvet off-the-shoulder dress at the VMAS.

elizabeth taylor cardi b

Photo: Getty

Although the two stars have drastically different images, we have to watch this space for Cardi to expand her jewellery collection.

Related article: All The Best Red Carpet Looks From The 2018 MTV VMAs

While the former is aesthetically inspired by Taylor, Gucci Mane takes it further by giving her a shoutout in his song, “Moon Walk“. Perhaps something more mind-boggling than dropping her name in a verse is when the “Make Love” rapper sports a diamond necklace that bears resemblance to Elizabeth’s David Webb choker. Mendelson says that the necklace was gifted to her by Martin Ransohoff, the producer of The Sandpiper, “to commemorate the tremendous box office success of the film”.

elizabeth taylor gucci mane

Photo: Courtesy/Getty

Custom-designed by Gucci and his go-to jeweler Diamond Club Miami, the $500,000 diamond choker is a whopping 165 carats. True to Taylor’s DNA, Gucci Mane amps up the whole package with a matching panther bracelet and ring set as a wedding gift to himself.

Related article: What You Need To Know Before Investing In Jewellery

Tearing a page from Gucci Mane’s playbook is the “No Hands” rapper Waka Flocka Flame, who wears a custom-made blinged out pendant of Foghorn Leghorn, a Looney Tunes character. Bearing a heavy price tag of USD $80,000, Waka Flocka Flame’s diamond pendant is a contemporary to Taylor’s monkey collar necklace from Michael Jackson. Formerly in the possession of Texas socialite Baroness Sandra di Portanova, Mendelson breaks down the story behind the bespoke piece.

waka flocka elizabeth taylor

Photo: Courtesy

“When Elizabeth saw that it was available at [a Christie’s] auction, she immediately called her dear friend Michael Jackson and told him about it. Elizabeth exclaimed, ‘See the two monkeys at the bottom Michael!  The big one (gold and diamond encrusted) is you and the smaller one (white gold and also diamond encrusted) is me!  The two of us with our arms around each other, swinging from vines.  It’s symbolic of our friendship and the fun we have when we monkey around.’,” says Mendelson.

Similar to Taylor’s story, Waka Flocka Flame explains in an interview with GQ that the rooster necklace came from a friend calling him a “‘roo” (short for rooster) during writing sessions. Given that animal motifs bear an extremely personal symbol, it makes total sense for the two of them to wear it with pride no matter how big or small a pendant is.

After all, jewellery is the overlooked visual aspect that can bring an artist’s image to life. But most importantly, it celebrates their personality or a life-changing moment in their life like La Liz. As one of the highest profile actresses to outlast the Old Hollywood studio system, no one made jewellery a staple to flaunt for everyday life until she did it. If it weren’t for Taylor, would our world ever be the same?

“Elizabeth wore what she wore to make herself happy and used the process as a creative outlet.  It was an aspect of her life where she could have fun and she did it with a sense of joy…Elizabeth didn’t give a damn what people thought of how she dressed.  She didn’t dress for men, she didn’t dress for women, she didn’t dress for approval from the fashion world and she didn’t dress for the public.  She didn’t dress to please anyone other than herself.  She had no time for people with good taste telling her what was appropriate. This was a woman who followed her passion in every area of her life,” says Mendelson.

More From

Life