The Transformation Of Priscilla Presley From Childhood To 77 Years Old

From the bride of a rock and roll legend to Leslie Nielsen's partner in comedic escapades, Priscilla Presley has undergone innumerable changes since the cat eye and bouffant days of the 1960s. Although she was once defined as being one half of a superstar it couple, Presley has proven that she is — and, indeed, always has been — a powerhouse in her own right.

A shrewd businesswoman and the brains behind the Graceland enterprise, Presley is, quite possibly, the foremost girl boss. A subversion of the old adage "behind every successful man stands a woman," she has amassed the astronomical fortune that her husband never made in his own all too brief lifetime. With a whopping estimated net worth of $50 million, Presley is living the dream.

But getting to this enviable position was no easy feat. For many years, she lived in her superstar husband's shadow, as is the case for so many wives in the public eye. After humble and tragic beginnings, she has made it to the top. All the while, she's been sporting some truly eye-catching — and, it must be said, at times eye-watering — looks. Throughout the years, Presley has donned everything from Lana Del Rey-esque drips to gothic garbs. Soon to be immortalized by Olivia DeJonge in Baz Luhrmann's "Elvis" biopic, she was always so much more than the Queen to The King. Prepare to get all shook up: This is the transformation of Priscilla Presley from childhood to 77 years old.

Priscilla Presley's childhood wasn't breezy

Born at the end of WWII, Priscilla Presley's childhood was beset by tragedy when her father, James Wagner, died months after she was born. Per The Daily Telegraph, she was led to believe that her mom's second husband, Paul Beaulieu, was her biological father, only discovering the truth years later when she was 12. "I went through my mother's closet. In the back I found a trunk with a folded flag on top," she told The Wall Street Journal. "Inside were baby photos of me with my mom and a man who wasn't my father."

In her memoir, "Elvis and Me," she described herself as a shy and unhappy child, being forced to constantly move from place to place due to Beaulieu's profession as an Air Force officer. The adolescent Presley was somewhat unrecognizable from the image that would later come to define her. As with many young girls in the 1950s, she wore her hair in ringlets and wore minimal lipstick on her heart-shaped mouth, making her resemble a striking Victorian doll.

In her memoir she argues that she was perceived as a non entity prior to marrying Elvis, as if her identity was constructed entirely through her venerated husband. As such, she was unable to fully pursue her girlhood dreams. "I did sometimes dream of becoming a dancer or possibly enrolling in an art academy," she wrote (via Express). "Now I realize that I was deeply influenced by Elvis's casual attitude toward continued schooling."

When she met Elvis, Priscilla Presley was just 14

At the tender age of 14, Priscilla Presley met a 24-year-old Elvis Presley. Per The Wall Street Journal, she and The King first crossed paths at a party. Understandably for a teenage girl, she was besotted by the lauded musician. "The first time I saw Elvis, he was sitting in a chair wearing a red sweater smoking a cigar," Priscilla recalled to the outlet. "He tried to engage me in conversation, but honestly I was in awe and could just barely answer his questions."

The pair began dating and during this period Priscilla wore her hair short in a gentle coiffure not unlike that of her beau. Pictured here with Elvis at Frankfurt airport in 1960, the teen was a far cry from the chic persona that would soon encapsulate her, wearing a mismatched checked dress and cozy coat paired with a scarf draped around her pixie cut.

A grown man dating a literal child would inevitably cause a widespread outcry (not to mention a stint in the jailhouse) nowadays, but Elvis appeared to court his young girlfriend with little contention. This did not mean, however, that Priscilla's family was pleased. "I was only 14 when I first met Elvis and my father was not happy," she told The Guardian. She has insisted that they did not consummate the relationship until their wedding day. Per Chicago Tribune, Priscilla wanted to be intimate with Elvis, but he rejected her advances until she was of age.

Priscilla channeled Snow White on her wedding day

With her long, glossy black hair and cherubic face, Priscilla Presley looked like a groovy Snow White when she wed Elvis Presley in 1967. At just 21 years old, she exuded innocence and charm alongside the worldly groom, then 32. The beautiful bride wore an understated oversized white dress, contrasted with a grand veil. Her striking eye makeup would no doubt impress the winged-obsessed beauty gurus of Gen Z.

Although the ceremony was modest (a mere 15 guests attended), it was a major event, with the press bombarding the couple. In an interview with "Good Morning Britain," she reminisced about the occasion fondly, contrasting it from the lavish celebrity wedding ceremonies of today. "It wasn't like it is today where everyone had the biggest, the best, the most expensive," she stated with a touch of shade.

While the marriage may have seemed like a fairytale come true for the shy Brooklynite, Priscilla has admitted that she struggled with being a rock n roll bride, particularly since she was thrust into Elvis' celeb lifestyle at such a young age. "The beginning [of the marriage] was very difficult, but I knew what I was in for because I saw it at a very young age," she told The Guardian. She said that tabloids were relentless in their scrutiny of the couple's nuptials, with some outlets fabricating claims that they only tied the knot because Priscilla was pregnant. "But [Elvis] always told me, 'Don't pay attention... You know what the truth is,'" she added.

Priscilla's most famous look came in the late '60s

Once married to Elvis Presley, Priscilla Presley's look underwent a noticeable change, one that remains her most famous. She styled her hair in a big black bouffant, and wore heavy eye makeup and simple chic dresses. The iconic look has since been embraced by the likes of Lana Del Rey, who has famously paid homage to Priscilla's style. (According to The Blast, when it was time to find someone to play her in the "Elvis" biopic, Priscilla said she liked Del Rey. The role ultimately went to Olivia DeJonge.)

In her memoir (via Express), she described herself as "Elvis's doll, his own living doll, to fashion as he pleased." According to Priscilla, it was Elvis who came up with the idea for her famous look, urging his wife to wear excessive eye makeup. "He taught me everything. How to dress, how to walk, how to apply makeup and wear my hair," she revealed.

In 1968, the couple welcomed daughter Lisa Marie Presley. However, according to "Elvis Presley: A Southern Life" (via Daily Mail), his attraction for his wife waned once she took on a maternal role. Priscilla confirmed this in her memoir (via Express), writing, "He had mentioned to me before we were married that he had never been able to make love to a woman who had a child." Feeling dissatisfied with the marriage, she embarked on an affair.

In the '70s, she transformed her look

By the 1970s, Priscilla Presley elected to completely transform her look. Now approaching 30, she rejected the babydoll ingenue and opted to embrace the sun-kissed aesthetic of the era. The jetty bouffant was gone, replaced by wavy, lighter brunette locks; the porcelain complexion was now superseded by a glowy Californian tan. 

This era also marked the beginning of the end for the power couple. It was during their divorce proceedings that Priscilla realized that Elvis Presley had been struggling with substance misuse, which she partly attributed to the downfall of their relationship. "Because I was concentrating on my own life and the life of my young daughter, I may have missed some of the warning signs," she said, per the book "Elvis by the Presleys." "That is, until the day of our divorce."

In the final years of her marriage, she began an affair with karate instructor Mike Stone, which continued for four years. According to the Daily Mail, Elvis was so enraged by the dalliance that he once considered hiring an assassin to kill Stone. As her relationship with Stone progressed, there was a gradual change to Priscilla's appearance. Notably, she no longer wore the heavy eye makeup that Elvis allegedly imposed upon her. In fact, her appearance had shifted so dramatically that the public stopped recognizing her. "Later in our relationship whenever we went out in my area, Orange County, no one really recognized her as Priscilla but just a very beautiful woman," Stone told Elvis Information Network.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Following Elvis' death, Priscilla remodeled herself

The late '70s would prove difficult for Priscilla Presley, but conversely, these hardships bestowed her the freedom she had always longed for. Per Express, Elvis Presley insisted that his wife always have hair long and forbade her from wearing patterns. But when Elvis died in 1977, there was a symbolic shift in Priscilla's look, as she donned short blond hair and those snazzy outfits her late husband disapproved of.

Despite their tumultuous relationship, Priscilla was deeply affected by the death of her ex. A year after Elvis' passing, she sat down with Rona Barrett and revealed that she found it distressing to constantly be reminded of her husband through his records being blasted everywhere she went. "You can't escape it," she conceded. Speaking to Sydney Morning Herald in 2016, Priscilla admitted that she still struggles with the loss, something she has never truly recovered from. 

She devoted this period to caring for her bereaved daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, but raising her on her lonesome was a struggle. "I was a single mom because Elvis passed away at such a young age, so it was a real challenge," she told the Daily Mail. "Those teenage years were rough too because Lisa was not easy and she always had her own mind." Considering Priscilla's own troubled adolescence, it's understandable that she was concerned for her rebellious daughter's well-being. In a 1985 interview with Terry Wogan, she admitted that she wouldn't want her teenage daughter to cavort with a grown man as she did.

Revitalizing Elvis' name with Graceland

Per The Guardian, Elvis Presley left his ex-wife and daughter without a cent when he died. As the Los Angeles Times notes, Priscilla Presley was subsequently shocked to learn that Elvis' myriad financial woes could mean the loss of her home, Graceland. The King may have made millions throughout his career, but he sure loved to spend money, both on himself and others. As Larry King once recounted on CNN, there was one famous instance where Elvis asked a limo driver whether he owned his vehicle or worked for a company. When the driver confirmed he worked for the company, Elvis replied, "You now own it."

Generous he may have been, but Priscilla struggled with the aftermath of this laissez faire attitude towards money. But in 1982, the business savvy widow opened Graceland to the public via the Elvis Presley Estate. Per the 1989 LA Times profile, the Graceland attraction was raking in a whopping $15 million a year. During this period, Priscilla donned honey blond curls and subtle makeup.

Opening her home to the public wasn't easy for Priscilla. "Behind those gates, that was our private home," she told The Guardian in a later interview. However, she acknowledged that the attraction was keeping her husband's name alive. In fact, it was a particular fear of The King that he would be long forgotten once he died: "He said, 'you know, once I pass nobody will remember me' and that really stuck with me."

Priscilla, queen of Dallas

Priscilla Presley was a late bloomer when it came to her acting career. It wasn't until the '80s that she scored her first roles. In "Elvis and Me" (via Express), she shared she always had an interest in the arts and considered going to college to explore these creative outlets. However, Elvis Presley discouraged her.

In 1983, she was cast in "Dallas" as Jenna Wade. The budding actor was near unrecognizable from her raven-haired days with a Farrah Fawcett-esque, hairsprayed blond 'do. That year, she told Beaver County Times that she took on the role because she saw parallels between herself and Jenna. "Jenna is her own woman," she said. "She's extremely self-reliant, she has lived in Europe, and she has a child. Just like me... How could I help but identify with her?" Regarding her venture into acting, the outlet notes that it started completely by chance. After starring in a shampoo ad, Priscilla found herself being offered parts on TV. Speaking with Terry Wogan in 1985, she credited co-star Patrick Duffy with aiding her confidence onscreen as a newbie performer. "He was very understanding that it was my major first role and very helpful to me," she said. Per Washington Post, she left the soap after five seasons to embark on a career on the big screen. 

Around this time, Priscilla also began her longest relationship, with producer Marco Garibaldi. In 1987, they welcomed their son, Navarone, per Orange Coast Magazine

Priscilla Presley's acting career took off

In 1988, "The Naked Gun" saw the beginning of Priscilla Presley's film career. Considering the arguable rampant ageism of Hollywood, it was (to an extent) progressive to have a woman in her 40s as the object of desire, even if she was still decades younger than the male lead. In the three "Naked Gun" flicks, she played Jane Spencer and parodied the archetypal Hollywood femme fatale with a sleek blond bob and a hefty amount of contouring to enhance her famous cheekbones. The films certainly showed Presley in an entirely different light as she showcased her comedic chops. 

A 1988 Washington Post profile exalts Presley's comic timing and aptitude for slapstick. "It's opened up a whole new world for me," Presley enthused. "If someone had told me a couple of years ago, I'd be doing 'Naked Gun' with Leslie Nielsen I would have thought they were crazy." Accordingly, she left fans shook (up). The films were vital in Presley gaining control of her own identity and talents, separating herself from the Mrs. Elvis shadow that had long loomed over her career.

Presley had a blast on set and spoke fondly of her co-star Nielsen, who left her guffawing during takes. When Nielsen died in 2010, she paid tribute to his hilarious BTS antics, including the poker-faced actor's fondness for his fart machine, which alleviated her anxiety as a rookie film actor. "That prank broke the ice to a friendship I will always cherish," she shared in Entertainment Weekly.

Success followed Priscilla Presley into the 2000s

In the '90s, Priscilla Presley took on more acting roles, notably in "Spin City," where she played a Mrs. Robinson-esque cougar. By the early 2000s, Priscilla once again transformed her look. Always one to embrace the changing trends of each era, she now sported sleek highlighted locks and channeled The Rachel, while draping herself in velvet.

In 2004, she accepted Elvis Presley's UK Music Hall of Fame award. Two years later, she parted ways with Marco Garibaldi after 22 years. At the time, Radar Online (via Hollywood News Daily) spoke to a source who alleged that Garibaldi had lied to Priscilla throughout their relationship, supposedly fibbing that he was from a wealthy Italian family when his real name is Garcia and he's actually from Brazil. The tabloid Globe, which should always be paired with a generous helping of salt, also claimed that Garibaldi had misled his lady love for years.

After separating from her beau, Priscilla was as resilient as ever, girlbossing her way into launching her own luxury linens collection. Speaking with Wedding Style Magazine, she explained that she'd always been a romantically nostalgic gal at heart, so starting the classy line of linens was a no brainer. "I'm a little old-fashioned in some ways; I like having tea and sitting down to read a book," she mused. Priscilla Presley the cottagecore queen? We stan.

Priscilla Presley's botched plastic surgery nightmare

At the end of the 2000s, Priscilla Presley's appearance underwent a dramatic alteration. Embracing her inner goth, she sported shimmering dark red locks, black attire, and uber pale makeup. Tragically, around that time, she also received botched aesthetic treatments. In 2008, Presley lamented that she underwent poor quality plastic surgery. As reported by TMZ, she fell for the charms of young plastic surgeon Dr. Daniel Serrano, who claimed that he could take decades off Presley's face through supposedly innovative injections that would give more desirable results than Botox. It later came to light that he was anything but a reputable doctor. According to TMZ, the silicone he used apparently was along the lines of something one might use to grease up auto parts. Big yikes.

Speaking with the Daily Mail at the time, Presley's rep confirmed that the reports were true and the shoddy treatments had left her with lumps throughout her face. "Priscilla Presley was one of many documented victims of Dr. Serrano. An investigation which uncovered his misconduct ultimately led to his imprisonment," her rep explained, adding that Presley had since rectified the con man doc's botched procedures. 

That year, she appeared on Season 6 of "Dancing with the Stars." Per ABC, she always had a love of dancing, but was never given the opportunity to pursue it. She and dance partner Louis Van Amstel were ultimately voted out after coming in last place.

Animal activism is her passion

In the early 2010s, Priscilla Presley embraced her inner femme fatale with fiery red hair. Now in her late 60s, she was looking ageless as she flaunted her famous cheekbones and enigmatic smile.

With the social media boom, Priscilla began to devote much of her Instagram feed to her interest in animal rights activism. Per Contact Music, she attended an event for the Humane Society in 2013. She is particularly fond of horses, a number of which she keeps at Graceland, and campaigned to end equine abuse in horse racing through the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act.

In addition to her work campaigning against the mistreatment of horses, she joined Kim Basinger to protest the dog meat trade in South Korea, per People. Making a powerful statement against the practice, she held a dead dog and wore a tee that read "stop dog meat," as Basinger held up graphic protest signs. But a dedication to the well-being of animals is not a recent endeavor for Priscilla. Ever since she was a child, she has been passionate about animal rights. "I rescued animals since I was 5 years old. They would come to me, I wouldn't even have to look for them. Dogs or bunnies, I would bring them home," she told Closer, noting that Elvis Presley shared her love of furry friends. Priscilla later called on then President Trump to implement legislation against animal cruelty, per Tennessean.

She allegedly dated Tom Jones and made her panto debut

Priscilla Presley may have looked like Snow White in her youth, but she saw herself playing a panto villain in a stage production of the classic fairytale. In 2012, she made her pantomime debut in London, England as the Wicked Queen, per BBC. Panto is a thoroughly British tradition based on classic children's tales, albeit with a camp twist chock full of double entendres. "I have heard such wonderful things about British pantomime," Presley enthused. "The script is hilarious, my costume is sensational and I can't wait to get started and give the people of London my Wicked Queen." The flame-haired Presley perfectly embodied the baddie with blood-red lippy and a flawless porcelain complexion.

She told the Daily Mail that panto gave her an opportunity to poke fun at herself. Regarding her changing appearance and soon settling into being a septuagenarian, Presley shared that she was comfortable in her skin. "I work out three days a week, do yoga... I do facials and make sure my hair's done," she added. "But I'm in Hollywood where it's a case of constant maintenance, so I do what I need to do to get work."

It seems Presley was serious about her love of Britain, as she was spotted getting cozy with Welsh singer Tom Jones a few years later, per The Sun. Considering Jones' womanizing notoriety, it's not unusual to be loved by him. However, Jones told People that he and Presley are just good pals.

Newfound exposure with the Elvis biopic

June 2022 will see the release of the "Elvis" biopic, directed by Aussie Baz Luhrmann of "Romeo and Juliet" and "Moulin Rouge" fame. Priscilla Presley will be played by newcomer Olivia DeJonge. In a 2020 chat, DeJonge told Vogue that she was eager to capture Priscilla's unique essence and do justice to the woman who, for decades, remained in the shadow of a powerful man.

It seems the film has Priscilla's seal of approval. In a Facebook post, she had nothing but praise for lead Austin Butler, who plays the titular King. "WOW!!!" she wrote. "Bravo to him... he knew he had big shoes to fill." Meanwhile, her granddaughter, actor Riley Keough, told Variety that watching the movie brought the entire Presley clan to tears, grandmama Priscilla included. "I started crying five minutes in and didn't stop," she stated. "There's a lot of family trauma and generational trauma that started around then for our family."

Showing her support for the biopic's leading man, Priscilla attended the 2022 Met Gala with Butler on her arm. The erstwhile Mrs. Elvis sure came straight out of Graceland with her elegant ensemble, wowing in a cute black dress and beret combo, contrasted against her glossy aubergine bob. Now steadily approaching 80, Priscilla Presley proves that she really was Queen to The King all along.