Priscilla Presley (born May 24, 1945, New York City, New York, U.S.) American actress and businesswoman best known for her marriage to musician Elvis Presley. Although they eventually divorced, she remained in the public eye and established an acting career. After his death, she became the executor of Graceland, his estate in Memphis, Tennessee, which she grew into a multimillion-dollar enterprise and popular tourist attraction.
Priscilla Presley’s biological father, James Wagner, was a U.S. Navy pilot who died in an airplane crash when she was a few months old. In 1948 her mother, Anna, married a U.S. Air Force officer, Joseph Paul Beaulieu. He adopted Priscilla Wagner, and he and her mother eventually had five more children. In 1959, while the family was stationed in West Germany, Priscilla Beaulieu was introduced to Elvis Presley, who had been drafted into the U.S. Army and was stationed nearby. He was 24 years old with an enormously successful music career and a few movie roles to his credit. She was 14 years old. They quickly began a romantic relationship, which continued after the singer returned to the United States in 1960.
In 1963 Beaulieu moved from West Germany to Graceland to be closer to Presley. Her parents had granted her permission to move to Graceland, but only after Presley promised that he would eventually marry her. He also promised them that she would stay in a separate house on the Graceland estate with his father and stepmother, although Priscilla Presley would later say that she spent most of her time with his grandmother Minnie Mae Presley. As part of the agreement with her parents, she attended a Catholic school nearby to finish her high-school education.
Beaulieu’s relationship with Presley at a young age was controversial even in its own time. For her part, she defended the relationship years later and expressed few regrets. She also maintained that their romance was not fully consummated until they were married. Nevertheless, during her early years at Graceland, she was kept sheltered from both the press and the public, most likely because of her age.
In May 1967 the couple were married in a small ceremony in Las Vegas. By then she had adopted a striking look and style, which she said was cultivated by Elvis Presley, who helped her choose her hairstyle, wardrobe, and makeup. With her towering black bouffant hairstyle, Cleopatra-style eye makeup, and sheath dresses, her appearance complemented his classic rocker style and good looks.
In February 1968 Priscilla Presley gave birth to their only child, Lisa Marie Presley. Along with Graceland, the family had three homes in southern California, where the singer’s film career was winding down. After his 1968 NBCtelevision special revitalized his music career, he embarked on several residencies in Las Vegas and returned to touring. The couple grew apart, leading to their separation in 1972. They divorced in 1973.
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Career and later life
After the divorce, Priscilla Presley pursued her own projects and interests. Notably, she opened a boutique clothing store in Los Angeles called Bis & Beau with fashion designer Olivia Bis. She remained friendly with her ex-husband, and they shared custody of their daughter until his death in 1977.
Upon his death, his estate was left to his father, Vernon Presley, who was also named executor; his grandmother Minnie Mae Presley; and his daughter, who was nine years old at the time. After Vernon Presley’s death in 1979, followed by Minnie Mae Presley’s death in 1980, the executorship passed to Priscilla Presley to oversee until her daughter turned 25 years old. Priscilla Presley was named one of three trustees, along with the Presley family’s accountant and local bank. Together, they overhauled the estate’s finances. At the time of Elvis Presley’s death, the estate was worth about $5 million, with taxes cutting deeply into earnings. Within 10 years, the trustees rebuilt its worth to more than $75 million. Priscilla Presley made the crucial decision to open Graceland to the public in 1982.
She also pursued an acting career, with memorable roles on the popular television series Dallas (1983–88) and in all three of the Naked Gun comedy films (1988, 1991, and 1994) opposite costar Leslie Nielsen. In 1985 she published a best-selling memoir, Elvis and Me, which was adapted into a television movie in 1988. In 1987 she had a son, Navarone, with her longtime partner, screenwriter Marco Garibaldi. Her business ventures in the years to come included launching a fragrance line, followed by a collection of luxury bed linens and a skin care line.
In 2023, after the sudden death of Lisa Marie Presley at age 54, a legal battle ensued over control of the Graceland estate and her trust. Priscilla Presley filed a petition that challenged the validity of an amendment in 2016 that had removed her as a trustee and replaced her with her daughter’s eldest children, Riley and Benjamin Keough. A settlement was eventually reached between Presley and Riley Keough later in 2023 (Benjamin Keough died in 2020 at age 27). Keough was named the sole trustee, while Presley was named a special adviser to the trust in exchange for a lump-sum payment.
Presley worked as a film and television producer on various projects about her ex-husband, including the documentary filmElvis Presley: The Searcher (2018) and the animated Netflix series Agent Elvis (2023). She also served as an executive producer on Priscilla (2023), a feature film based on her memoir, which was directed by Sofia Coppola.