Sarah Paulson Opened Up About Her Romance With 76-Year-Old Holland Taylor

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Sarah Paulson has never followed what we might think of as a traditional trajectory. Indeed, the actress has risen to fame on American Horror Story over its eight seasons by playing conjoined twins, a drug addict and a witch, among other characters. But it isn’t just her acting that has gotten people talking.

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Instead, what catches many people’s attentions is Paulson’s long-term relationship with fellow actress Holland Taylor, who is 76 years old. That’s a difference of 32 years between the 44-year-old star and her significant other. But Paulson herself has a message for those who think anything negative of their unlikely romance.

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For many years, Sarah Paulson reportedly went on dates exclusively with men. She even had plans to marry playwright Tracy Letts, but the pair never made it down the aisle. Instead they broke up, and Paulson eventually started dating actress Cherry Jones. Then, Paulson revealed their relationship status in a way she hadn’t previously planned.

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In 2005 Jones won a Tony Award for her starring role in the play Doubt. To celebrate her girlfriend’s win, Paulson kissed her – thus revealing their relationship status. She later told NoTofu, “All of a sudden I was outed. I didn’t really think about it in that way at the time.”

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Since then, Paulson has told The New York Times that she didn’t want to define her sexual orientation for fear of feeling constricted by it. “If my life choices had to be predicated based on what was expected of me from a community on either side, that’s going to make me feel really straitjacketed,” Paulson revealed. “And I don’t want to feel that.”

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Still, the Tony Awards kiss did worry Paulson because she thought it might affect her career. Just before she and her girlfriend attended the ceremony, the actress joined the cast of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. She told NoTofu, “I had anxiety. I was worried that there was going to be some fallout if… anyone knew that I was with Cherry.”

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But the show’s creator and main writer Aaron Sorkin quickly squashed Paulson’s fears. “Aaron walked right up to me and says, ‘I didn’t know you were with Cherry Jones, that’s so wonderful. I just want you to know that you’re safe here. You never have anything to worry about. You’re safe here,’” Paulson recalled. “It was the biggest exhale of my life.”

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Paulson and Jones’ relationship ended in 2009, after the pair had dated for five years. During that time, Paulson had actually met the woman who would later become her girlfriend – Holland Taylor. It happened at a dinner party in 2005. And as Paulson later told The New York Times, she remembered thinking that Taylor was “probably the most exquisitely beautiful woman I’d ever seen.”

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Of course, Paulson had a girlfriend at the time of her initial meeting with Taylor. In fact, Taylor was also seeing somebody at the time. But the two eventually crossed paths once again. As Paulson explained on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen, “We were doing a thing at [actress and singer] Martha Plimpton’s house.”

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Both Paulson and Taylor attended the gathering to take part in a public service announcement organized by Plimpton. Although Paulson said they only “breezed by one another” that day, things eventually took off thanks to Twitter. The women followed one another on the social media site, before Taylor sent Paulson a direct message.

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From there, Paulson and Taylor struck up an online conversation that ultimately led to the pair going for dinner. They privately segued into a relationship in 2015, but they kept it quiet from the public. Then, Taylor appeared on an episode of the Death, Sex & Money podcast and revealed a bit about her life outside of the spotlight.

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On the show, Taylor said that losing her mother made her re-evaluate her existence. “I just suddenly got the sense that I was living a very shallow life. I had not had wonderful relationships. I had stayed very solo,” she said in the interview. It took her until 2015 – then at the age of 72 – to find the woman who would change all of that.

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Without revealing Paulson’s identity, Taylor said of her relationship, “It’s the most wonderful, extraordinary thing that could have ever possibly happened in my life.” And although the interview shed light on Taylor’s personal life, people wanted to know more. The most intriguing detail of all had been left out, after all.

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Eventually, the tabloids came up with an idea of who Taylor’s girlfriend could be, but it would be Paulson herself who would confirm the news. She spoke to The New York Times in 2016 and didn’t hold back. “What I can say absolutely is that I am in love,” she said. “And that person happens to be Holland Taylor.”

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Making this statement was, at first, a tough choice for Paulson. Considering the couple’s 32-year age gap, some in Paulson’s circle thought the pairing would hurt her in Hollywood. She told The EDIT, “Early on, when people found out I was with Holland, some said, ‘I think you have to be careful, I’m afraid it’s going to affect your career negatively.’”

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Obviously, Paulson threw caution to the wind and went public with her and Taylor’s romance. She went so far as to mention her girlfriend when she won a Primetime Emmy Award for her performance as Marcia Clark on American Crime Story, The People v. O.J. Simpson. Paulson said “I love you” to Taylor as she held her trophy.

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Ultimately, Paulson told The EDIT that she didn’t find her relationship to be much of a cause for discussion. “My life choices are, um, unconventional. I’m with a much older person, and people find that totally fascinating and odd,” she said. “To me, it’s the least interesting thing about me.”

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For Taylor, the public’s reaction to her relationship “blindsided” her, as she told InStyle. “I’m from an older generation, and for me it’s quite surprising how people talk about personal things of any kind in the press. It’s not natural to me. That doesn’t mean it’s not good, it’s just taken some adjusting.”

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However, once she did get used to the attention, Taylor said it actually became a positive experience. “It was hard for me at first to go through that membrane of being a private person. But it’s been good for me to do it in such a lovely way,” she concluded. Still, over time, the couple has had to defend the relationship against critics who try to understand the inner workings of a couple with such an age gap.

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In June 2018, for example, Paulson spoke out against those who assumed she dated Taylor because she had lingering issues with her mother. The Emmy winner told The Sunday Times, “People look at me and Holland and say, ‘Mommy issues.’ But I parent her as much as she parents me, so that’s not it.”

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In fact, Paulson said that point of view shed light on a general misconception about any person of Taylor’s age. “I think a lot of people have a stunted way of looking at older people,” she said. “It’s a way of distancing themselves from something that they think will not happen to them.”

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For Paulson, though, she knew she had found something special in Taylor. “I have the good fortune of being with someone who is older and wiser than I am,” she said. Sharing that with the world was, of course, a difficult decision. But it eventually became clear to the pair that they could open people’s eyes by sharing their happiness.

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Paulson explained her feelings on the matter to Town & Country magazine in 2018. “I do want to live responsibly and truthfully without hiding,” she said. “It’s complicated, because there is a lot of hate in this world, and a lot of good can come from, quote-unquote, “normalizing” something for people who don’t see it as normal.”

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“Our relationship represents a certain amount of hope and risk,” Paulson went on to say. “Maybe there’s something brave in it. Maybe it encourages others to make brave choices. What else can I say? We love each other.” In a separate interview with Elle, she said that her openness might help others in similar situations, too.

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“For a person who might find themselves in a situation that they fear will be misperceived or judged, maybe they could see me living my life in a way that is authentic to me – just trying to be as real as possible. If that inspires anybody else, that can’t be a bad thing,” Paulson told the magazine.

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As for her tendency to date older people – her ex-girlfriend Jones was 18 years her senior – Paulson had an explanation. She told The New York Times, “There’s a poignancy to being with someone older. I think there’s a greater appreciation of time and what you have together and what’s important.”

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“It puts a kind of sharp light mixed with a sort of diffused light on something. I can’t say it any other way than there’s a poignancy to it, and a heightened sense of time and the value of time,” Paulson concluded. That sentiment not only brought her and Taylor together, but it has apparently kept them happy ever since.

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As for those who may still have a problem with her romance with Taylor, Paulson has a simple response. She told Modern Luxury in May 2018, “If someone wants to spend any time thinking I’m strange for loving the most spectacular person on the planet, then that’s their problem. I’m doing just fine.”

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And in terms of her personal and professional lives, it would appear that Paulson is, in fact, doing just fine. But in the case of the former, there are still some questions that need to be answered. For one thing, Paulson has long grappled with the idea of motherhood. But does she want to have a child or not?

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“I don’t want to be torn. I don’t want to look at my child and say, ‘You’re the most extraordinary thing that ever happened to me, but also the death knell,’” Paulson told Town & Country. “I’ve always known what I wanted out of my professional life, and I didn’t want to turn around and go, ‘If I had only made the choice to just dedicate this time in my life to me.’”

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Professionally, though, Paulson has only continued to flourish. And that has happened in spite of those who told her that publicizing her relationship could derail her career. After her award-winning turn in American Crime Story, The People v. O.J. Simpson, she returned to American Horror Story for its sixth, seventh and eighth seasons.

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And Paulson has also found success appearing on the silver screen. In 2018 she starred alongside the likes of Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Mindy Kaling, Anne Hathaway and Rihanna in Ocean’s 8. The all-female cast helmed a fictional heist, and the flick reportedly raked in just under $300 million internationally.

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Of course, Paulson continues to have a slew of projects in the works as well. For one thing, she’ll star in The Goldfinch, a dramatic film about a man whose rough childhood leads him to a life of crime. She’ll also lend her voice to a character in the animated film Abominable, and she’ll act in horror movie Run.

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Paulson will also make her way onto Netflix in Ratched. This is an upcoming series inspired by the classic novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. In the show, Paulson will star as the titular character Nurse Ratched, telling the story of her evolution over the years.

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As for Taylor, she too has a few projects in the pipeline. She’ll star in the comedy The Stand-In alongside Drew Barrymore, Michael Zegen, Charlie Barnett and Ellie Kemper. And the sequel to beloved Netflix film To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before will see Taylor in the role of Stormy McClaren.

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All of this work has made Paulson and Taylor’s already unconventional relationship logistically tough, too. At the Elle Women in Hollywood gala in 2018, Taylor detailed the difficulties that have arisen. “We have so little time together because my work schedule is fairly complicated – hers is unbelievable,” she said.

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“It’s hard to grasp a normal life off of such a schedule as [Paulson’s],” continued Taylor. But the 75-year-old nonetheless encouraged her girlfriend to keep going. “She knows she has to do it while [her career] is soaring, she knows she has to do everything. She can’t pass things down during this period, so she’s doing great.”

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When they do have time together, Paulson and Taylor seem to cherish it by embracing their normalcy. “We like to do what a lot of people do if you don’t have much time at home. We watch television, we talk, we read a few minutes here and there,” she described. When they’re not together, though, Taylor said, “I love to see [Paulson] shine.”

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At an event honoring women with her girlfriend by her side, Taylor explained how much it all meant to her. “It lifts you up, it makes you play your best game, it makes you see how you might hope to expand and grow,” she said. “And naturally, given the era that we’re living in, to be around women who have descended and who are in all their intellectual and creative glory.”

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As for Paulson, she continues to believe that age has no bearing on her relationship – even as she deals with edging closer to 50. She told Modern Luxury, “I go, ‘Stop running seven years down the road. You have no idea what your life will look like and where you’ll be.’ And that’s just what makes life so sweet. You cross your fingers, take a deep breath and jump. And that’s really all you can do.”

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