An Look At Priscilla Presley's Life, Before And After Elvis

Correction 03/11/23: A previous version of this article stated that Priscilla Presley wrote the poem "The Old Soul." Presley did not write the poem. Her granddaughter Riley Keough did. 

Since Priscilla Presley kept Elvis' last name long after the two separated and he passed away, she will always be remembered as the wife of the King of Rock 'n' Roll. Given her young age at the time of both their marriage and their divorce, it would have been unsurprising if she had fallen back into obscurity after her relationship with the famous singer. But that certainly was not the case.

To say that Priscilla became quite accomplished following her divorce from Elvis would be an understatement. From solid business instincts to impressive acting credentials, she has proven herself to be far more than simply the spouse of a great man long ago. Along the way, Priscilla has experienced both trial and error, as well as overcome some truly tragic moments. She will always have the Presley surname, but an in-depth look at her life shows that she has never needed it to gain respect, since she has done that more than enough for herself.

The extreme age difference between Priscilla Presley and Elvis

Those familiar with the relationship between Priscilla Presley and her husband, Elvis Presley, are likely aware of the age discrepancy that many would consider disturbing, or at least inappropriate. Priscilla was only 14 years old when they first met. She had been a fan of his music since she heard his debut album when she was 11, so the teen was rather awestruck in that major moment of her life, as she revealed in an essay for People.

Her youth was the first thing Elvis noticed. In an interview with "Good Morning America," Priscilla described how he discovered she was in the ninth grade right away. She recalled, "He went, 'Oh! A baby! You're just a kid.' Elvis was 24 at the time, so I started feeling very, very young" (via Elvis Australia). Not long after, the two started dating, which continued after he returned to the U.S. while she stayed in Germany, where her father was stationed. Then, in her senior year of high school, the couple even lived together at Graceland. But the two did wait until she turned 21 before they got married.

To Priscilla, there was nothing wrong with the difference in age, especially since the intimacy was not physical during all those years before the wedding. She also maintains that behavior and attitudes were simply different back then. She explained, "People have said, 'Oh my gosh, I can't believe your parents let you go with this stranger.' But it was a very innocent time." She also added, "We cannot compare it to today. We still had morals, high standards. There was a lot of care."

The couple first met in Germany

Even though Elvis Presley and Priscilla Beaulieu were both from the U.S., they met in West Germany because of the military. In 1959, while Priscilla's father was stationed at the Air Force headquarters located in Wiesbaden, Elvis was serving overseas in the Army. Then one day, a soldier approached the teenager while she was at a family hang-out spot on base and asked if she would like to visit Elvis at the singer's house, to which she agreed (after getting her parents' approval). 

Writing for People, Priscilla recalled entering the home that fateful night. "The plain, almost drab living room was filled with people, but I spotted Elvis immediately. He was handsomer than he appeared in films, younger and more vulnerable looking with his GI haircut," she wrote. After meeting, the two chatted for a bit, followed by Elvis serenading her at the piano as well.

Priscilla continued to see Elvis a few more times until her father demanded to meet him. Fortunately for the couple, both men hit it off, almost to the point of irritation for Priscilla. In an interview on "Sunday Night," she explained, "Elvis came in full uniform, which my dad liked a lot, shook his hand for an hour. I am looking at my watch saying, he is taking up my time... I told my parents that they had to let me go, or they would ruin my life."

Why she divorced Elvis

No matter how much Priscilla Presley loved Elvis while they were married, there were two major reasons why the relationship could not last. The first was straight-forward, as she explained in an interview on "Sunday Night": "He wasn't faithful, not that he had someone special, but when you're in the entertainment business there is always that and I tried to turn my back to that, but I just didn't want to share him. Simple as that."

The other cause for friction between the two was more complicated, but it was related to the problems that can arise when wed to a larger-than-life figure like the King of Rock 'n' Roll. Priscilla told People, "My life was his life. He had to be happy. My problems were secondary." She then added, "I want to grow. I want to do things." By early 1972, she no longer believed those serious issues would ever get worked out and decided to leave. The couple divorced not long after, and even though Elvis was heartbroken over the decision, he never treated her badly in response.

She remained friends with Elvis after their divorce

The love that Priscilla Presley and Elvis felt for each other did not stop even after the breakup of their marriage. They never got back together, but their connection stayed strong in the following years. The singer's best friend and guitarist, Charlie Hodge, told People, "Even though there was a divorce, they were like two high school kids. They still called each other and told each other everything they were going to do."

When talking with "Sunday Night," Priscilla confirmed that her relationship with Elvis has simply evolved. She said, "We never lost our friendship and our care for each other. He would call me at night. I really valued his calls. I valued him telling me what was wrong." It wasn't just Elvis and Priscilla who still got along; Elvis' parents remained fond of Priscilla, and the same could be said for her own parents regarding her ex-husband.

Her brief yet serious relationship with Robert Kardashian

After her divorce from Elvis Presley, Priscilla did not remain single for long. In 1975, she began dating an attorney who would later become quite famous: Robert Kardashian. It did not take long for the relationship to get more serious, yet it was Kardashian who had fallen harder for Priscilla, not the other way around. In a sense, a portion of her heart was still reserved for her love of Elvis, which would gradually ruin the aspirations of her new lover, who wanted marriage.

The situation became so bad for Kardashian living in the shadow of the King that on one extremely awkward night, Elvis called while the couple were making love and Priscilla actually answered to put the phone down and let him listen in. As weird as that was, there was also a significant issue from Priscilla's perspective as well: Kardashian was trying to make her into what he wanted, and she would not tolerate that for long.

Eventually, Priscilla made it clear to Kardashian that there would never be a wedding, a decision that settled the couple's future. In his biography of the famous family, "The Kardashians," Jerry Oppenheimer wrote, "She told him, 'Look, I'm not going to marry anyone until Elvis dies.' And that was the end for Robert Kardashian with Priscilla Presley."

Her controversial fling with Michael Edwards

In 1978, Priscilla Presley started dating model and actor Michael Edwards. But the relationship was doomed from the beginning even though it lasted longer than it should have, until 1985. First of all, Edwards was never able to get over his insecurity of not being as great as Elvis. In an interview with Daily News, he admitted, "It was in my own head. She was always telling me: 'Just be yourself, that's who I love. Tell me your fears. Tell me your weaknesses.'" But it was to no avail, and Edwards' issues eventually led to the couple's breakup.

Though the far more disturbing reason that Presley should have left Edwards much sooner is because he was attracted to her teenage daughter, Lisa Marie. Not only did he admit to the gross behavior in his book, "Priscilla, Elvis and Me: In the Shadow of the King," but Lisa Marie picked up on it and was already disgusted with him. She later told Playboy, "Oh my god, can I use the bathroom before I talk about this sorry a******? (via Elvis Australia). She then added, "I know he wrote a book and said he lusted after my developing body as I got out of a pool. He made his attempts at coming into my room and being inappropriate while drunk."

She ran a business in the '70s

Aside from the massive changes to her love life following her divorce from Elvis, Priscilla Presley also gained the freedom to pursue her own career goals. She wasted no time, and by 1973, she was co-owner of a boutique in Los Angeles called Bis & Beau with her business partner and friend, Olivia Bis. When talking with Ladies Home Journal, she explained, "Olivia and I worked together on all of my outfits; I'd think up some kooky creation, and she'd fit it to a pattern. After the separation, I had to make up my mind about what I wanted to do, and since I had worked with Olivia for such a long time on my own clothes, I decided to try it professionally" (via Elvis Australia).

Running the shop was a fun venture for Priscilla over the next few years, but she ultimately decided it was not for her. Before the decade ended, she sold the boutique and was already taking on her next challenge: starring in commercials for Wella hair care products.

Her respectable career in TV and film

Priscilla Presley began to attract the attention of Hollywood right after doing her first commercials in the late 1970s, but she was in no rush at that time to progress to an acting career. When talking with Interview Magazine in 1979, she revealed, "I've been offered quite a few things, but for now I'm happy with what I'm doing. I like commercials and I like advertising." Presley then added, "I'm working because I want to work. I want to do something that I enjoy."

In fact, a career in the film industry did not seem to interest her much at all at first, for she explained, "I believe in what I'm doing now. I'm not looking for fame, fortune, and stardom, I just like feeling as though I'm doing something constructive." However, that changed dramatically in the early 1980s. Presley made her TV debut in 1983 in a movie called "Love Is Forever," and before long she became a major character on the hit soap opera "Dallas." For the next two decades, Presley made several more appearances in both film and TV, such as starring alongside Leslie Nielsen in the "Naked Gun" comedies.

She has a son that you don't hear much about

By 1987, Priscilla Presley had gotten into her most serious relationship since leaving Elvis, with music producer Marco Garibaldi. Although the couple never wed, they were together for two decades and had a son, Navarone Garcia. In his early adult life, Garcia purposefully avoided the spotlight by moving six hours away from the family to Santa Cruz right after he turned 18. He later told People, "It was an escape. It was a fresh start. Santa Cruz is a little portal that sucks you in." He also said, "A lot of people know about me. But they don't know me." And at the time, he seemed to prefer it that way.

However, when Garcia was in the news in 2008, it was for the wrong reason: a tabloid reported that he was growing marijuana. The incident was the most severe case up to that point in a life of being somewhat difficult for his parents. Garcia admitted, "I got in trouble more than everybody else, because kids' parents would find out who my mom was, and they'd want a reason to talk to her. I wasn't very comfortable with it." To make matters worse, his issues with drugs became considerably more dangerous as his heroin addiction unintentionally shifted to a dependence on fentanyl.

Yet, before the situation became deadly, Garcia managed to seek the help he needed and stopped using hard drugs in 2020. Reinvigorated with his improved health, the aspiring musician hopes to take his band, Them Guns, into new heights in the future.

If you or anyone you know needs help 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).

Priscilla Presley's takeover of Graceland

Priscilla Presley has lived a life full of impressive accomplishments, though arguably her greatest is the way she managed the Graceland estate following the death of Elvis Presley in 1977. Even though the terrible financial practices of the King caused his wealth to fall to $5 million, Priscilla turned everything around dramatically by transforming the property into a tourist attraction. By the time Lisa Marie was ready to inherit the place in 1993, Priscilla's brilliant plan increased the inheritance to $100 million, as reported by People.

Her success should not just be attributed to her capabilities, but also to her great love of the home thanks to the unforgettable memories Priscilla formed there with her loved ones. When talking with "Today," she said, "It's like I never left. I'm here right now and it's like I can visualize [Elvis] walking down these stairs. There's so many things that I look at and I go, 'Wow,' and it takes me right to those moments. And it's sad many times because, obviously, that time was so special."

She had temporary custody of her grandkids

Unfortunately, in 2017, Priscilla Presley and her family underwent a particularly rough period following the difficult divorce between Lisa Marie and her husband, Michael Lockwood. After disturbing accusations came to light, including child abuse allegations, the situation got so bad that Priscilla cared for her 14-year-old twin granddaughters, Finley and Harper, for a while (via People). To clear things up, she posted on Facebook, "There is lots of confusion, commotion, and concern from all the talk circulating. Let me put this to rest...the girls have not been in foster care and never will be. The girls have been with me and will be until all this is sorted out."

The court battle for custody between Lisa Marie and Lockwood continued over the following years, and then the situation became more complicated after her tragic death in 2023. Although Lockwood is likely to gain full custody, the sisters also have a say in their future and their preferences are likely to be taken into consideration.

She's mourned the loss of her daughter and grandson

In 2020, Priscilla Presley endured a set of far greater tragedies beginning with the death of her grandson, Benjamin Keough, who died by suicide. The loss was particularly rough for her, as she posted on Facebook, "These are some of the darkest days of my family's life. The shock of losing Ben has been devastating. Trying to put all the pieces together of all the possible whys has penetrated my soul."

Then just three years later in 2023, Presley's woes continued when Lisa Marie suddenly died after suffering from cardiac arrest. To honor her daughter, Presley read aloud a poem granddaugher Riley Keough wrote called "The Old Soul" that showed the extent of her grief. The reading ended with, "'She knew that I loved her. I fear I would never touch her. But the old soul is always with me. She doesn't drift above.' That says it all and thank you all for being here... Our heart is broken. Lisa, we all love you" (via People).

She is very pleased with Baz Luhrmann's Elvis film

When a filmmaker produces a biopic with at least some intention of honoring the people in focus, there is not much better praise than having one of them thoroughly enjoy the film. In the case of the 2022 movie directed by Baz Luhrmann, "Elvis," Priscilla Presley was highly impressed. In an interview on "Good Morning America," she said, "I'm sitting there watching this movie and going, 'God, I wish [Elvis] could see this.' It was perfection. This is a movie that he would have really loved — showing who he was, what he was striving for, what his dreams were."

Having the portrayal of the man she loved so greatly done right is one thing, but coming out of the viewing satisfied after awkwardly watching a version of herself on screen might be an even better compliment to the actress who played her, Olivia DeJonge. Priscilla said, "I'm so happy that she was sensitive and that she was caring." Even better, she then added, "I was pleasantly surprised."