Jackson, daughter of music legend Michael Jackson, said Taylor’s example has influenced her own philanthropy — especially within the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.
“Elizabeth was a real badass,” she told PEOPLE ahead of the Mothers2Mothers and ETAF benefit dinner Tuesday in Beverly Hills, which she attended with brother Prince. “It’s very rare that you see someone with that kind of influence really use their platform for something so important.”
She added of Taylor: “She wasn’t going to let the HIV/AIDS pandemic run wild as it directly impacted her friends and loved ones.”
Jackson, 19, was recently named the new ambassador, in a role she said touches her “familial roots.” Taylor, who died in 2011, was a close friend of Michael’s before his 2009 death and was even the teen’s godmother.
“She was a courageous and unstoppable force of change during a time when the government remained silenced on the ongoing crisis,” Jackson told PEOPLE of Taylor. “She demanded [government officials] give HIV/AIDS the attention it desperately needed.”
“Her story is an example of how one person can have such a profound and positive effect on the whole of humanity,” she continued.
As part of her duties, Jackson visited Malawi with the organization, where she met with those living in a small village.
“There I met a young mother who told us about her experience and how the mothers2mothers program has helped her journey,” she told PEOPLE of the trip. “If she had gotten medication sooner, she wouldn’t have passed HIV on to her child.”
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” she added. “The programs funded by ETAF are working hard to make sure mothers and families get the care they need.”