There was a point sometime in the ’90s when it was tough to escape Niki Taylor. The supermodel was the first to ever grace the covers of six fashion and fitness magazines in the same month. Known as the “Niki Six,” a title given by Entertainment Weekly, the covers included Vogue, Allure, Elle, Self, Shape and Marie Claire.
At a time when European models dominated the scene, Taylor broke through as an All-American from Broward County, Florida. It all started early.
Taylor began her modeling career at 14 with a local South Florida agency. Soon after, she flew to New York where she signed a $500k contract and posed on her first cover for Seventeen. By 15, she was on her first Vogue cover – making her the second youngest model to do so after Brooke Shields.
She also holds the record for having appeared on more Allure magazine covers than any model in history. She was the first spokesmodel under the age of 18 to be given a contract by CoverGirl. In the Guinness Book of World Records, she’s credited as the youngest model to sign a six-figure deal – at the age of 14. She also became the youngest person to be featured as one of People’s Most Beautiful People, in a photo spread taken in Miami Beach.
Years later, she remembers her first runway appearance as her most unforgettable moment. “That was probably the most memorable: doing the shows with all the top girls,” she told Fashionista.com. (Some of the “top girls” she’s referring to are Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell – maybe you’ve heard of them.)
With that success came tragedy. Just as her career was taking off, Taylor lost her younger sister, Krissy, to an unexpected and undiagnosed rare heart condition called Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia, or ARVD. The sisters had appeared on several magazine covers and in campaigns together including CoverGirl. Then in 2001, Niki was involved in a near-fatal car accident. The supermodel was left in a coma for six weeks, underwent 56 surgeries to repair her spine and needed a blood transfusion that required blood donations from different blood types in order for her to live.
Through the difficult times, Taylor drew on support from her family. And these days, it’s usually family that brings her back here. Taylor attended Pines Middle and Cooper City High School. Her parents, Ken and Barbara Taylor, worked as a highway patrol lieutenant and a photographer, respectively.
Today the current Nashville resident never misses an opportunity to visit her old stomping grounds, where her family still resides. “We always go to the beach; seeing my parents with my kids brings so much joy,” she says. “My mom is the best cook and I have the best conversations with my dad.”
She lives a quieter life than she did as a ’90s modeling phenom, but she’s still in the business. In fact, she was the face of Lilly Pulitzer’s new location opening on Las Olas earlier this year. “The Percilla tunic dress [is my favorite Lilly Pulitzer piece] because it’s perfect by itself or over a bathing suit,” she says.
She was excited to be in her hometown celebrating two things she loves: fashion and Fort Lauderdale. “Lilly’s iconic prints are a perfect fit for the tropical Florida landscape,” she says. “I was born here so to me, it’s always been breezy, Boho and carefree.”
With over 400 covers under her belt to date, Taylor stays grounded insisting she relates more with people in her hometown than she does with celebrities. “I was never into the fame game or being competitive,” she says. “I only compete with myself to be the best person I can be and do the best work I am capable of. Every day is a blessing and I want to make the most of it, not for fame or status but for me and all those around me.”
The model, with her distinctive beauty mark, shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. She loves to work and always has something going on, but her goal this year is to “continue to explore business opportunities that make sense for me and my family.”
Just last year, she made her first swimsuit appearance since the ’90s for Swimsuits for All’s summer campaign alongside plus-size model Ashley Graham and singer Teyana Taylor.
What is the biggest difference between the modeling world today and the modeling world in the 1990s? “I admire how the models of today are able to balance the demands of the business with their social media obligations,” she says. “To be young and able to let so many people in and open yourself up to admiration and criticism is difficult and I applaud that.”
At the same time, she believes young models today have to be wary of these things that didn’t exist when she was coming up.
“Don’t let the validation that comes from social networking go to your head,” she says. “Be confident in yourself and your beauty, don’t listen to the critics…use this time and opportunity to empower your peers.”
“I’m so pleased that the industry and the world [are] pushing the boundaries of what was for so long ‘the norm.’ This is a great time to be in fashion, where models are finally able to have a voice.”