Posted by Stephan Moskovic | May 9th, 2016

Niki Taylor was that vibrant supermodel of the 90s, with her brilliant white smile and the kind of All American beauty able to appeal to everyone from Covergirl to Versace. A ubiquitous presence in 1990s fashion and popular culture, the multiple Vogue, Elle and Allure cover star faced an unimaginable loss when her younger sister Krissy, also a model, died suddenly in 1995. What followed for Niki was a gradual withdrawal from the fashion industry as she grappled with personal tragedy as well as a complicated pregnancy, motherhood, addiction, and a bitter divorce — all by the age of 20. Now 41, and the mother of four children, Niki is back and better than ever, ready to pick up where she left off — but with the added wisdom and insight that only age can bring. Welcome back, Niki Taylor!

A Models.com interview by Betty Sze
Intro by Rosie Daly
Portrait by Steven Yatsko for Models.com

Covers courtesy of New York Model Management

Niki’s Vogue Covers

I remember you still as one of the biggest supermodels of the 90’s. What have you been doing since then? I know you’ve been working but you have children?

I think I started in ’87 and ’88. Probably around that time I started, I was like 13. I think about 11 or 12 my mom was taking pictures of me and we made a little comp card. We sent it to all of the local agencies in Ft. Lauderdale in Florida. Nobody called… so we did it again. My mom is a photographer so she shoots everybody pregnancy photos, Christmas photos, and she also does a lot of portraits… she was good friends with Irene Marie in Miami and so she kind of found models for Irene Marie. She always sent them to her. Anyways, Irene Marie did call me… JJ… do you remember JJ?

Of course, JJ Cortez! He found quite a few top models. It was so sad to hear that he passed away.

Yes it was. JJ is the one that brought me into Irene Marie. He was a scout there. So I signed with Irene Marie and 6 months later, with Irene Marie and another model, we all went to New York City and we saw a lot of the agencies here. That’s where I met Joel from Next. Joel and Jimmy started an agency called Spectrum. And there was a Spectrum modeling competition and I won that. That was my first agency and then they had closed down… then I went with IMG.

So how old were you when everything started happening? When was your first cover?

14! Yeah, my first cover was Seventeen Magazine at 14 with Paul Lang, shot in the Hamptons. I remember saving my allowance, riding my bike to Eckerd, which used to be a drug store in my area. I would buy Elle Magazine because I wanted to be in it and then to shoot with Gilles Bensimon? it was magical. You know, Gilles used to shoot under all of those alias’? They were all his photos in there… I was like “Oh my gosh I am going to shoot with Elle Magazine!!” That one and Harper’s Bazaar of course… and Vogue. All of them, you know? But there was just something about Elle that reminded me of the beach and just always being healthy and sunny and Florida. I do love New York City so much, though; every time I come here, I’m so taken back by the buildings. I just couldn’t believe I was coming to the city. I appreciate everything because life is a gift.

Niki’s Elle covers

That was when you were 14, right?

Yes. And then at 15, I was still doing a lot of Seventeen, Mademoiselle and I think at 16 I did Vogue! That was when I started doing Vogue and then shortly after that I got to sign a contract with Covergirl and Liz Claiborne and I was doing all of the shows. My first show was just before I turned 15. It was Thierry Mugler in Paris with model, actress and characters. It was so amazing, I brought my dad. It was the best! I have to say that was probably the best show because it was my first and Danilo did my hair in this 50’s style, he just teased it with the Aqua Net and then I had this bouffant from the 50’s.

So, at what point did you take time off to have the twins?

I was at the top of my career, I think I fell in love when I was only 18. And then I got pregnant right away…I had the babies at 19 and divorced by 20. So, I… yeah. I was not in a good marriage, I was a young mom. I did struggle which I’m very open about. I did struggle with prescription pills, I had a very difficult delivery. I had a difficult pregnancy with the twins. They did not want to come out. I was induced at 8:00 in the morning and they didn’t come until the next midnight at night. I couldn’t feel anything and I had lost a lot of blood and was in a lot of pain. I was sent home with Percocets. I went on my way and you know, being in a bad marriage and those kind of… I don’t know it just helped me deal. I was emotionally in pain and I wanted to get out of it. Then my sister passed away shortly after that. So, the prescription pills were the only way that I could feel happy and still… I could just numb the pain. I was in a lot of pain and I didn’t handle my sister’s death very well and at the time, now my ex husband and I are friends, but at the time divorce is never nice. That’s all I’ll say about that. But I think the universe throws you a “hey, you need to get back on the right path” and I feel like, life is about choices. So, those were my late teens and my twenties and that was my journey. Those were the choices I made, but I love being a mom and my boys are so amazing and I love them so much. Thank God I had them! But I couldn’t wait to get out of my twenties. But, that was my journey and I’m grateful for it. I know why I went through those things. I’ll never understand losing my little sister when she was 17. That is always a hole in my heart and always will be. She was 17 and I was 19.

I remember that. Everyone was devastated.

Yeah and nobody knew about that heart condition. It was something that could have been detected with an EKG. It came out of nowhere… there were no signs. We weren’t warned by anything. It was ARVD, a right ventricular dysplasia. It’s a fatty tissue to the right vein to your heart. It happens in a lot of young athletes believe it or not, and it’s also hereditary. So, all of that happened and… I decided to take a break from work and go save my life. It was the best decision I made. I did lose a very big, two very big contracts. My agency at the time was not very happy with that. But…

Niki’s Elle covers

You make choices and you chose to act to save your life.

You do, you make choices. Exactly, I think that’s way more important.

This business sometimes is but sometimes is not very forgiving. They’ll let you go a little bit, but then they’re like… come on…. Those kinds of things that you went through you need more time…

Also being in an adult world and thrown into it. I was such a people pleaser, I said yes to everything. I think I said no to three jobs in my whole life. One was because a photographer wasn’t nice to me, the other one was because I didn’t believe in the product, and the third was because I had the flu. Those were the three, but everything else I’ve always said yes to. I’ve always showed up and I was always there until my addiction kind of took over. So yeah, the decisions you make and the things that you go through… Like I said, I’m grateful for it and what I learned from it was that those were my 20’s, I am grateful for it, I learned from it, and now I listen to that still, small voice. I can ask for.. I don’t know, I feel like you can ask God or the Universe… I believe in the Law of Attraction too. I believe if you really want something and it’s in your heart and you’re a good person and you help others, stuff will come to you. So, that’s where I’m at now. I got to fall in love again and get married. I have two more beautiful babies from it.

Almost like the next phase of your life.

Yeah it is. And you know what? I appreciate the go-sees now because I am trying to get back into the business. I still want to work. I am 41 and I feel like there is a place for me. I’m in the best shape that I’ve ever been in my whole life. I’ve got more energy now than I did back when I was 18! I’m just ready to work again.

So just revisiting, you have worked with so many of the legendary photographers. Who were some of your favorites and why?

Well I just got to hang out with Patrick [Demarchelier] for a few minutes before coming over here. Patrick was always a favorite because he was so easy and he just let you be you. I think when there is not a lot of fuss and you know your lighting and all of that, it’s easy you get the picture. It’s in the moment and there is no overkill. Those are the photographers that I love and Patrick is one of them. Also loved Arthur Elgort, Herb Ritts, Peggy Sirota I just worked with her… Gosh there are so many amazing photographers. I just worked with Walter Chin again. He hasn’t changed one bit, it’s so nice. Gosh… all of them.

Niki’s Bazaar covers

Who were your Vogue covers by?

My first Vogue covers were by Patrick Demarchelier and Arthur Elgort. And my favorite Vogue cover is definitely the cover with my Chanel rollerblades. Arthur shot that one, and then the 100th Anniversary one with all of the girls. Patrick shot that one.

What was a super memorable job?

Oh my gosh I have so many! I swam with dolphins in the (Florida) Keys for a Mademoiselle cover. That was with Paul Lang. Also I was jumping on icebergs in Iceland with Paul for German Vogue. I think the shows because I got to hang out with all of the girls and meet the designers, be in a different country, taste different foods, and travel. I think that it’s so important that everybody travels. I think you have to get out there. You can’t just be stuck in your town. But, memorable jobs… shooting with my little sister Krissy and all of the jobs we did together and the fashion shows we did together.

Niki’s Cosmopolitan covers

So you had friends at the shows like you said. Who were you closest to?

Probably Tyra. All the time with Tyra (Banks), we also did Covergirl together so we were really close. Also Rebecca Romijn and Susan Holmes. Those were the three that I used to hang out with and I still hang out with Susan, we’re still close.

What has helped you in this business?

I am so grateful for many things. Because I was so young when I started I traveled with my parents and so I always had someone to talk to but I am you know, at heart, a loner. I do like my “me” time. I’m so appreciative of this industry. I’ve met some amazing artists and worked with so many amazing people. But, you know I think you definitely have to have a good support system around you. You’ve got to have good friends and family… if you have that, you’re set. You’re good.

Niki’s Seventeen / Shape covers

How do you like social media? Do you think you would have enjoyed being all connected back then?

Absolutely, I love it now but I definitely would have loved being connected back then because I just remember traveling with cases of CD’s so I could listen to my music and how genius it would be to just have it all on one device. I just remember going to the shows and I’d have to take the CD out. And yes, I would have been able to talk to my boyfriend. The social media part probably not as much back then, but just as long as I could talk to my boyfriend.

How was it being on being a judge for “Make Me a Supermodel”?

Make Me a Supermodel was so much fun because Cory, my agent at New York Model Management, we reconnected and he’s now my agent. We just had a blast on that show. I did not enjoy the judging part, because I am not a nasty person. I’m like… whatever makes you feel beautiful, whatever makes you feel good, you eat whatever you want… you know? *Laughs* I just can’t judge someone, I’m sorry. But it was a lot of fun and our show was live to tape so it was crunch hour all the time.

And then how about Celebrity Apprentice?

The most difficult thing about Apprentice was the time crunch and then trying to delegate jobs to everybody and keep everybody happy with all of the big personalities. But it was so great, got me out of my comfort zone for sure. But it was an honor to be fired by Donald.

Niki’s People covers

What is so different nowadays from back then when you were on top?

Well nowadays you can post about your shoot on Instagram. You don’t have to wait for 3 months for it to come out in a magazine. Technology wise it’s come a long way. But what I do appreciate is… having a conversation, looking into each other’s eyes, finding out about you and you finding out about me. Nowadays everyone is like this [looks down at phone to demonstrate]

I feel like a lot of the young girls, nowadays, they’re not that comfortable with talking. I think it’s also a part of the reason you’re successful. I think you make it very easy to have a conversation with. Not only because you’re ridiculously beautiful but because you like being with people and this business at the end of it is a people business.

It is! Exactly. It’s about relationships, it’s about people. Asking them how they are, and you know, that hasn’t changed. And we’re all older. That has changed! *laughs* We’ve got a few more wrinkles and our babies are getting older. So I guess is that good?

Niki’s Allure covers

How about who are some of your favorite designers? I’m sure there are a lot…

There are a lot. Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, definitely Thierry Mugler. Ferre, Jil Sander. Anna Sui… Marc Jacobs… all of them.

Do you have any favorite pieces that you like to wear?

Do you know I’m such a big purger from my closet? Now I just have a couple of pieces that I’m going to give my daughter when she gets older. They’re mostly bags, Chanel bags, I have a Fendi bag, I think I have a Chanel cardigan. But I give everything away. If I haven’t touched it…

Niki’s Self covers

Do you know any of the new generation of models?

Hmm… yes I do. Karlie Kloss. She’s gorgeous, she’s beautiful and I’ve heard she’s super nice. Cara Delevingne is beautiful and, you know why I like her? Because she’s real and I was such a tomboy too growing up. But I was a lot more shy than her. I wish I had just let it go sometimes and that’s what I appreciate about her.

That’s great! What are some things that you have on the horizon. Your fragrance? That was from 10 years ago…

Yeah that was a long time ago, it was over 10 years ago. 2005 is when we started it. You have to have big money behind you to do that. I’m still so lucky that I’m just still working. But, I’ve always wanted to own my own brand. I’ve got a lot of great ideas that I’d like to come out with. I just really enjoy working. I feel like there’s just still a fit somewhere for me. Whether it’s anti-aging or something. There’s always stuff on the horizon. Like the Law of Attraction, it’s going to come.

GlamourStrip1
Niki’s Glamour covers
I swear you haven’t aged. There is some painting somewhere that’s getting old because you’re not getting old. What words of advice would you give your kids if they wanted to model?

Well my daughter and I got to do Russian Allure and she turned into such a ham… and she’s really good at it. I have not taught her one thing. It’s just already in her. So, if she wants to do it I would absolutely encourage it for sure. If my boys wanted to, absolutely.

Any words of advice not only for them but for any aspiring models?

Definitely don’t sign anything without legal advice! Make sure you really read those contracts and the fine print. And don’t take it so seriously. You have to laugh at yourself, you have to stay true to yourself. Come up from the phone every now and again and have a conversation with somebody.

So practical! That’s perfect advice.

And then you know, again we always say life is about choices. And don’t get tattoos! I’m getting my tattoos removed now…

Oh! Why?

I used to say “Oh it’s a memory! It’s this” but now it’s kind of like, ugh. Now everyone’s eye goes to it or something so I’ve been in the process of removing them. They just don’t mean as much to me and I went a little crazy in my twenties.

Because you evolve…

You do. Exactly.

And it’s a permanent thing.

Exactly. Get the henna. Get the fake ones… they make really good fake ones. My sons, they draw theirs out and then take it to a place. I’m like, why didn’t I do that?

 

11 Comments to “Niki Taylor”

  1. formerbookernowscout says:

    Wowww models in the nineties smiled on the cover… and looked very healthy and glamazonian…. would be nice if that type would come back or we would see more of that in magazines…and not only catalogs… 😉
    Niki is Gorgeous! Hope to see her more…. amazing!! Get it girl!!!

  2. seth sabal says:

    I am really glad that Niki mentioned JJ as the scout that found her, he had an incredible eye and sense for what was the next big thing. Niki is gorgeous on the inside and out and that comes through very clearly in this interview. Bravo.

  3. miguel says:

    Niki Taylor was so interesting, her photos were sublime. I remember with nostalgia the cover Vogue España 1991 with Marco Glaviano, and the covers Elle.

  4. Alice says:

    This is brilliant – Niki was always an icon to me growing up, someone who I looked up to and to me the epitom of a super model!
    So pleased that she is back and looking better than ever!
    Can’t wait to see what happens next!

  5. Lisa says:

    Niki’s honesty is refreshing and she is still as beautiful as ever!!!! Love this interview.

  6. PATRICK SALVATORE says:

    NIki Taylor is the epitomy of what hard work, perseverance and strength mean. She is truly an inspiration both to the fashion world and beyond!!!

  7. Christine says:

    She looks beyond amazing! She still has it! What an amazing story too, so inspirational

  8. Grace says:

    An inspiring woman and a true American beauty so refreshing to hear the journey of overcoming adversity welcome back Nikin

  9. Gustavo says:

    YAYY!! She still looks great!! And considering she´s got five children now… WOW!! 🙂

  10. I love how refreshing this interview was, she was real and honest and it brought so many good memories of the 90´s to see her covers and to read about her past experiences as a model. It´s great to see how she remained normal and grounded after such a huge successful modeling career. Niki has this thing like Carolyn Murphy: great looking American supermodels with a great heart and ready to do the best she can, there´s something that irradiates about her, she is truly lovely. Thanks for this delightful interview models.com.

  11. pardisa says:

    I am really glad that Niki mentioned JJ as the scout that found he. Niki is gorgeous on the inside and out and that comes through very clearly in this interview. Bravo.

Leave a Reply