Niki…back with confidence: after a near-fatal car accident and 56 surgeries, supermodel Niki Taylor tells how she managed to regain her self-confidence, get on with her life and get back in front of the camera – Cover Story
The scars that crisscross her rib cage, pelvic area and back serve as a daily reminder for supermodel Niki Taylor of how far she’s come. Just over two years ago, she lay in a hospital bed on the verge of death — with serious liver damage she had suffered in a car accident. Now, scars and all, the hazel-eyed Taylor, who turns 28 this month, is able to smile, laugh and love again.
“It’s been such a long road,” says the soft-spoken, almost shy, model. “I was pretty much paralyzed after the accident. I had to learn how to do everything all over: breathing, walking, putting on a necklace, applying makeup, getting dressed and doing my hair. We never really stop to think about how amazing it is that we do the things we do every day — until we’re not able to.”
But the last thing this mom of 8-year-old twin boys wants is sympathy. Instead, she hopes people will learn from her experience how to overcome their own challenges. Her essential five steps to recovery, detailed here, have given her the confidence to take charge of her life once more.
Niki’s 5 essential steps to recovery
1 Be thankful for what you have and are able to do each day. We’ve all heard these words, but Taylor says, it’s not until you almost lose something that you really learn to appreciate it. She learned the hard way: “I remember lying in the hospital bed, unable to move. I had tubes coming out of my lungs, ribs, throat and liver. And I just wanted to drink a Coke, but I couldn’t because I wasn’t able to do anything for myself, much less drink anything besides the fluids that were being pumped through the tubes.”
What Taylor discovered through it all is that it’s the little things that are so important: “Just the sun coming up, your family’s faces in the morning, a roaring fireplace — these are the real pleasures in life.
2 Don’t ever give up, whether you’re fighting to regain your health or just trying to get back on track with your exercise or nutrition plan. “My advice: Keep trying, and if it gets too hard, realize that it’s OK to take a break,” Taylor says. “A lot of it is mind over matter. It’s OK to admit you’re having a bad day or a tough time. When that happens, allow yourself to slow down or do less.” Taylor keeps reminding herself of this now: Her strength is returning, but she’s still unable to do things at the demanding pace she kept up before the accident.
3 Don’t compare yourself to others — particularly models. The 5-foot-11, leggy blonde admits that even she struggles with the overriding media image of the “supermodel.” “As women, we all go through this [comparing ourselves to others],” says Taylor, who’s been modeling for 14 years. “I do too.” Instead, she says, we should realize that real beauty and sexiness come from feeling good about yourself.
4 Stay active, and take care of you. Before the accident, Taylor used to work out because she wanted to. But after the accident, she’s learned that exercise is something she has to do to get stronger and be healthy. After having to learn how to walk again, she now appreciates just being able to move.
“Regular exercise [at least three times weekly] is so important for how you look and feel,” Taylor explains. “I find now that after exercising I sleep better, my skin looks better and I just feel better overall.” Her favorite activities: hatha yoga (she practices three to four hours a week; “it helps with my flexibility and building up my core muscles,” she says), walking, bike riding with sons Jake and Hunter, Rollerblading and swimming.
Other things that work for Taylor: Staying away from excess sugar (although she confesses to not being able to resist the occasional sweet dessert) and added salt. If you reduce your intake, she says, you’ll be amazed at how incredible you feel.
5 Treat yourself. “It’s OK to book a baby sitter for the kids, get a massage, take a bath, sit down to read a good book,” Taylor says. “Each of us deserves a solid 45 minutes to an hour every day devoted just to us.” Taylor’s indulgences: sports and reflexology massages to work out the stress that keeps her shoulders tight, every kind of Italian food and mixing her own ice cream with treats like marshmallows and Oreo cookies. By occasionally treating yourself, you’ll get much needed pampering — and feel more fulfilled in the long run, she says.
So what does the future hold for Niki? “Right now and for today, I just want to continue being positive and strong. I’d like to eventually get married again and have another baby,” she says. And despite her scars and the two rods and six pins down her back, which continue to cause her pain, Taylor still feels like the luckiest girl in the world. And with the challenges she’s managed to overcome — in many ways she is.
“After everything I’ve been through, all I can say is ‘wow,'” Taylor explains, in awe of just how far she’s come since the car accident. “Every day just gets better and better. I’ve been dating someone new for more than a year, and it’s like nothing I’ve ever felt before. Love makes me want to work harder, and be stronger and be the best person I can. I’m alive and that’s all I care about. Know that no matter how bad it gets, you just need to keep smiling. It will get better.”
RELATED ARTICLE: NIKI’S 5 FAVORITES
Even supermodels can play favorites. Here are Niki Taylor’s all-time five favorite things — from beauty products to designers.
1. Lipstick M.A.C Lustre Lipstick in Plink! ($14; maccosmetics.com)
2. Shampoo/conditioner Matrix sleek.look smoothing system ($10, $11; matrix.com)
3. Fragrance Calypso Mimosa by Christiane Celle ($50; sephora.com)
4. Body wash Anything that smells good
5. Clothing designers Sage Star (sanctuaryclothing.com) and Hippie (323-890-9660)
COPYRIGHT 2003 Weider Publications
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group