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Supermodel Niki Taylor first appeared on the cover of Vogue at age 15, the youngest model ever to do so.
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The middle of three daughters, Niki Taylor grew up in a modest suburban home in Pembroke Pines, near Ft. Lauderdale in Florida. Her father, Ken Taylor, was a Florida Highway Patrol officer, and Barbara, her mother, was a former real estate agent. In 1989, Taylor's mother mailed photos of her daughter to modeling agencies. Taylor landed a spot with Irene Marie, a top Miami agency.
Taylor's career advanced rapidly. At age 14, she did her first shoot with Seventeen. "There's always one who comes along each year that you think is going to be a star," editor-in-chief Midge Richardson told People's Elizabeth Sporkin. "Niki is probably the most comfortable person of that age in front of the camera of anybody we have worked with."
Mindful of the dangers of letting their daughter travel alone on modeling jobs, Taylor's parents quit their jobs and took turns chaperoning her. When they couldn't travel, a relative or member of the management team would accompany her. By then they had hired an agent, lawyers, and a publicist for Niki and had formed a company to invest her money. Barbara Taylor brought Niki's older sister Joelle and younger sister Kristen (Krissy) along on one of the early shoots so they wouldn't get jealous. Krissy had a great time, but Joelle hated it. Within a year, Krissy was starting her own modeling career and appeared on the cover of Seventeen along with her sister.
Social critics bemoaned the use of such young models for adult magazines, but Taylor told Barbara Sgroi of Cosmopolitan, "Modeling came naturally to me -- I was just a normal kid who'd fly to Paris or New York City for the shows, then go back to school as if it were what everyone did." Taylor signed a multimillion-dollar cosmetics contract with L'Oreal at age 16 and later with Cover Girl. She was the youngest face to ever appear on the cover of Vogue and earned her first million by age 16.
At age 19, Taylor met and fell in love with Matt Martinez, a semi-pro football player; in 1994 they eloped. By age 20 she gave birth to twin boys, Hunter and Jake. She gained 70 pounds while pregnant, but was back to modeling within three months after their birth. The marriage ended in a bitter divorce two years later.
Taylor's seemingly charmed life was struck by tragedy when she discovered the lifeless body of her younger sister, Krissy, at the family home on July 2, 1995. Taylor phoned for help as her father desperately attempted to revive his daughter.
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