Niki Taylor has had quite the life. And we’re not talking about how, at 17, she skyrocketed to supermodel-dom, landing countless modeling contracts and magazine covers; or, how she now lives happily in Nashville with her husband, NASCAR driver Burney Lamar, their three children, and Taylor’s twin boys from a previous marriage. We’re talking about how, in 2001, Taylor was in a car accident that left her critically injured and, as she will freely tell you, forever changed.
In many ways, that change has been for the better. “After my accident, I was always thinking about who rolled up their sleeves for me,” Taylor tells InStyle. “I needed over a hundred bags of blood. When you think about a hundred bags of blood, it's like, ‘Who was that doctor? Who was that student? Who was that mom and dad who rolled up their sleeve and gave me a second chance at life?'”
We recently caught up with Taylor to talk about how she’s doing now, her current endeavors, and her selfie-taking tips—because we can’t talk to a supermodel and not ask that question.
Why is giving blood important to you?
It's important to me because I needed it in a matter of seconds. Everybody knows my story already, how back in 2001 I was in a car crash. We hit a utility pole—total freak accident. My liver was torn in half. My back had a fracture in it as well and I was rushed to Grady Hospital in Atlanta, where I needed over a hundred units of blood. The thing is, you don't think about it until you need it, and National Give Blood Day, which is June 14th, comes at a very critical time, due to summer shortages.
Why are there blood shortages in the summer?
Because everybody's out of school, they're busy with their vacations and they're not thinking about giving blood. It’s important because every few seconds somebody needs it.
Tell me about the Nexcare campaign that you’re promoting right now.
We're asking people to go to Nexcaregive.com and share their blood stories with others. There they can also find out how they can help, and find a blood center near them. Nexcare also created limited-edition bandages, which feature eight designs inspired by patterns and textiles from different cultures from around the world to go with this year's theme to "Create a Culture of Giving." We’re calling them badges of honor. We're asking people to take a selfie with their badge of honor and share it on social media with the hashtag #giveinspires.
Any supermodel tips for taking those #giveinspires selfies?
I’m actually not big on selfies! I’ve got to have something in the picture with me, like an animal or a baby. It's just something that I will probably never get used to or like, but I think definitely always find good lighting. Daylight is always good. Maybe hold the phone up and not looking up your nose or at your gobbler, your neck.
You’ve been involved with this Nexcare campaign for a few years now, right?
Yes. The first year that I did it was four years ago and it was about fashion designs from different decades. It’s also how I got on the celebrity cabinet for the American Red Cross. The Red Cross has been in my family and in my life for a very long time. My mom and dad are part of the Gallon Club. My parents, they were always donating blood. My husband goes; I go with him all the time.
How many times a year do you give blood?
I can't give blood because I have a lot of scar tissue so what happens is my veins collapse. I think after a couple of years and after some scar tissue goes down, I may be able to give blood again. That second chance I got and the people giving me their blood—I always go back to it. Blood can't be made, it can't be reproduced; only a human can give it to another human. That's what makes it so important. As soon as I know I can donate, I'm going to.
I don’t think people realize that you’re still in recovery from that accident—I didn’t.
I had a good four years of recovery after 2001 because everything that I could've gotten, I did get. My lungs collapsed, I blew up, I almost died twice, and I lost a lot of blood. I have a lot of scars and a lot of stuff I've got to work around. A couple years down the road, I need back surgery. You have to stay positive. It's all about your attitude, your support system around you. I've always been a positive person just because of my family. If I didn't have that, gosh, yeah, we would probably be talking about a different story right now.
What else are you up to these days?
Well, I'm still modeling. Can you believe that? I'm 40-years-old and I'm still working.
You're beautiful, so yes, I can believe that.
[Laughs.] I've been very blessed.