Get to know #SISwimSearch contestant Katina Taylor!
Sports Illustrated: Did you have experience modeling before submitting an IG video or showing up in-person for #SISwimSearch?
Katina Taylor: I started modeling in 5th grade in Amarillo, Texas, with Diane Dick Modeling and Talent Agency. My mom was really great at recognizing our individual talents and interests. She was sure to direct my brothers and myself in the path of our dreams. She drove me an hour to the big city of Amarillo, Texas, to take modeling lessons weekly which then turned into modeling jobs.
My modeling from ages 10-17 consisted of print, commercials and runway. I attended the International Modeling and Talent Association in New York City at 17 to have exposure to top agencies, but at 5’8” I was a bit short. At 17, I was an Elite Look of the Year Finalist and told I had a good commercial look.
I continued to pursue my passions of modeling, acting and dancing and moved from my small town to Los Angeles, California, at 18. I was in a few commercials and an extra in 90210, Murder She Wrote, Baywatch, Baywatch Nights. Then the 1994 Northridge earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 shook LA and my parents enough for them to beg me to come back home.
After college, I worked in broadcast for WFOR-CBS4 in Miami doing weekly feature stories on the Miami Dolphins and their families on a segment called, Katina’s Corner. After three babies, I picked back up my love for acting and modeling in my 40s. Most recently, I’ve done national commercials for Beaches Resorts and Celebrity Cruise Lines.
SI: What does it mean to you to represent women in their 40s for this year's #SISwimSearch? In your opinion, does sexy have an age limit?
KT: It’s exciting to represent women in their 40s in this year’s #SISwimSearch. We have lived and we have learned. We have wisdom to share and that is beautiful. Loving ourselves and who we are as human beings is where confidence and true beauty resides at all ages.
There is no age limit on what defines sexy and beautiful. Being happy in our own skin, sharing love and compassion for others, and not needing the approval of anyone to validate who we are is beautiful.
SI: What do you kids think of you being a part of #SISwimSearch? Did you tell them before? Were they worried about you posing in a bikini for the world to see?
KT: I asked all three of my kids individually before trying out for #SISwimSearch. They are my priority and it is important to me to have their approval. They were super encouraging.
They are proud of me and if I can teach them to be kind, caring, spontaneous, brave, and fearless people who go after their dreams and passions, laugh at themselves, don’t take life too seriously and do what makes them happy, then I have already won in this life.
We live in South Florida where bikinis are a normal part of our attire. They know that I will represent myself and them in a light that will make them proud.
SI: What was your casting experience like in Miami?
KT: I was laying on my couch resting from a big trip I had just gotten back from and Instagram when I came across SI’s post for the open casting in Miami at the W Hotel. I immediately said to myself, “You should go for that!”
Then I started going back and forth in my head with pros and cons. I had a few thoughts of “I’m too old, give it up,” but I quickly overpowered those thoughts with positive ones. I knew that the legendary Sports Illustrated brand was embracing beauty in all its fullness. I knew I would never know if I didn’t try. I have three children and I was busy running them to their activities and appointments the day of the casting. I tried to stay calm all day by telling myself, “if I fit it in then it’s meant to be. If I don’t fit it in then it’s not.”
I could feel my anxiety building as my son’s football practice ran an hour late and that was the hour I had planned to blow-dry my hair. I didn’t have as much control over my nerves as the day went on and the clock ticked on.
I laughed almost the entire way down to the W. I was so proud of myself for just getting out my door and going to TRY. As much as I love the camera, performing, and can talk to a wall, I do get nervous, anxious and scared. I feel like I just kept forcing myself all day not to not think about it. Just JUMP! Just DO IT! Don’t think about the parachute and the risks because then I might have talked myself out of trying.
I got to the W and saw a large beach parking lot right across the street, but I decide to valet because there was only 30 minutes left in the casting and I was already cutting it close. The valet attendant told me today would be $50.00. I hesitated at the price, but felt I had no choice because I was cutting it close on time.
I was the very last person to be interviewed at the casting. I drove home with the biggest smile on my face feeling like I had already won because I conquered my fears and made it happen. I went home, made my kids dinner and just as I sat down to eat, I got a text saying CONGRATULATIONS! YOU’VE MADE IT TO THE NEXT ROUND.
I told my kids and their faces were priceless. The news and my children’s reactions brought happy tears to my eyes. I had to rearrange my kids’ schedules for the following day, and was back in Miami at 8am to try again with 60 other deserving women.
I was inspired by all the women in the room. Each and everyone of them had their own unique beauty and strengths. We were all together conquering our fears and going after our dreams. Then the announcement of Top 17…I felt like I was in a dream. Everything felt like it was in slow motion when my name was called and all I could think of was, “What if I NEVER even tried?”
SI: What does being a part of the SI Swimsuit model search mean to you? How do you plan to use this platform?
KT: Looking back to my 20 year old self in college and admiring the beautiful models like Elle Macpherson, Heidi Klum, Petra Nemcova, Rebeca Romijn and Marisa Miller to name a few–their radiant energy and beauty just came off the pages. I already felt my time had come and passed.
I was asked to be in the SI Swimsuit issue ten years later with my now ex-husband, Jason Taylor, but I was 8 months pregnant and declined. I thought there was a good chance they would ask me the following year and it didn’t happen. I am still in awe of how this opportunity fell in my path in my 40s. If I had not been on Instagram to see the open casting, if I had let fear get in the way of just trying, I would not have made it this far. I would still be saying, "I should have,” but now I can say “I DID!”
Being a part of Sports Illustrated is a blessing. I have the opportunity to share my stories and passions to help others in a capacity I could only dream of. My passions lie with empowering and inspiring women and our girls to be their BEST SELF–mind, body and soul. Sharing my tips on the importance of feeding our brain with positive messages, our bodies with healthy nutrition and exercise, and recognizing that our truest, most pure beauty comes from our soul are the broad points I would want to share. Issues of mental health, positive body image, self-love, and self-acceptance, are just a few areas in which I feel women can not get enough motivation.
My small town roots and the beautiful people that lived there have inspired me to be the woman I am today. My parents’ examples of strength, faith, love, compassion for others and zest for life are lessons I try to instill in my children everyday. I can always find happiness and contentment during the times I’m helping others. When I get outside of myself and put my energy and focus on helping other people, I forget my own worries and realize that this is what life is about. It’s always nice to have someone to pick you up when you are down, inspire you to stay strong when times are tough, and to remind you to focus on the positives.
SI: Can you tell us about the charity work you do in Miami with young children?
KT: Camp Katina was founded in 2006 to motivate and inspire young girls of South Florida to be their best self–mind, body, and soul. It’s a non-profit, two-day gymnastics and life skills camp at West Broward Gymnastics Academy in Davie serves over 60 underserved youth of South Florida ages 7-14 annually.
The campers come from the Overtown Youth Center, Urban League, and Boys and Girls Clubs of Dade and Broward County. Camp Katina is celebrating 13 years of impacting the South Florida youth.
The camp focuses on issues of self-esteem, confidence, body image, the importance of physical activity, positive thinking, self-love, self-acceptance, helping others, mental toughness and more.
See photos from our unforgettable runway show at Miami Swim Week: