Niki Taylor was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Ken and Barbara Taylor, a highway patrol lieutenant and a photographer, respectively. She was raised in Pembroke Pines, Florida, and attended Cooper City High School. She has an older sister, Joelle, and had a younger sister, Krissy (1978–1995).
When she was 13, Taylor signed with Irene Marie Models in South Florida. There she met photographer Jean Renard, who later became her manager. She subsequently won a Fresh Faces contest in New York City and a $500,000 modeling contract. Taylor’s first magazine cover was an issue of Seventeen (August 1989) at 14. The following year, at 15, she was photographed for the cover of Vogue, becoming the second youngest person to appear on the cover of the magazine, after Brooke Shields.