The multifaceted model, actor, entrepreneur returns to her beloved American West to talk weddings, haircuts, and what happens next
Photography by DAVID ROEMER
Fashion Direction by PETRA FLANNERY
Words by ROB HASKELL
In September, on the New York set of a cover shoot for the Greek edition of Vogue, Taylor Hill did something she’s been wanting to do for years: She cut her hair. Or, rather, a team carefully vetted by her agent cut it. After all, when you’re a major model with an instantly recognizable chestnut mane, you don’t place yourself in any but the most skilled hands. But Hill, 27, was ready.
“When things are going well in your career, you think, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’” she explains. “I had really nice hair, and a lot of it. Thank you, Dad! But long hair never really felt like me.” It would be tempting to view Hill’s transformation in the context of other famous fashion metamorphoses, where a mid-career reboot might give a model a new freshness. This fall saw the ultimate fashion chameleon, Linda Evangelista, back in the zeitgeist thanks to Apple TV+’s The Super Models. Evangelista credits the photographer Peter Lindbergh for pushing her to get a career-defining chop. Hill hasn’t seen the docuseries yet — she’s waiting to watch it with her new husband, the English-born financier Daniel Fryer, next time their busy travel schedules place them in the same city. They can’t ever seem to decide what to watch together, and she thinks it might give him a window into her world. Hill acknowledges that Evangelista was an inspiration for this haircut, but to hear about the last year of the younger model’s life — beautiful, painful, transformational — is to understand that a change to the surface of things signifies something deeper and more personal.
It’s a sunny October afternoon in Beverly Hills, with enough of a crisp autumnal breeze to justify jeans and a sweater, but sufficient warmth to necessitate an iced coffee from Joan’s on Third, one of Hill’s inevitable stops on visits to Los Angeles. Hill, sitting on the terrace of her sister and brother-in-law’s house high up in the canyon, is wearing her favorite vintage Levi’s and a big, intensely cozy camel-color cardigan from the German knitwear master Iris von Arnim. It has been a few months since her wedding in Winter Park, Colorado, the town where her parents moved when she was 14, and where she was almost immediately discovered by a talent scout during a riding lesson at a dude ranch miles from her home.
Colorado is not only home to Hill — or as close to the notion of home as a fashion nomad, on the road for more than a decade, can claim — but it’s also where she met her husband at Aspen Jazz Fest a few years ago. “I think we fell in love there,” she says, “from day one.” The couple has bounced among New York, where they keep an apartment; London, where his work is based; and Nashville, where she owns a house and where Fryer, perhaps to the surprise of his old Eton chums, feels very much in his element.
RALPH LAUREN jacket, $4,990, shirt, $690, and pants, $1,290. BULGARI cuff single earring, $1,820. Studs, Taylor’s own.
“I’m a person who looks at Zillow everywhere I go,” Hill says. “I always want to know what it would be like to live in one place or another. My husband says, ‘You say that everywhere you go, Taylor! Pick a place.’” Five years ago, she visited a member of her team who was based in Nashville and, thanks to her usual scrolling, fell in love with a 1930s log cabin that had a touch of the Rockies in the Music City. It just so happened that her friend Lily Aldridge, the model who is married to Kings of Leon frontman Caleb Followill, also lived in Nashville and pushed her to join the party.
“I love how connected people are in New York, how when you make good friends, they’re really good friends because you’re kind of in it together,” Hill says. “And being in New York feels like being in a nucleus of fashion. But then, when I’m in Nashville” — she offers a deep, theatrical exhale — “I feel calm. I feel at home. And because of Lily, I’ve gotten to meet like-minded people. Nashville’s a little blueberry in a big red state. Musicians have similar lifestyles to models. They’re on the road a lot. So I’ve found people who kind of get it.”
Although Hill is perhaps best known as a Victoria’s Secret Angel (she is, in fact, the youngest model ever to land a contract with the brand, at age 18), the designer with whom she has the most natural affinity is Ralph Lauren. They have been working together for a decade and share a romance with the American West. Hill has never visited Lauren’s ranch in Telluride, but she recalls talking about the magic of Colorado with him the first time they met at a casting. “I remember he got out of his chair, walked up to me, held my hand, and said, ‘You look so much like Audrey Hepburn,’” she says. “I said, ‘Who’s that?’ I was 17. My mom, who was there with me, was so embarrassed. She said, ‘I’ve failed you as a mother!’ Of course we went home and watched all the movies.” Hill, who has essentially grown up on the runway, has had her share of mentors over the years. She says Karlie Kloss was her generation’s supermodel — kind, cool, smart, and hardworking. When she was coming up, the greats of the 1990s were, as she puts it, “these untouchable ghosts. But those girls brought substance and personality and individuality to the business, which transformed it. A lot of modeling is purely physical, but it’s also what you have on the inside and how you project it outward. Artists may work with clay or paint or with their instrument or their pen. In fashion, the medium is us — we get to be the vessels. It’s not just how you look but how you bring designers’ ideas to life.”
“I had really nice hair. Thank you, Dad! But long hair never felt like me”
MAXMARA blazer, $2,890, pants, $1,260, and belt, $1,050. POMELLATO necklace, $8,400. CARTIER watch, $10,200.
Social media has changed the business, too, since Hill started in the days before Instagram. And while it is tempting to focus on the toll of social media, particularly the false reality of perfection it presents to young girls, Hill sees its redeeming value. “Social media gave models an opportunity to show people who they really are,” she says. “I’ve never wanted to be perfect. I’ve always wanted to be really organic and just be myself. It’s exhausting not to be. I have no posting schedule. I don’t use it as a tool. I just use it as a way to connect with people.”
Never did that sense of connection feel more important than in the spring of this year, when Hill’s beloved miniature labradoodle, Tate — a fixture on her Instagram and well known to her fans — was diagnosed with lymphoma only a few weeks before her wedding. Tate was Hill’s constant companion through the seasonal whirlwinds of an international modeling career, so his sudden illness, at age nine, was devastating. Only days before the wedding, Tate’s condition deteriorated and he ended up in the ICU. Hill rarely left his side. But he pulled through, seeming to save the last of his strength for Hill’s nuptials.
“It was one of those moments where I realized two things can be true at once,” she says. “I was really grieving, but I was also celebrating. Having Tate there — to see the love he got, for him to be able to say his goodbyes to every person he’s ever loved — was so powerful and special.”
“I hate the phrase. ‘He’s just a dog,’” she adds. “If you’ve ever had a soulmate who’s a dog, then you get how deep the connection can be. Maybe it’s weird to say, but I see a lot of Tate in my husband. They both have this brightness about them and are unfazed by anything. I think Tate really approved of Danny. We both got to be there when he passed. It was as though Tate was saying, ‘This is your person, and I know I can go because you’re going to be good together.’”
Hill credits her online community for providing her with the support she needed as she was balancing the joy of early marriage against the pain of losing Tate. “I got so much reassurance that I wasn’t alone in what I was feeling,” she says. “Those little moments are why I have such an appreciation for social media. It can be noisy and scary, but it can also be really beautiful.” Hill is in the middle of building a business called Tate & Taylor, an online community and marketplace for pet owners scheduled to go live next year. “The pet industry is very crowded and confusing,” she says. “There’s just so much out there. I want other people to feel like they’re not alone, that there’s a place they can trust.”
MICHAEL KORS COLLECTION cape, $3,990, turtleneck, $650, pants, $890, and belt, $795. GRAFF bracelet, $115,000. CARTIER ring, $1,940.
Tate & Taylor is not the model’s only side hustle. She and her younger sister Mackinley are in the early stages of developing a jewelry brand. Hill also dipped her toe into acting a few years ago, finding a surprise second home. She has a small but crucial role in Danny Turkiewicz’s comedy Stealing Pulp Fiction, which stars John Rudnitsky, Cazzie David, and Jason Alexander. It’s set to debut at the winter film festivals next year. “It’s been a slow build for me,” she says. “I have terrible stage fright, and talking in front of people is not my thing, so acting didn’t necessarily seem like a natural segue.” Her first role was in 2016’s Neon Demon, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. “Man, did I have fun on that set. Something clicked for me. I felt like if I really took my time and learned about the craft, I could do something cool there.”
Hill dropped out of high school at 14, and although she believes there are many ways to get an education, books have been her constant teachers over the years. She is a passionate reader, at times devouring more than one tome in a day. She and her husband love to travel: He encourages her to run, jump, and plunge with him; she helps him relax and do less. Hill travels for a living and cherishes nothing more than carving out time to open a book, whether it’s a novel, nonfiction, or self-improvement. Before Hill got into therapy, she was reading about it. “I feel so grateful to be able to Zoom with my therapist,” she says. “Tune-ups, check-ups, check-ins. It’s been helpful to have a third party to talk to, to process my grief from Tate passing and the challenges of marriage. You’re learning this person and learning how to love someone. It’s life-changing. I want to do my best at growing together and being good to each other.”
In September Hill was in Georgia, working with a nonprofit that focuses on rescuing dogs from kill shelters, when she stumbled upon a six-month-old all-black German shepherd. “There were 255 dogs in this camp, and I went around and met all of them, every single one,” she says. “And I was drawn to this one dog who made no sense for my lifestyle, but I just had this tunnel vision for him.” Later Hill located the dog in an adoption center in Pennsylvania, and Salem (she named him after the black cat from Sabrina the Teenage Witch) is now the newest member of the family.
As for growing their family in other ways, Hill is in no rush. Her generation of models includes a few very famous young women who have sometimes been accused of doing the work with a yawn or a roll of the eyes. Not so Hill, who still sometimes pinches herself. “I really do love my job,” she says, “and I’ll be here as long as they’ll have me. I didn’t know who or what I wanted to be as a kid. I had no dreams. My parents probably worried about me most of all my siblings because I never said, ‘When I grow up I want to be this or that.’ I’m still weirdly directionless — I let my passions take me where they’re going to take me. But modeling found me, and then I found myself.”
GIORGIO ARMANI stole, price upon request, and pants, $1,595. CARTIER necklace, $87,500.
PRADA sweater, price upon request, and pants, $1,990.
BRUNELLO CUCINELLI sweater, $1,995, shirt, $2,550, pants, $2,295, belt, $1,295, and coat, $10,995. LOUIS VUITTON boots, $1,840. CARTIER ring, $3,500.
VALENTINO dress, $16,000. BULGARI cuff single earring, $1,820.
BURBERRY coat, $3,550, dress, $3,550, skirt, $1,990, and tights, $3,550. JIMMY CHOO boots, $1,350. MARCO BICEGO cuff, $9,500. BULGARI cuff single earring, $1,820.
SAINT LAURENT BY ANTHONY VACCARELLO jacket, $4,490, and belt, $750. JIMMY CHOO boots, $1,350. POMELLATO bracelet, $22,800. CARTIER earrings, $7,750.
Hair by BOBBY ELIOT at The Wall Group using AUTHENTIC BEAUTY CONCEPT.
Makeup by KARO KANGAS at Forward Artist using CLÉ DE PEAU.
Manicure by ZOLA GANZORIGT at The Wall Group for OPI.
Prop Styling by ALI GALLAGHER at 11th House Agency.
TAYLOR HILLS wears GIVENCHY jacket, shirt, and jeans; BUCCELLATI bracelet, TIFFANY & CO. ring; and BULGARI cuff single earring. Studs, Taylor’s own.
Feature image: HERMÈS cardigan, $14,300, jumpsuit, $13,300, and boots, $2,575. MARCO BICEGO bracelet, $4,610. BULGARI cuff single earring, $1,820.
This story originally appeared in the Winter 2023/2024 issue of C Magazine.
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