When it came time to select a cover model for this year’s Health & Beauty issue, all eyes turned to Taylor Makakoa—and not just for the obvious reason. Oh, sure, the statuesque 5-foot-10 Hawaiian—whose credits include a steamy photo spread in the April 2011 issue of Maxim—has the beauty angle covered. But she’s much more than just the proverbial pretty face who supplements her modeling career—which began at age 12—with a night job as the onstage assistant for Mirage headliner Terry Fator (who also happens to be her husband).
Her commitment to a healthy lifestyle includes a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, a fitness routine that ranges from yoga to rock climbing to 3-mile daily walks with her three dogs, and an undying devotion to … chocolate. Lots of chocolate. “I prefer milk chocolate, but I don’t discriminate—I’ll eat anything that’s in front of me,” says Makakoa, whose family relocated from Oahu to Las Vegas shortly after she was born. “For a while, I had gotten so bad that I switched to 90 percent dark chocolate. I hated it, but I was able to satisfy that craving. Then Halloween came, and I’m eating so much of it … boxes a day! It’s disgusting.”
When did you know you wanted modeling to be a career?
I started performing hula when I was about 6, and so many hula girls came in and out of our lives. One of them was a model, and she suggested when I was 12 years old that I go down to one of the modeling agencies in town. So I went and they signed me, and a few years later I started traveling all around the world. It happened naturally because it was an easy way to make money—it was not an easy way to make money, sorry; it was a way to make money. It was a lot of pressure at first, because I was so young … but I loved it.
True or false: Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder?
Definitely true. We are taught at a young age to believe what everyone believes is beautiful. If you take society’s constructs away, then you can see for yourself what you’re attracted to and what you think is beautiful in yourself. [Beauty] is being true to yourself. And I know that’s so [cliché to say] now, but I really do believe that.
The idea of conforming to small nose, small waist, nice curves—it’s just not realistic for people. So embracing who you are, being healthy, exercising and whatever body shape comes from that, is beautiful.
How frequently do you work out?
I like being active; I hate working out. So I like to do things like yoga, and I’m trying to get back into martial arts. And I recently started indoor rock climbing—I’m rock climbing every other day. And my goal after my [rock-climbing] membership expires is to pick something new, like archery. Then after that maybe go into martial arts—just constantly moving and evolving so I don’t get stuck in a rut.
Is there one exercise routine you’d pay money to never have to do again?
Cardio—hate it so much. We have an elliptical [machine] at home—don’t want to use it. It’s tedious, and I hate staying in one spot. That’s why I’ll walk my dogs and run with them. The gym kills me, too. Something like jujitsu or martial arts, where you’re moving and it’s conditioning your body at the same time—that’s great, because your mind and your body are working. When you’re in a gym, it’s just your body, and my mind goes crazy.
You have a bachelor’s degree in nutrition science. So carbs, fat or sugar—what’s the biggest dietary sin?
Oh, they’re not sins! I guess sugar, but I love sugar so much that I wouldn’t call it a sin. But I’d say minimize the sugar.
I remember in school, my teacher wouldn’t allow anyone to say “carbs” because, with the Atkins diet, [the word carbs] started to develop this stigma. But carbohydrates are so important to our health and to our energy and to our brain function. Protein? I don’t know why Americans think they need more protein. We get too much protein, and it goes to your body as fat.
What’s the best and worst part of working with your husband every night?
There is no worst part—honestly, I would tell you if there was. The best part is that I can pretty much decide what I want to do. For example, we were doing a hoedown dance in the show for a little while, and I hated it. So it’s not in the show anymore.
Can you talk without moving your lips yet?
No—no thank you. I leave that to Terry. Enough puppets already!
What’s the one beauty secret you swear by?
Can we do two? These changed my life. Pilates is great, but it’s so expensive. So I did some research and found the AeroPilates Reformer. Most reformers are thousands of dollars—the best one I found was $4,700—and Pilates classes are so expensive, like $500 for 10 classes. The Aero Reformer is [about] $400. So if you go take some [introductory] Pilates classes, you can work out on a real reformer in your own home for a reasonable price.
Also, for my face, the Clarisonic—amazing! I thought it was a gimmick, so for years I wouldn’t use it. Then someone bought it for me for my birthday, and I almost re-gifted it. But I used it, and then my mom and my sister started using it, and it has changed our lives. It’s so great at exfoliating, keeping your face toned and tight. It really does deep-clean your face. I just love it.
How often do you step on a scale?
Once every few months. I don’t weigh myself—it’s very depressing. … What I want to do is do more indoor rock-climbing, get more toned and then step on a scale! I don’t want to know what it says now.
What are your best and worst physical traits?
The best is I have extremely long limbs. So for rock climbing, it’s great, because I can just reach and I’m at the top. The worst [trait] is that I have really long limbs, because I grew so fast that I have really bad knees, so I can’t do things like jump rope, anything that’s high impact. Even running really hurts.
You’ve been in Maxim, Vogue and Playboy, and have done a lot of fashion runway work. What’s the one dream-come-true job you’ve had?
I’m going to be in Sports Illustrated in February in an ad for the LVCVA [Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority], and that is a dream come true, definitely. Maxim was a dream come true. It was sort of the pinnacle for me. I had actually booked—and it’s so hard for me to talk about this because it just makes me cringe—Victoria’s Secret’s fashion show, and my car got stolen and I didn’t get back to them in time. So I look at that as my missed opportunity, and I couldn’t grasp the idea of even wanting it again. So I replaced Victoria’s Secret with Sports Illustrated. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do.
What’s your advice for the 16-year-old aspiring model?
Don’t buy into the body image. If they tell you you’re fat, it’s the wrong industry for you. Some people are naturally thin. But the reason so many girls end up doing drugs and becoming anorexic and bulimic and developing disorders is because they’re told every single day that they’re fat.
Where’s the most exotic place you’ve worked?
Probably Malaysia. I did a 7UP commercial in the mountains of Malaysia, and I cannot imagine anything more exotic than that. I saw creatures that I never imagined [existed].