Monday, February 26, 2024
HomeFashionModel and Journalist Gail O’Neill Has Died

Model and Journalist Gail O’Neill Has Died

Perry Ellis, spring 1987 ready-to-wear

Photo: Fairchild Archive / Getty Images

News of the death of Gail O’Neill, 60, a model and journalist, is spreading through Instagram. Her passing has been confirmed by her agency.

O’Neill’s life in fashion took off at JFK Airport. In 1985, arriving home from vacation, this 5’ 9” beauty was approached by photographer Chuck Barry. At the time, O’Neill was a Wesleyan University graduate working in marketing and sales for Xerox, and thriving in her career. She carried that success over to her new occupation. Just months after being signed by Click Models’ prescient founder Frances Gill, O’Neill landed the March 1986 cover of British Vogue and became part of what was being described at the time as a renaissance of Black models.

Born in Westchester, the second of three children of Jamaican immigrants, O’Neill would later say, “by the time I was 11 or 12 years old I was convinced that my tall, skinny frame was some kind of cosmic joke…with me the punchline.” She’d go on to make headlines, walking major runways and acting as the the face of Avon, Esprit, and Diet Coke, among other clients, and appearing in Sports Illustrated’s 1992 swimsuit issue.

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