The fashion world is in mourning as the news of model and cover girl Gail O’Neill has passed away.
O’Neill, aged 61, passed away on a Tuesday. According to Stephanie Grill, the Click Model agent who had represented O’Neill for many years, it is believed that O’Neill was in her Atlanta home at the time of her passing. The exact cause of her death was not immediately apparent, as stated by Grill. Apart from her sister Denise, O’Neill is also survived by her husband, Paul Viera, her mother, Elaine, and her brother, Randy.
Hailing from New York’s Westchester County, O’Neill was the second child of Jamaican immigrants. Reflecting on her childhood, she once shared, “By the time I was 11 or 12 years old, I was convinced that my tall, skinny frame was some sort of cosmic joke… with me as the punchline.” However, she would go on to make a significant impact in the fashion world, gracing runways and serving as the face of brands like Avon, Esprit, and Diet Coke. She also gained recognition for her appearance in the 1992 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
O’Neill’s journey in the world of fashion began in 1985. The statuesque five-foot-nine model was discovered by photographer Chuck Barry. At the time, O’Neill held a degree from Wesleyan University and was thriving in her career in marketing and sales at Xerox.
Just a few months after being signed by Click Models’ visionary founder, Frances Gill, O’Neill graced the cover of British Vogue in March 1986. Her ascent was seen as part of a renaissance of Black models in the industry at the time.
Along with being the cover girl for SI and British Vogue, O’Neill also covered Italian Vogue, American Vogue, and of course, ESSENCE.
The beauty covered plenty of magazines before making another career pivot and going into journalism. One of her initial forays into television involved serving as a correspondent on CBS’ The Early Show during its debut in 1999. Her television journey subsequently expanded to include roles at CNN and HGTV.
More recently she served as an editor-at-large, and covered arts and culture for ArtsAtl, a nonprofit organization in Atlanta, Georgia. Additionally, she took on the roles of host and co-producer for “Collective Knowledge,” a talk series aired on TheA network. Even after she moved to Atlanta and explored various professional endeavors, requests for O’Neill’s modeling services were still being made earlier this year, said Click Model’s founder, Frances Grill.
O’Neill’s family is currently planning to hold a celebration of her life at a later date.