Gail O’Neill, Top Model Turned News Correspondent, Dies At 61
Gail O’Neill, 61, a top model-turned-correspondent for The Early Show, died Oct. 10. A cause of death was not released.
Deadline reported the news on the famed model who appeared on the covers of Vogue and Essence and was included in the coveted Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in 1992. The first-generation Jamaican-American had a successful career in modeling upon being discovered in the 1980s, walking for top fashion houses such as Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan and working for big-time companies like Revlon.
She was by no means destined to be a model. “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 as the punchline,” she once said.
However, her impact on the diversity of her profession was immense. O’Neill was one of the initial members of the Black Girls Coalition, which advocated for the upliftment and better treatment of Black models. She also stood firm on her values of equality and justice, refusing to model for companies that invested in South Africa while apartheid was still upheld.
As she transitioned out of modeling and into television, O’Neill emerged into a long-standing personality. Getting her start as a correspondent for The Early Show on CBS, she also starred in programming for CNN and HGTV. In her later years, she worked as editor-at-large for ArtsATL, a review platform for the arts scene in Atlanta.
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“This is such a devastating loss,” ArtsATL’s executive editor, Scott Freeman, said in a statement. “Gail was a great journalist who cared about her craft and the people she wrote about. She had a grand curiosity about the world, a hallmark of her writing style. She had the ability to take a reader along for the ride on her journey of discovery.”
O’Neill will be remembered for her style in fashion and prose, as her impact on activism, modeling, and journalism.