However, her life took an unexpected turn in the mid-1980s when she was discovered and embarked on a successful modeling journey. O’Neill graced the covers of prestigious magazines like Vogue, Mademoiselle, and Essence.
Gail O’Neill was not only a fashion icon but also an advocate. She, alongside Naomi Campbell, was an early member of the Black Girls Coalition, an advocacy group for black models established by Iman and Bethann Hardison.
Throughout her modeling career, O’Neill stood firm in her refusal to participate in advertisements for tobacco products or companies with South African investments during the apartheid era.
With time, O’Neill ventured into the world of television. She played a pivotal role as one of the original correspondents on CBS’ The Early Show when it made its debut in 1999.
Her television career also included hosting programs such as Travel Now for CNN, Mission Organization, and Public Places, Private Spaces for HGTV. In recent decades, Gail O’Neill was actively involved in ArtsATL in Atlanta, where she resided.
She also made appearances in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition and featured in advertisements for prominent brands such as Avon, Revlon, and Coca-Cola.
Her modeling career saw collaborations with renowned designers like Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Perry Ellis, Marc Jacobs, and Michael Kors.
Fashion model and activist, Bethann Hardison, recently poured out her heart over the passing of Gail. Hardison made an emotional post on Instagram that the death of Gail, along with the departures of Nick Kamen and Jean Michel Basquiat, has left her in a state of profound sadness.
“I see how and have wondered why? Every other passing I embrace with sadness and emotion some less or more, but once again to hear that Gail was no longer alive was a stunner,” she wrote.
She disclosed she first crossed paths in the early ’80s, well before the founding of the Black Girls Coalition, of which she was a part.