Gail O’Neill, a top fashion model who became one of the original correspondent on CBS’ The Early Show, died Oct. 10. She was believed to be 61. No cause of the death has been released.
The daughter of Jamaican immigrants, O’Neill was born in Westchester, New York. She was working a marketing job for Xerox when she was discovered and embarked on a modeling career in the mid-1980s. O’Neill appeared on the covers of magazines such as Vogue, Mademoiselle and Essence, she was featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, starred in ads for such companies as Avon, Revlon and Coca-Cola and modeled for such designers as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Perry Ellis, Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors.
Along with Naomi Campbell, O’Neill was an early member of the Black Girls Coalition, an advocacy group for black models founded by Iman and Bethann Hardison. Throughout her career, she also refused to appear in ads for cigarettes or for companies that had South African investments during the apartheid era.
O’Neill eventually branched into television. She was one of the founding correspondents on CBS’ The Early Show when it launched in 1999 and also hosted Travel Now for CNN as well as Mission Organization and Public Places, Private Spaces for HGTV. Over the past two decades, O’Neill worked for ArtsATL in Atlanta where she lived.