How one agent changed fashion by opening the modeling world


In 1985 Gail O’Neill was selling copiers for Xerox when a photographer spotted the 23-year-old beauty at JFK Airport and gave her the name of model agent Frances Grill.

O’Neill had no portfolio and had never walked on a catwalk before she stepped into Click, the Manhattan agency Grill started in 1980. Plus she wasn’t used to seeing girls like herself — that is, black girls — in magazines or runways at all.

That didn’t matter to Grill. She took one look at O’Neill through her signature oversized glasses and signed her on the spot.

“Three days later I was working,” O’Neill told The Post. “Three months later I was on the cover of British Vogue.”

Grill died on Jan. 24 at the age of 90, just two weeks before the start of New York Fashion Week. Yet the iconoclastic, tough-talkin’, pastrami-loving Brooklynite could be felt everywhere on the season’s runways, which have gotten progressively more diverse thanks to her.

Click was inclusive “before there were any hashtags … before there were any boycotts and demands [for diversity in the world of fashion],” said O’Neill. “Frances looked around and said, ‘There’s something wrong with this picture.’ ”