One of Australia’s most successful international modelling exports is eyeing a dramatic comeback.
Catherine McNeil, one of the most in-demand models for more than a decade, is set to return to the spotlight three years after stepping off the catwalk for a career break in Perth.
The 33-year-old, Brisbane-born beauty is believed to be planning on a return to modelling’s headquarters New York in the coming months.
McNeil walking for Isabel Marant in 2018 at Paris Fashion Week
McNeil has taken to Instagram recently to hint of a return to modelling with a series of striking selfies
Catherine McNeil would grace the cover of Vogue Australia several times
Sources close to McNeil, who exploded on to the international modelling scene in 2007, opted to step away from the industry at the start of the Covid pandemic for personal reasons and has been laying low with beau Miles Plumlee – an ex-NBL and NBA player – in Perth.
More recently it’s understood she has relocated to the Sunshine Coast.
‘Cat chose to take some time out from what is a very demanding lifestyle,’ a friend told Daily Mail Australia.
‘But she is back in a place where she is ready to work again and eventually I think will head back to New York where demand for models in their 30s is huge.’
A winner of the Girlfriend Model Search at age 14, McNeil soared to international superstardom in 2007 when she appeared on the cover of French and Australian Vogue and racked up campaigns for fashion giants Versace, D&G, Jean Paul Gaultier and Donna Karan.
McNeil has rarely been seen since the beginning of the pandemic. Seen here in Paris in 2019
In her final appearance for Chanel, 2019, McNeil broke down at what was also tribute for the late Karl Lagerfeld
One of the few models who was sought after for both for editorial and on the runway, McNeil also appeared in many high-profile runway shows during the 2007 season including Balenciaga, Givenchy, Dior, Fendi and YSL.
That year Style.com chose her as one of the top ten models of the season.
Kirstie Clements, who served as editor of Australian Vogue from 2006 to 2012, recalls her first meeting with McNeil aged just 15 – just prior to her international breakthrough.
‘She came into the Vogue offices and she was really young so we knew we had to wait a little while but she was one of those girls that you look at and you just know,’ Clements told Daily Mail Australia.
‘You can tell that you’re only going to have access to a girl like that for a certain amount of time and then they’re just going to take off.
‘There was just something special about her. And she was so cool, too.’
Clements notes McNeil had the rare quality of being both in-demand by the world’s best photographers as well as earning a reputation as one of the hottest runway commodities.
‘And it’s not often girls can do both. There were only a few around at the time,’ says Clements, who featured McNeil on no less than six Australian Vogue covers.
‘This was a time where there was a big swing away from celebrities on covers when readers really responded to Australian models.
‘And Catherine was one of the girls that just had a huge following.’
Her personal life would also often make headlines with the openly-bisexual McNeil briefly linked to Dutch supermodel Freja Beja Erichsen before dating Ruby Rose.
The high-profile couple would later become engaged before splitting in 2010.
Ruby Rose (L) and McNeil shared a brief engagement which ended in 2010
McNeil seen here with new love Miles Plumlee – an American-born former NBA player
Miles Plumlee is pictured above in action for the Perth Wildcats in 2020
It’s understood she has been dating American Plumlee – a former NCAA superstar for Duke University – since 2018.
Plumlee last played for the Perth Wildcats in the NBL, winning the National championship in 2020.
It’s believed the pair now reside on the Sunshine Coast.
McNeil’s return to modelling comes at a time when gains in diversity and inclusivity mean women are now working well into their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond.
Puppy love: Posing with her pooch on her Instagram account recently
McNeil and beau Miles Plumlee are believed to have recently relocated to the Sunshine Coast (pictured)
A snap of McNeil shortly before she disappeared from public view back in 2019
Emma Balfour, an Australian modelling ‘it-girl’ during the nineties, headlined Australian Fashion Week in Sydney this week at age 43.
Internationally veterans like Kate Moss (48), Caroline Murphy, (47) and Lara Stone (43) remain amongst the highest-earning models in the world – trumping even newcomers like Hailey Bieber and Bella Hadid.
‘Everything is completely different now compared to ten years ago,’ says Clements.
‘You only have to look models walking in the shows now they’re in their late 40s.
‘It’s all changed for the better…age, size, gender, ethnicity the whole thing.
‘There just isn’t the restrictions there used to be. Girls don’t have this window like they once did.’
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