One of Australia’s most successful international model exports is eyeing a spectacular comeback.
Catherine McNeil, one of the most in-demand models for over a decade, is set to return to the limelight three years after stepping down from the catwalk for a career break in Perth.
The 33-year-old Brisbane-born beauty is believed to be planning to return to modeling headquarters in New York in the coming months.
McNeil walks for Isabel Marant in 2018 at Paris Fashion Week
McNeil recently took to Instagram to hint at a return to modeling with a series of striking selfies
Catherine McNeil has been on the cover of Vogue Australia several times
Sources close to McNeil, who exploded onto the international modeling scene in 2007, chose to step away from the industry at the start of the Covid pandemic for personal reasons and kept a low profile with handsome Miles Plumlee – a former NBL and NBA player – in Perth.
More recently, it is understood she has moved to the Sunshine Coast.
“Cat has chosen to take some time off from what is a very demanding lifestyle,” a friend told Daily Mail Australia.
“But she’s back in a place where she’s ready to work again and I think she’ll eventually go back to New York where the demand for models in their thirties is huge.”
A Girlfriend Model Search winner at 14, McNeil became an international superstar 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 pandemic began. Seen here in Paris in 2019
In her final appearance for Chanel, 2019, McNeil broke down in what was also a tribute to the late Karl Lagerfeld
One of the few models sought after both for editorial and on the runway, McNeil also appeared in numerous 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 was editor-in-chief of Australian Vogue from 2006 to 2012, recalls her first encounter with McNeil aged just 15 – just before her international breakthrough.
“She walked into the offices of Vogue and she was very young so we knew we had to wait a bit but she was one of those girls you look at and you just know,” Clements told Daily Mail Australia .
“You can say you’ll only have access to a girl like that for a while and then they’ll just take off.”
“There was just something special about her. And she was so cool too.
Clements notes that McNeil had the rare quality of both being sought after by the world’s top photographers and having a reputation as one of the hottest runway commodities.
And it’s not often that girls can do both. There were only a few at the time,” says Clements, who featured McNeil on no less than six Australian Vogue covers.
“It was a time when celebrities strayed a lot from the covers when readers really reacted to Australian models.”
“And Catherine was one of the girls who had just had huge success.”
Her personal life also often made headlines with McNeil being openly bisexual, briefly linked to Dutch model Freja Beja Erichsen before dating Ruby Rose.
The high-profile couple would later get engaged before going their separate ways in 2010.
Ruby Rose (L) and McNeil shared a brief engagement that ended in 2010
McNeil seen here with new love interest Miles Plumlee – a US-born former NBA player
Miles Plumlee is pictured above in action for the Perth Wildcats in 2020
It is 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.
The couple are believed to now reside on the Sunshine Coast.
McNeil’s return to modeling comes at a time when gains in diversity and inclusiveness mean women are now working well into their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond.
Puppy love: Posing with her doggie on her Instagram account recently
McNeil and beau Miles Plumlee are believed to have recently moved to the Sunshine Coast (pictured)
A snap of McNeil shortly before she disappeared from public view in 2019
Emma Balfour, an Australian ’90s modeling ‘it-girl’, headlined Australian Fashion Week in Sydney this week at the age of 43.
International veterans like Kate Moss (48), Caroline Murphy (47) and Lara Stone (43) remain among the highest-earning models in the world, surpassing even newcomers like Hailey Bieber and Bella Hadid.
“Everything is completely different today compared to ten years ago,” Clements says.
“You just have to look at the models walking the runways now that they’re in their late 40s.
“Everything changed for the better…age, height, gender, ethnicity, all that stuff.”
“There are simply no longer the restrictions that existed before. Girls don’t have that window like they used to.