Australian model Cat McNeil’s back is a cluttered canvas with a bleeding dagger, a fly with bat wings, a scorpion, a hangman’s noose and roses, dominated by the mantra “Never look back in anger “.
Some images are darker than ink, but McNeil, 33, says that like her engagement to former American NBA player Miles Plumlee, her love of gardening and her return to modeling after a three-year hiatus, tattoos bring joy.
McNeil’s wearable life story is on display in Australian denim label Ksubi’s latest campaign, marking its latest comeback. “It’s a part of me that intrigues a lot of people, and I’m happy about that,” McNeil, 33, said. “I am very proud of the work. Back when I started, tattoos were taboo.
That debut came nearly 20 years ago in 2003, when a 13-year-old McNeil won the Girlfriend model search magazine, beating compatriot Ruby Rose, to whom she was briefly engaged in 2010. Following an exclusive contract with controversial photographer Mario Testino and cover appearances on French vogue and V magazine in 2007, McNeil was catapulted to model status, becoming a regular on the catwalks at Chanel, Prada and Jean Paul Gaultier.
French vogue named McNeil one of 30 best models 2000s, alongside Gemma Ward and Gisele Bundchen. Like his peers, McNeil’s career was marked by periods of bright flash exposure, followed by seasons spent avoiding the lens. The Ksubi campaign marks the end of one of the model’s longest retirements.
“It was good to be back and working with a team that I knew,” McNeil said. “It was shot at my house and it looks a lot like me. I remember saving up for a pair of Ksubi jeans when I was young, and it’s still my style.
In the three years McNeil has been away from the industry, modeling has changed, with greater size and gender diversity, as well as increased visibility for mature models such as Kristen McMenamy, 57, Shalom Harlow , 48, and Linda Evangelista, 57.
“Don’t forget Kate Moss, Mariacarla Boscono and Stephanie Seymour,” adds McNeil. “It’s really nice to see that there is no longer an expiration date.”