About Jennifer O’Neill
Jennifer O’Neill was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the grand-daughter of a Brazilian bank president, and the daughter of a famous Spanish-Irish medical and dental supply import/export businessman, Oscar D’ O’Neill and his English wife, Irene (“Rene”) Freda, a homemaker. O’Neill and her older brother Michael were raised in New Rochelle, New York and Wilton, Connecticut.
When she was 14, the family moved to New York City. On Easter Sunday, 1962, O’Neill attempted suicide because the move would separate her from her dog Mandy and horse Monty — “her whole world”. That same year, she was discovered by the Ford modeling agency and put under contract. By age 15, she was gracing the cover of Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen and other magazines. She hit the top of her field within a year or two with other magazine covers and commercial advertising.
An excellent rider, O’Neill won upwards of 200 ribbons at horse show competitions in her teens. She saved up her modeling fees and bought a horse, Alezon, who balked before a wall at a horse show, breaking O’Neill’s neck and back in three places, and giving her a long period of recovery. She attended New York City’s Professional Children’s School and the prestigious Dalton School in Manhattan. Later, she moved on to films and worked in a number of television movies and series.