Business & Career

Why Model, Mother, Author and Health Influencer, Abigail O'Neill is one to watch this year

by Rosie McKay

Making a comeback after time away from the spotlight, the 43-year-old model shares her wisdom and secrets on ageing naturally and gracefully

At 43, Abigail O'Neill recently made her debut at MBFWA opening for Thomas Puttick amongst other professional 18-year-old models. She was a perfect fit having already had a very successful modelling career and also as establishing herself as a respected health and lifestyle author and blogger. 

She is leading the way and inspiring many of young girls to embrace their natural beauty, get back to living naturally and leave the surgery and botox aside.

See.Need.Want's, Rosie McKay chats to the model from Bali...

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How does it feel to be named an “Influencer TO Watch” in 2018?

Ha yes loved that! I do feel that after many years of hype with instagram and influencers, that brands are now seeking out more genuine role models to collaborate with. Meaning, people who actually stick to their guns whatever that is, when it comes to what they'll promote via social media. For me that's cool because from the very start it's always been about authentically sharing what's in line with my life passions and organic ethos regardless of what was trending.

It takes a lot of courage to step away from something at the peak of success like you did almost 6 years after releasing Model Chocolate in 2012 – what did you learn in those years out of the spotlight? Did you ever worry about not being able to make it again?

Although I’ve had success with my book, modelling and sharing my health tips over the last few years, my no 1 commitment has always been to my family. Losing my younger sister, then mother, then best friend, then topping it all off with one of my adult children having severe anxiety, I didn't really have any choice but to withdraw. It was a struggle to see the light for a long time. Now, it's nice to be feeling a little more like myself, with even more empathy, and the wisdom which only life experience brings.

What lessons did from being in the spotlight the first time round that you are keeping in mind as you step into it again now?

Everything changes, for instance, the recent Instagram shake up. Fads come and go. Everything is transitory. We must build ourselves on core values, our happiness on real day-to-day relationships, and our success on genuine energy and authentic ideas. If something is not meant to be that’s okay too! It has never been about popularity for me. I'm just sharing as I have for a long time now, because I do love to inspire others with what has been most useful in my life.

How do you want to use your influence?

To make our beautiful world a healthier, nature preserving and restoring, happier place. We've come a long way, but still there's so much to be done! I love influencing younger women to live more closely to nature, to discover their own naturally diverse beauty and nature's power to keep them at their most radiant without leaning on surgery or botox.

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What do you think is the biggest misconception when it comes to ageing?

That you need to be old to be wise and that you need to be really young to be radiantly beautiful. That age should limit us in some way, I don’t accept that, I still believe I can be on the front cover of Vogue some day so I’d like to think that I’m out to change at lease one of those misconceptions, but if nothing else I hope I can help other women realise you’re never, ever too old to dream or start something new!

What is the message you hope to spread to women of a younger generation like your 23-y/o daughter about ageing and how to accept ageing gracefully?

It's totally all about how you feel, as cliche as that sounds! As you get to my age (middle years), it really is less about how you look. You should know and at least ‘like’ your best features by then and you should know how to project them to others. If younger women focus on taking good care of themselves holistically instead of looking to a quick fix in their beauty regimes they’ll end up happier and more able to respond well with even more positive choices when the first signs of ageing set in.

As much as people often flatter me with compliments, I'm beginning to see signs of ageing in myself, more-so in the way I feel. So my plan of attack daily, is to find ways to make myself feel good, feel well and feel happy. There's no fake magic pill or button for that!

What saddens you most about the growing trend of injectables to stop the ageing process?

Girls in the their early 20s are already having these procedures which I find absolutely frightening! I am 100% for ageing naturally. I have never had any enhancements done to my face or body, and will not be beginning now. I've seen it cost happiness countless times to people I've known, and lessen genuine confidence too. Sadly it's a trap, a vicious cycle and I personally feel an addictive form of self-sabotage, because most of the time, it doesn't actually make one 'more beautiful'. Social media with all its comparisons, distorting apps, focus on the outer has done much of this irreversible damage. I went down to an a-cup in the bust post breastfeeding our children. My lips are definitely thinner than when I was 16, and there a fine lines on my face. Beauty is in your laughter, your smile, your kindness, your truth, your compassion, your service to others. I know people may think I’m a model so it’s easy for me to say, but models are some of the most self-critical people on this planet! We must all learn somehow that comparison is the thief of joy. Love your life. Look for natural, health benefiting ways to feel good from the inside out.

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When did you become fascinated with a healthy way of living and who introduced you to the Cacao and an organic way of life?

I was about 13, and took over my mother’s vegetarian kitchen to escape picking up rocks and sticks on our 100 acre property we lived on at the time. Cacao, much more recently, as carob was the only way to go when all we could get was sugary chocolate in years gone by. I learned to create with the raw chocolate making ingredients about 10 years ago when they first began to be available in Australia. From there it's been an incredible journey of contribution. I still feel honoured when I walk into a cafe in some remote town and discover their raw treats came from my book!

What does a typical day on a plate look like for you?

3/4 of my daily plate is made up of an abundance of seasonal fresh fruit and raw vegetables, with the inclusion of superfoods such as raw cacao, goji berries, seaweeds, barley green powder, spirulina, maca root, fermented veges, some cold pressed juice now and then. The other 1/4 is made up of some cooked foods such as whole GF grains/legumes and some cooked vegetables. On occasion I also like to supplement my diet with (homegrown, organic only) softly poached eggs and raw honey, as I feel them highly beneficial in balancing my body. For years I've experimented with a plant based diet to get it just right for me.

How does living in Byron help to champion your diet and beauty beliefs?

It's definitely easier to apply my nature loving alternative lifestyle in this region! The beaches are crystal clear and there are waterfalls galore to be discovered. There is a real love and passion for wellbeing, natural solutions for ‘medicine’ as well as plenty of organic, locally homegrown foods bursting from the roadside stalls, health food shops and farmers markets. It’s definitely an area that nurtures my lifestyle, but having said that it’s also getting a lot easier to get a lot of these benefits in city areas, which is great.

Do the rest of your family eat a similar diet to you?

Yes and no. I fuss over the boys a lot as it’s just me and them at home now since my daughter moved out. I get up and make them delicious manfood savoury breakfasts and pack them organic lunches before 7am. If left to themselves I know they wouldn't be choosing a raw cacao treat and Supersmoothie over piles of bread (even though I do make

good sourdough) as a snack, or an authentic vegetable curry and brown rice over vegetarian (gluten gah!!) sausages for dinner. So yeah...I do drum it all into them.

What are you most proud of in your life?

My children.

What are the three changes that someone could make today that would improve their health immediately?

Go organic vegetarian. Eat raw cacao treats and fresh berries - even if they're expensive - in place of sugar. You deserve it! Live close to nature.

What impact do you think that genetics and heritage have played in your youthful looks?

Absolutely a huge part of my looks are due to being blessed with wonderful skin genes of my precious Portuguese Mumma. That said, you simply can't arrive at 40+ and look young, without having lived well. Last week I was asked for ID in a place I usually wouldn't be, when I went to listen to my son performing music. Genetics won't do that for you at 43. You have to have taken very good care of yourself. I’ve made a lot of positive lifestyle choices over many, many years, but it's never too late to change. Your body will always respond to the power of cleansing, raw nutrition, hydrotherapy, sunshine, fresh air, positivity, rest, nature.

You don’t have cheat days – what are your top tips for avoiding the cheat day trap?

Definitely eat raw cacao instead of cheating!! It's satisfying, rich in vitamins and minerals, libido boosting, hormone balancing, mood enhancing, and actually takes away cravings for junk foods. I have lots of raw cacao recipes on the blog of my website abigailoneill.com - also see my book, Model Chocolate. You honestly won't crave bad foods when you put the good foods in for long enough, promise!

Tell us about your exercise regime – what do you do and how often do you workout?

I don't actually 'workout'. I do take long walks 3 x weekly, try to surf (I ride a longboard 9.4 single fin!) at least once a week depending on work commitments, and I chase waterfalls in my Byron Hinterland region a lot! Climbing, jumping, swimming are my favourite ways to move naturally. I've also just started consistently doing yoga at home (it's funny you can see me in my new account @the_ageless_yogini) as I want to be more flexible and continue to have excellent balance in the coming years.

Intermittent fasting is gaining momentum – why do you love it and what benefits do you see from it? How many days a week do you fast?

I don't really fast this way, although some would count the early part of my day to day eating as almost fasting. I eat pretty light most of the day, usually I have only raw foods in the warmer months until about 4pm but that's not super rigid, if I need something more warming or balancing at lunchtime I'll have it. I like to eat a main meal dinner I make for my family in the evening, so suits me well to eat mostly raw alkalising foods through the day.

I do however fast 'seasonally' (four times a year) for 5 - 7 days on fresh juices and with plenty of water.

What are your three fave Cacao-based recipes and why?

My 'Forever Young Halva', made using raw sesame seeds. This is a huge favourite of mine, Keep it in the fridge and raid whenever you need minerals++!

Many of my other favourites you can see here http://abigailoneill.net/category/freerecipes/

Describe your style – what’s your go-to look that always make you feel a million bucks?

My style is very effortless and minimal from day to day. Blame Byron shire!! I'll throw on something silk or denim over my swimmers, moisturise with cacao butter, coconut oil, or squalene oil (from olives - antioxidant rich), pop on a flick of mascara, done! I do however love haute couture. When my daughter was little we'd dress right up in op shop gowns we'd find and galavant down the paddocks rolling in the grass, picking flowers.

What are your top three beauty products?

My salt glow, I use this three times weekly. It's simple to make - sea salt + epsom salts 50/50, then you add in any essential oils or spices you love best. Coconut oil for all over moisturising. Essential oils of frankincense (face), peppermint, rosemary, and others, daily for beauty, perfume, plus I find them uplifting.

What is your face DIY face mask?

Right now my favourite face mask is pure aloe vera strips from my garden. I've been using the inner gel in my Supersmoothies, and then the skins make excellent highly absorbable plumping hydrating masks for the skin. Layer them over your face with black seed or rose hip oil. Steam. Pat dry. Repeat and see the results!

Why is now the right time to realise your dream of modelling in Europe and landing the cover of Vogue?

Young things hardly get given these opportunities every day. Why should it be any different for someone like me now? Sometimes the ‘right’ time is just the time you end up with to focus on something.

When can we expect a second book from you?

I can’t put a time on this…but I’m beginning work on a beauty book with all of my ageless lifestyle secrets inside! So stay tuned!

Buy a copy of Model Chocolate as an E-book or Hard Cover Book - http://abigailoneill.net/store/

Follow Abigail On Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/abigailoneill/?hl=en

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Credit: All imagery provided by Bleach PR.
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