Fashion / Style

Celebrating the Unparalleled Life Of Neal Hamil In Houston — A Legendary Manager of Supermodels, Major Agency Exec and True Gentleman

A Fellow From Baytown Who Took On the World

BY // 06.08.23

The celebration of Neal Hamil’s life — the legendary model manager, agency executive and debonaire gentleman who passed away in May — was a tear-filled ode to his brilliant career, his generosity of spirit and his loyalty to all who had the honor of calling him friend.

For those who didn’t know him well, Hamil’s legacy in the era of supermodels is well worth noting as this fellow from Baytown rose from playing French horn and strutting as high school drum major to attaining the realm of major domo for two of the world’s top modeling agencies.

The man with the enviable dimple and good looks that could stop traffic began modeling after a high school friend talked him into applying at the Ben Shaw Agency in Houston. He became so enthralled with the business that he soon founded The Neal Hamil Agency.

During his decade helming the successful firm, Hamil became close with Eileen and Jerry Ford of the famed Ford Modeling Agency. Their friendship was established when Eileen Ford visited Houston to judge Hamil’s model search contests. The duo found that they had the same vision for their models. They believed that their models should be treated with respect and dignity and nurtured into reaching their full potential.

With his eye for talent and his business success, Hamil was finally convinced by Eileen Ford to sell his namesake company and move to New York where he served as president of Ford Models worldwide.

An inseparable duo, Neal Hamil and Courtney Hopson attending one of the many galas they supported. (Photo by Daniel Ortiz)
An inseparable duo, Neal Hamil and Courtney Hopson attending one of the many galas they supported. (Photo by Daniel Ortiz)

“Eileen started me off at the top of the food chain. It was like being at the right hand of Louie B. Mayer at a movie studio,” Hamil told Out Smart magazine in 2019. He added that Ford invited him “into her inner circle of friends, hosting him every Saturday or Sunday at her country home where they would rub shoulders and ‘get a little drunk’ with the rich and famous at lunch, and then retire to her magnificent library for best-buddy time.”

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During his tenure running business operations, Neal Hamil personally handled talents including Stephanie Seymour, Texan Jerry Hall, Kristy Hinze Clark and Veronica Webb. One of the many moments he enjoyed recalling was the time he was tasked with firing Naomi Campbell, whom he had much earlier escorted to South Africa on one of his many international jaunts in search of new talent. Also among his stable of supermodels were Christie Brinkley, Cheryl Tiegs and Alessandra Ambrosio.

Cliffe Reckling, Annie Amante, Neal Hamil join the preview party of Fat Boots Trailer Park Bar on Washington Avenue in 2021.
Cliffe Reckling, Annie Amante, Neal Hamil join the preview party of Fat Boots Trailer Park Bar on Washington Avenue in 2021.

“The girls often told me how much they loved Neal for Neal,” recalls Greg Fourticq Jr., a personal friend of Hamil’s for some 45 years. “And they loved him for the level of protection and respect he offered them. It was invaluable in their success.”

Fourticq was one of several who spoke at the celebration at Geo. H. Lewis & Sons

Hamil took the young women under his wing and was involved in every aspect of their development. He introduced Webb, who became one of the first Black supermodels. He and Hinze jointly created Legitimutt, an upmarket dog accessory line. And he landed a multi-million dollar lingerie line for Seymore. These are just a few examples of Hamil’s special attention given to his models.

Hinze Clark and Webb were among those who attended the afternoon gathering. Seymour, Hinze Clark and Webb are planing a memorial for Neal Hamil’s numerous New York friends who were unable to make it to Houston.

Jill Cokinos, Neal Hamil, Courtney Hopson at Una Notte in Italia (Photo by Quy Tran)
Jill Cokinos, Neal Hamil, Courtney Hopson at Una Notte in Italia (Photo by Quy Tran)

When the Fords sold the agency, Hamil stepped aside fearing the new owners would not respect the legacy of the firm. He returned to Houston for a year before heading back to New York to run Elite Models. But by then the business had changed and the models were viewed more as chattels than talented young women. He resigned, a move that sent shock waves through the modeling world.

Returning to Houston, Hamil decided that his next act would be in luxury residential real estate. He thrived with Martha Turner and her namesake firm, now called Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty.

Model in Jenny Packham, Neal Hamil, Courtney Hopson, model in Jenny Peckham, Katherine Treistman at the Jenny Peckham cocktail reception in 2021.
Model in Jenny Packham, Neal Hamil, Courtney Hopson, model in Jenny Peckham, Katherine Treistman at the Jenny Peckham cocktail reception in 2021.

Longtime friend Libby Cagle Taft was among the speakers recalling Hamil’s sharp wit and his talent as a raconteur. Most poignant of all was the heartbreaking poem written and read by his constant companion of many years — Courtney Hopson. His sister, Karen Stueck, also spoke to the SRO gathering.

Neal Hamil’s unexpected death, at the age of 62, was the result of complications from a series of strokes.

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