The 28-year-old supermodel from Coventry enthralling Leo DiCaprio

Neelam Gill was raised in a flat above a family shop, aced her A-levels, starred for Vogue and in Burberry and L’Oreal ads – plus she campaigns against domestic violence. So what does this formidable supermodel, 28, from Coventry see in Leonardo DiCaprio?

  • Leonardo DiCaprio was spotted with 28-year-old Neelam Gill from Coventry 

Beautiful young women seem incapable of resisting the charms of Leonardo DiCaprio.

The 48-year-old Hollywood star has, of late, been picking his way around the globe, enjoying an enviably long summer sojourn.

There was Cannes, then London, Paris, the Amalfi Coast and most recently St Tropez: glamorous locations matched only by the company at the actor’s side, which, quite apart from his actor pal Tobey Maguire and various family members, has frequently included an array of stunning women.

Among the beauties, however, one face stands out. For this particularly striking young woman has become an increasingly familiar sight at the star’s side ever since they were first spotted at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

Her name? Neelam Gill, a 28-year-old British model from Coventry, who grew up watching Bollywood rather than Hollywood and has racked up an array of achievements since becoming the first model of Indian descent to be cast in a Burberry campaign nearly a decade ago.

Neelam Gill attends the British Vogue and Tiffany & Co. Fashion and Film Party 2022 at Annabel’s on March 13, 2022 in London, England

Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire spend some nice time with girls on a yacht during holidays in St Tropez. 20 Jul 2023

The then-Prince of Wales speaks to Neelam Gill at a reception and dinner celebrating the 10th anniversary of the British Asian Trust, at Buckingham Palace in London, February 6, 2018

She was there at Cannes, dazzling in a silver floor-length gown. Then came repeat visits to London’s uber-trendy Chiltern Firehouse at the same time as the actor.

This sparked speculation that Miss Gill — not three years old when DiCaprio won heartthrob status in the blockbuster Titanic — may have become the latest model to fall for the perennial bachelor’s charms, prompting denials from her ‘people’ that they are in a relationship.

READ MORE: Leonardo DiCaprio, 48, enjoys another day out with rumored flame Neelam Gill, 28, as they join Tobey Maguire for a yacht trip in St. Tropez 

However, there is no doubt the model and the actor seem to be bumping into each other with increasing frequency.

Since then, there has been the Amalfi Coast, where the statuesque beauty and some of her model friends were seen on board DiCaprio’s mega-yacht, followed by dinner in Paris.

Then, last week, the pair were both on the guest list at the star-studded Vogue summer party, again at Chiltern Firehouse, where Neelam sizzled in a sheer floor-length gown.

The latest shared hotspot was St Tropez, where she and DiCaprio were seen strolling separately towards a swanky yacht.

It’s all rather a mystery, not least because DiCaprio has also been rumoured to be enjoying a ‘no-strings’ dalliance with another model, Gigi Hadid.

But if he does ever decide to settle down, Neelam is quite a catch.

Both a beauty and a brainbox, she has risen from a working-class childhood living above a shop to achieving four A*s at A-level while pursuing a burgeoning modelling career. 

She has also used her platform to address issues including lack of diversity on the catwalk, depression and domestic abuse.

Even if you haven’t heard of her before, you will surely have seen her long-legged frame and heart-shaped, wide-eyed face smouldering in advertising campaigns and on the covers of glossy magazines.

Leonardo DiCaprio Is Surrounded By Models As He Hangs Out With Pal Tobey Maguire In Paris

Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire spend some nice time with girls on a yacht during holidays in St Tropez. 20 Jul 2023

Vogue star Neelam looked effortlessly stylish for the outing in a leopard print maxi dress that skimmed over her lithe figure. The English model added to the look with a bright green holdall and sliders while also carrying a small Dior handbag. 

Last month, she spoke to Hello! Fashion about finding the strength to leave an abusive ex-boyfriend, then discovering nearly five years later that he had killed a subsequent girlfriend and then himself.

It is thought she was talking about the U.S. rapper J Stash, whom she dated in 2017 and who was found dead in January last year in an apparent murder-suicide. ‘To put it bluntly, I nearly died in my relationship. I really didn’t think I’d make it out alive,’ Neelam told the magazine.

She spoke movingly of grappling with the response to J Stash’s tragic end. ‘It was only in that instance that I had an outpouring of support. People didn’t believe me at the time — I don’t know if it’s because of my job that people couldn’t fathom it.

‘It was strange. They’d say, ‘You must feel so much relief because that could have been you.’ And I was like, ‘An innocent woman has still died.’

‘I felt sorrow for her and also guilt, even though I didn’t know her and I’d never spoken to her.’

That Gill, or Neelam Johal as she was born, now has a platform to talk about such weighty issues is testament to her extraordinary strength and determination.

Her Sikh parents, both from traditional Indian families (her grandparents are from the Punjab), were born in the UK and had an arranged marriage when Neelam’s mother was 20 years old.

Her mother later described in a blog being ‘forced to marry a stranger’ as ‘the most harrowing experience of my life’.

The couple lived in a flat above the family-run supermarket, trying to be civil to each other.

Neelam and her younger sister were eight and three when the increasingly turbulent marriage ended in divorce.

In an interview in 2017, Neelam revealed that it had been a devastating time: ‘I thought I would never get over the pain. I was numb for years and years.’

She went on to reveal how she had broken ties with her biological father, who had remarried and had children she had never met.

Her mother remarried when Neelam was 13 and it was her stepfather’s surname, Gill, that the model took as her own as she built her career. She now has a ten-year-old half-sister.

Neelam is modest about where it all began, although her Instagram biography is revealing, describing her as ‘the rose that grew from concrete’. In interviews she also downplays her genetic good fortune — her mother is similarly beautiful, as are both her sisters. ‘I didn’t think I could be a model, I had glasses and braces. I wasn’t one of the hot girls in school,’ she insists.

Back then, her ambition was to be a fashion journalist, although she later planned on going to university to read psychology.

Visitors arrive at the harbor of Saint Tropez with DiCaprio and Maguire, 24 Jul 2023

Visitors arrive at the harbor of Saint Tropez with DiCaprio and Maguire, 24 Jul 2023

The teenager was approached by model scouts several times before she summoned the nerve to go to a meeting with Models 1, once home to household names such as Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss and Yasmin Le Bon. It signed her up, although she carried on with her studies.

‘I didn’t even tell people in school that I was interested in modelling or that I’d been scouted, because when people found out, they were like, ‘What? Her?!’ ‘

READ MORE: Leonardo DiCaprio will fund scholarship and climate change program at UCLA-based elementary school where he was a student in the 1980s

It was Burberry that set her on the road to stardom, the fashion house calling her the day after she had finished her A-levels.

Neelam didn’t make the first casting because her only source of funds was from her part-time job at clothing store Hollister and she couldn’t afford the train fare. Thankfully, she had a rethink when Burberry called again.

Neelam thought she’d failed the test when she arrived, ‘hair down to my bum and hot-pink nails’ and was asked to strut in towering heels. She was stunned when designer and former Burberry CEO Christopher Bailey himself walked in and booked her to appear on the catwalk at London Fashion Week in September 2013.

She practised sashaying in heels every day at home, her mum recording her on her iPhone for feedback, and her catwalk debut was such a success that it was followed by a campaign shoot with top photographer Mario Testino.

‘They made my skin darker with spray tan,’ she recalled. ‘They wanted to make me glowing because I was the first Indian to model for the brand and they were proud of that.’

Since then she has been the face of L’Oreal Paris UK, has walked for Dior and paraded in the creations of an array of top designers.

She remains passionate about race issues, which is not surprising when you consider the racism she was exposed to as a child.

‘I remember walking to school and someone shouting ‘P***’ out of the window,’ she once said. ‘That was normal. I’d get comments like, ‘Does your dad own the corner shop?’ or ‘Is he a taxi driver?’ It makes me angry. It’s not something I’d stand for now.’

She recalled how her school in Coventry once had a ‘dress-up-as-a-celebrity day’. ‘All my friends could be a famous person who they identified with but there was no one who looked like me, so I went as myself.’

That her story now features in books read by young girls today, including Stories for South Asian Super Girls, is a source of pride.

When the Burberry campaign launched, she was 18 — an age when, as she puts it, ‘you could be on top of the world and carefree’. But she told Hello! Fashion: ‘It made me realise I had to take this seriously. Since then, I’ve seen diversity in the industry change for the better. There is still a long way to go, but the progress from when I first started is vast.’

Early days: Neelam’s family in Coventry

DiCaprio is not the first celebrity Neelam has been linked with. Back in 2015 she was rumoured to be dating erstwhile One Direction star Zayn Malik, prompting a tirade of online abuse.

That was also the year she had what she calls a ‘huge breakdown’, waking up in the middle of the night with cold sweats and debilitating nausea. She was sent home from a shoot and ordered to rest.

Little is known of her 2017 romance with J Stash, except that they were photographed together on several occasions.

Two years ago, Neelam gave a TED Talk on the subject of domestic violence, recounting her experience of resilience and recovery. Sharing the video on Instagram, she said: ‘People thought I had it all but they had no idea I was struggling to even justify being on Earth.’

She is now working on a documentary that will, she says, be a passionate and personal account which she hopes will help others ‘stuck in it’ — ‘it’ being the circle of abuse.

Whatever her past tribulations, though, Neelam’s Instagram is now littered with glamorous posts: meetings with the King when he was Prince Charles, the current Princess of Wales and even the Queen — in 2018 she attended Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s Young Leaders Awards, celebrating 240 winners across 53 Commonwealth countries.

Last year, Neelam was awarded the ‘people’s choice’ award at the Sikh Awards, triggering this post to her 297,000 Instagram followers: ‘Anyone who knows me knows how PROUD I am to be Sikh and how Sikhism has shaped my life.

‘I started modelling at 18 and my plan was to give it a year, so I could save some money to put towards my university fees. Back then it was incomprehensible that someone like me would ‘make it’ in the industry, so I didn’t even allow myself to entertain the idea.

‘I didn’t fit in. I didn’t know anything about the fashion world. And I definitely didn’t feel good enough to be a model.

‘I’m a normal working-class girl from Coventry and I felt completely awkward, shy and unattractive — which I sometimes still do, thanks to imposter syndrome!

‘From the early stages of my career I recognised the importance of representation, so if I can make even ONE person feel proud or happy or represented, then I feel like I’m on the right path.’

Beauty, brains and a platform. The question remains … what does she see in Leonardo DiCaprio?

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