Updated 17:55 PM PHT Fri, July 1, 2016
Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Few things are more American than stars, stripes, and rock ‘n’ roll, but the Guess Girl is arguably one of them. The collective name for the women who have appeared on ad campaigns for the eponymous clothing brand, the Guess Girl has proven iconic and inimitable for over 34 years, since Paul Marciano, the brand’s CEO, shot its first commercial images on a California beach. She appears on billboards and in magazines, as much a fashion symbol as a bombshell. While numerous campaigns have been shot in sultry, signature black and white, this only helps the Guess Girl stand out with her unwavering stare, her timeless look, and — dare it be said — her candor and personality.
Through the lenses of photographers like Herb Ritts, Ellen von Unwerth, and Wayne Maser, who was the first to take photos for the brand (and with no prior experience in fashion photography at that), Guess Girls have helped elevate jeans — yet another all-American staple — and denim to something less casual and more sensual.
So let’s forget about that whole Paris Hilton mess in 2009. Here are eight women who dutifully and quite perfectly embodied what being a Guess Girl really means.
From 2011 to 2014, the Swedish stunner Sandrah Hellberg graced Guess Accessories and Marciano ads with a charm not unlike that of a pinup girl’s. Wide-eyed and bubbly, she went beyond the requisite girl-next-door vibe with a kitschy self-awareness that made her ads lively and fun — even as she donned embellished (with patterned gems!), pre-ripped double denim past 2010. If the Guess Girl looks up to Marilyn, the down-to-earth Hellberg stood out by being an Audrey. “I had an experience today,” she said in a behind-the-scenes video during a shoot for Marciano, a sub-brand of Guess. “I stepped on a cactus. You could see my face turn from happiness to pain. It was terrible! You guys should really have good shoes when you’re out here in the desert.”
It’s easy to forget sometimes just how often Drew Barrymore has reinvented herself, from an “E.T.” cutie, to a wild child, to the inaugural victim of “Scream,” to an arguable romcom queen, and many other titles thereafter. And at one point in time — specifically, in 1993 as an 18-year-old — Barrymore transformed herself into a Guess Girl: red lips, super 90s slightly damp platinum blond hair, straddling male models on carousels, donning then-trendy clothes now considered to be “retro.” Barrymore was different because she was a celebrity, and Guess had built a reputation for ad campaigns featuring fresh, largely unknown faces. “I can only say Drew was the nicest and easiest person to work with and full of enthusiasm at all times on the shoot,” Paul Marciano told Dazed magazine. “She brought a new dimension to the Guess campaigns and to the Guess Girl image with her fresh and striking beauty.”
Now best known for her Maybelline ads and her entrepreneurship (with her own natural makeup line, of course), Josie Maran had a stint in 1998 as Guess’s very own Kate Moss. The minimalist campaign featured Maran, bare- and straight-faced and seemingly unposed, in classic denim jackets and jeans, white tank tops, and unkempt hair. This natural, brown-haired look brought a new trend to the fashion industry, which was then known for its blue-eyed, blond-haired ideal of beauty. “People want to see a model who inspires strength and self-confidence now,” said Katie Ford of Maran in a 2002 interview for Glamour Magazine. “She might be wearing makeup, but it looks completely natural.”
Anna Nicole Smith
Many women will be called the modern Marilyn Monroe, but Anna Nicole Smith was, without a doubt, it. She also holds the distinction of being the quintessential Guess Girl: larger than life, big hair, big personality. In her ads, she smiled fully and freely, whether she was surrounded by hay, in bed, driving, or on a night out in a big, glamorous ball gown. Smith, a Southern gal who married at 17, was discovered by Marciano as a 25-year-old after appearing on a Playboy cover. “I didn't know what Guess jeans were,” she’d said earnestly. “I just shopped at Wal-Mart and Kmart and stuff like that.”
Valeria Mazza and Ingrid Seynhaeve
With their tans, corn-fed good looks, blond hair, and button noses, Valeria Mazza and Ingrid Seynhaeve looked about as American as it gets — only they’re Argentine and Belgian, respectively. Seynhaeve won Elite Look of the Year in 1991 and has co-founded June7.2, a clothing label of her own. Mazza, meanwhile, was forced to leave Ford Models in 1997 because of constant absences and a “swelled head.” She switched to Elite, where, as reported by New York Magazine, she got into a catty rift of sorts with Claudia Schiffer, better known as the original Guess Girl, of whom she had been called a “bargain basement double” because of how much they resembled one another.
Born and raised in the Czech Republic, fluent in four languages but unable to speak a word of English during her rise in the industry, Daniela Peštová became the face of Guess in 1990, modeling alongside Schiffer only a year after she left her homeland. She has been dubbed the “Chameleon” for her ability to shift and adapt to looks. After her career was launched with Guess, Peštová eventually went on to grace a number of magazine covers, including those of the Sports Illustrated 1995, 2000, and 2006 swimsuit issues.
Direct stare and unruly dark hair — Carré Otis used these to set herself apart at a time when Guess was all about platinum sleekness. She was also the first model to join the team as it journeyed across the globe, with campaigns shot around the world. Sounds like a jet-setting lifestyle one could only dream of, right? However, Otis has since become outspoken about the darker side of modeling and opened up about her self-destructive ways, even writing the memoir “Beauty, Disrupted,” which may just be her biggest, most positive impact. In an article for Vogue Australia in 2013, she wrote, “While there are plenty of models who can say they had mostly wonderful experiences, who thrived both inside and outside the industry, I know that many are still contending with the same obstacles I did — trying to meet impossible standards of perfection and accepting abusive power dynamics as ‘just part of the job.’”
In the year 2000, the supermodel Adriana Lima’s Guess campaign radiated youth: a middle part the Haim sisters would be proud of, outfits that screamed bohemia, thick-beaded cuff, glossy makeup, high saturation, the works. The Brazilian beauty, who started as both a Guess Girl and a Victoria’s Secret Angel in the same year, made headlines when she revealed that she was waiting to lose her virginity until marriage. Now one of the industry’s most familiar faces and top earners, Lima didn’t quite set out to become a model. In a 2006 interview with GQ, at age 25, she said, “When I started, I was too young to know what I wanted. But today I would like to be a doctor. I want to be a pediatri … how do you call it, pediatrician?” But it’s not too bad that that decision never really worked out.