Famed apparel brand Guess faces renewed calls this week to dump its embattled co-founder Paul Marciano, who has been accused of sexual assault or harassment by at least four women in the past year. And now his alleged victims are calling out multi-hyphenate superstar Jennifer Lopez, a past Guess model herself, whose newest film features significant product placement for the Guess brand.
In the big studio rom-com Marry Me, out this Friday in theaters and via NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service, Lopez plays a heartbroken pop star who on a whim marries the stranger (Owen Wilson) who accidentally held up a “Marry Me” sign during her concert.
Much like the real-life Lopez, who was the face of high-profile Guess campaigns as recent as 2020, her fictional Kat Valdez is a Guess model. As such, the brand features prominently in two separate scenes: During an expository montage, Lopez’s character does a Guess photo shoot; and elsewhere, Wilson’s character observes the Guess ads glowing atop a taxi cab.
The film was shot in 2019, when Lopez was amid a Guess campaign and before the latest spate of Marciano accusers came forward in early 2021. Lopez is no longer signed to the fashion brand. The film’s release was delayed until this week due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Nevertheless, the movie being released with a big endorsement of the Guess brand has drawn the ire of Marciano’s accusers, including the ex-model who, as The Daily Beast reported last year, sued the mogul and his company for allegedly forcing her to perform oral sex on him and then retaliating against her when she complained. (In her lawsuit, the woman anonymously identified as Jane Doe. The Daily Beast confirmed her identity but generally does not name alleged victims of sexual misconduct without their consent.)
“I don’t understand how J.Lo, a female herself, an icon, and role model to many could continue to support a company and its founder Paul Marciano even after all of our serious allegations have been brought to light and our lives have been ruined,” Doe told The Daily Beast this week. “Where is the female support?”
The Model Alliance, a leading advocacy group for professional models, echoed a disappointment with Lopez’s affiliation with the Guess brand, writing in a statement: “The Model Alliance stands with survivors of Paul Marciano. Those who have a platform to speak out, and yet choose to turn a blind eye to this abuse, enable his predatory behavior. We need to demand real accountability in the fashion industry.”
Representatives for Lopez, who also serves as a producer of the film, did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story. Representatives for her fellow producers, the film’s director Kat Coiro, NBCUniversal, and Guess also did not respond to The Daily Beast’s inquiries.
The Hollywood-level product placement comes as Guess is under fire for sticking with Marciano, who over the past year has been accused of sexual misconduct by no less than four separate women, three of who—including Doe—took their claims to court. Over the past decade, at least six other women accused the 70-year-old mogul of misconduct, including supermodel Kate Upton, who alleged that he forcibly groped her when she was 18 years old.
Marciano resigned as CEO in 2018 after Guess paid half-a-million dollars in settlements to five of his alleged victims, but the company quietly reinstated him less than a year later as a chief creative officer.
Guess has continued to defend him, despite the emergence of new claims as well as the brand’s insurer distancing itself from the company over Marciano’s alleged “pattern” of “wrongful acts.” And just this week, Legion Partners, a Guess shareholder, publicly called on the company’s board of directors to remove Marciano immediately. The investment firm railed against Guess standing by the mogul despite its own 2018 internal probe concluding the mogul “exercised poor judgment” and put himself in situations where “plausible allegations of improper conduct could, and did, arise.” The firm also called for the board to dump Marciano’s older sibling, Maurice, who Legion claimed “has been wielding his influence to cover for his brother’s inappropriate actions.”
Another former Guess model, Gwen Van Meir, who in April 2021 alleged that she was sexually harassed by Marciano during her eleventh campaign for the brand, lamented Lopez’s continued association with the embattled fashion company.
“It’s disappointing that Marry Me is choosing to feature Guess… which has not removed [Marciano] despite so many models complaining about his behavior,” she told The Daily Beast. “I feel it’s important that women in the industry support each other and have the right to a safe working environment, free of harassment.”
“It’s sad” that Lopez’s new movie will contain Guess endorsements, added Marciano’s latest accuser, anonymously identified in a lawsuit as “Jane Doe 3,” who late last year accused the fashion exec of having lured her to a hotel meeting in 2013 with the promise of future modeling gigs before sexually assaulting her there.
“While models like Kate Upton and my many clients have spoken out about Paul Marciano and Guess, JLo has chosen to throw the weight of her brand behind the company. This is beneath JLo and what she stands for,” said Lisa Bloom, the attorney representing the three women who’ve sued Marciano over the past year. “Nevertheless, we will continue to fight our three current sexual harassment and sexual assault cases. It’s a long, hard road to justice but we are determined to get there.”
Photographer and director Chris Applebaum, who last year told The Daily Beast he has personally witnessed Marciano sexually harass his models, expressed skepticism that the film’s producers were fully aware of the severity of the allegations lodged against the Guess executive.
“I love Jennifer and her team… she’s incredibly bright, thoughtful, and sweet,” said Applebaum, who is known for his work with other pop stars like Rihanna, Britney Spears, and Miley Cyrus. “I can only imagine she’s unaware of the issues with Guess and that’s all the more reason why it’s so important for women’s voices to be heard, especially survivors.”
But Eileen Toal, another Marciano accuser who last year recounted in harrowing detail how the mogul allegedly forced her to perform oral sex on him in 1983, when she was dating his older brother, was less willing to give Hollywood the benefit of the doubt.
“All it takes is a simple Google search. It’s not a he said, she said; it’s a they said. I find it shocking that she would support this guy,” she said. “It’s hard to believe she did not know. There’s publicists, attorneys, managers—someone would have known he is a predator. She’s putting other women at risk.”
Toal concluded: “For someone like J.Lo, who represents women’s strength, this is a slap in the face.”