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Photographed by Vogue alumna Claiborne Swanson Frank, American Beauty features more than 100 portraits of quintessentially American women such as Lily Aldridge (pictured here on the book’s cover), Solange Knowles, and Jenna Lyons—each of whom possesses an original blend of grit, grace, glamour, and gravitas that echo far beyond the pages of this oversize hardcover.
Claiborne Swanson Frank
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Napa Valley, California
“My goal is to find something that takes your breath away. I dream to shoot my vision of spirit and soul. I set out to take portraits that capture women in their greatest beauty and truth, whatever that may be.”
This self-portrait was taken on the banks of Lake Hennessy in Napa Valley. Claiborne is clad in her favorite army jacket, sitting in the back of her tomato-red Land Cruiser with her dog, Gator.
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It was a box of her mother’s old modeling photographs that drove Joanna Hillman toward fashion. After begging her mother to let her model as a young girl and consequently working on set alongside photographers and stylists, she fell deeply in love with the glamorous world. Prior to working at Harper’s Bazaar as senior fashion market editor, she worked at Teen Vogue. Hillman, photographed here on a West Village sidewalk, confesses: I’m clearly after the American Dream, working my way up the ranks to make it in the big city.”
Lesley M. M. Blume
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New York, New York
“My mother was a concert pianist and my father was a newsman, and our life was populated with music, words, and fascinating characters. Every work of fiction I’ve written likely draws on this period in my life,” says journalist and social commentator Lesley M. M. Blume, seen here in front of her personal library. In addition to penning American Beauty’s foreword and regularly contributing to Vanity Fair, Vogue, Huffington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, Blume has written four books, the most well-known being Let’s Bring Back, an ode to all things antiquarian.
Alexis Swanson Traina
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New Orleans, Louisiana
The eldest of the Swanson sisters, Alexis Swanson Traina has been Claiborne’s long-standing muse. In many ways, she personifies the beguiling beauty and poetic grace that Claiborne seeks out in all of her subjects. Alexis is a wife, mother, daughter, and sister, above all else, and lives between San Francisco and Napa Valley, where she is Swanson Vineyard’s creative director, known for her brazen innovations of fine wine rituals.
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San Francisco, California
Known for her unaffected style and fresh, gritty take on fashion photography and celebrity portraiture—using subdued lighting to emphasize natural beauty—Hilary Walsh is captured in her denim-on-denim uniform in Laurel Canyon, California. Raised in Philadelphia, she currently lives in Los Angeles with her son, Henry, and her husband, Emmett. For Walsh, whose icons include Jane Birkin and Joni Mitchell, “American beauty can mean just about anything nowadays, since everyone American is from someone else’s lineage. I think ‘all-American beauty’ is represented by a liberated spirit and appearance.”
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New York, New York
As the great-granddaughter of media titan William Randolph Hearst, Amanda Hearst, seen here at the Long Island estate her mother shares with husband Jay McInerney, mixes aristocratic class with contemporary cool and a dedication to sustainability. Causes like deforestation and climate change loom large for the part-time model and Marie Claire editor, who recently co-founded Friends of Finn, a charity to raise awareness about animal cruelty, with Georgina Bloomberg.
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Solange Knowles, younger sister to Beyonce, is a preternaturally gifted performer and creative powerhouse. A singer-songwriter, producer, DJ, and mother, she broke into the music scene at the age of 16 and has since released two albums: her debut, Solo Star, in 2003, and the critically acclaimed Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams in 2008. Knowles has an electric personal dynamism, which permeates every sphere of her life from her music to her friends to her business ventures. Her career as a performer began when a Destiny’s Child backup dancer had to unexpectedly leave a world tour. An accomplished songwriter of rare dexterity, Knowles co-wrote most of the songs on her first two albums, and has written and co-written songs for her sister Beyonce and Destiny’s Child.
“I was brought up in Texas going to rodeos and sifting through screw tapes,” she says. “I spent family reunions in Alabama and Louisiana with my Creole cousins cooking some of the best crawfish etouffee you’ve ever had in your life. I raised my son the first year of his life in the country fields on Idaho, and took him to his first day of school in sunny California. As a New Yorker, I’m excited to continue my journey as an American woman. This country is the fabric of my life’s journey.”
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New York, New York
With a predisposition toward media—instilled by her father, former president of Hearst Magazines—Genevieve Bahrenburg spent four years in the features department of Vogue before becoming features editor at Elle.com. Currently the executive editor of Above magazine and Above LIVE, a sustainability minded online media platform, she is seen here beside a prop plane on Tuckernuck Island, just off Nantucket, on July 4, 2010—the weekend American Beauty was conceived. Bahrenburg comes from a long line of impassioned first-born women, who taught her to follow her aspirations wherever they led—be it an English classroom in a Buddhist monastery in rural Thailand, a grief counseling session with one of 9/11’s many widows, or a UN summit on social innovation.
American Beauty is available for purchase at ASSOULINE boutiques worldwide and at assouline.com