interview by JANA LETONJA

Cornelia Guest is an author, actress and Debutante of the Decade for the 1980s, who has maintained cultural relevance through her timeless style, fashion partnerships and successful acting career. For decades she has used her platform for philanthropic endeavours, especially on animal advocacy. On 10th June, we joined Cornelia at the Chanel Tribeca Artists Awards Dinner.

Cornelia, how would you sum up your rich career in only a few sentences?
My career has been fruitful and abundant through and through. Between fashion, acting, philanthropy and animal welfare, each endeavour has been a labor of love, driven by a desire to create beauty and advocate for those who can’t speak for themselves. 

You have been named Debutante of the Decade before your 22nd birthday. What did you enjoy the most about those years and the events themself?
Being named Debutante of the Decade was an incredible honour that I will always cherish. I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity to experience such extravagant events and connect with such fascinating people. What I enjoyed most about these events is that they allowed me to immerse myself in a world of grace, refinement and sophistication. 

How has your debutante years set the stage for your further career, not only in fashion, but all different avenues?
Those years were a time of growth, exploration and making meaningful connections that have shaped me into the person I am today. 

This May, you attended the Cannes Film Festival, where your film ‘Oh Canada’ premiered. How did you experience the iconic and historic film festival, and what makes it so special in your eyes?
Cannes was a dream come true, especially with the premiere of my film ‘Oh Canada’. It was such a unique experience and its unparalleled ability to bring together the best of cinema from around the globe and create such an electric atmosphere was truly remarkable. From the red carpet premieres to captivating conversation, every moment felt like a celebration of storytelling and artistic expression. 

As an actress, what do you find the most fulfilling part of the job?
For me, the most fulfilling part of acting is the opportunity to inhabit different characters and live their lives, being able to put myself in my character’s shoes and experience life through their lens. It allows me to explore the depth of human emotion and understand different perspectives. Each role offers a new challenge and the space to grow. 

Besides juggling many different endeavours, you are also very passionate about philanthropy, especially animal advocacy. Why is advocating for animals such an important aspect of your life, and what activities do you participate in to speak up on the matter?
They bring so much joy, companionship and love into our lives, yet they are often subject to neglect, cruelty and exploitation by humans. It’s not just about being kind to animals, it’s about recognising their inherent value and treating them with the respect and compassion they deserve. I participate in campaigns such as Peta’s ‘I’d rather go naked’ campaign. I actively share information on social media and donate resources to shelters and rescues. In 2016 I founded Artemis Farm Rescue for miniature horses and donkeys. In 2009 I founded Cornelia Guest Events to cater events with healthy vegan options, aiming to encourage and inspire others to be conscious of their diet. My handbag line was cruelty-free. I am a board member for the Humane Society of New York. My entire life revolves around animal advocacy. 

Right now for example, animal rescue is facing very tough times. What is your view on this issue and what would be your message to people not only in the US, but around the world on this matter?
My view on this issue is that it highlights the importance of community support and solidarity. It’s especially important to remain vigilant and responsive to the increased strain on rescue organisations. They are on the front lines, working tirelessly to save and rehabilitate animals in distress. It’s our responsibility to take initiative whether that be volunteering, donating, advocating or fostering. Donating can be as simple as bringing a bag of pet food to your local shelter. It’s also important to teach young kids to support this cause, fostering a sense of responsibility and compassion from an early age. Additionally, emphasising the importance of spay and neuter programs cannot be overstated. These programs are vital in controlling the pet population, reducing the number of animals that end up in shelters in the first place. It’s our duty to rally behind them with our support and help ensure that they have the resources and resilience to continue their vital work. 

You’ve been in partnership with many fashion brands throughout the years. What does fashion mean to you, and how do you approach these partnerships?
Fashion is a way to express myself without words, reflecting my passions, interests and lifestyle. Being in a position to collaborate with artists and designers, many of whom I’m lucky to call dear friends, is a tremendous honor. When partnering with fashion brands, I seek authenticity, creativity and meaningful storytelling, ensuring that each collaboration reflects mutual respect and a shared vision. 

Just a few days ago, we’ve joined you for the Chanel Tribeca Artists Awards Dinner in New York. Tell us more about the event, its purpose and what were you most excited about being part of it?
Anything Chanel does is unbelievably beautiful and glamorous. Their support of the arts is amazing. Tribeca Film Festival has always had incredible films and supported so many young and upcoming artists. So the partnership between the festival and Chanel is a match made in heaven. Being around so many talented artists is always a treat. 

After a busy start of the year, what projects are you working on next, that you can share with us about?
My capsule collection with Adrienne Landau drops in stores in August. It’s a collection of must-have classics that every girl needs in her closet. I’m also looking for my next TV and film project and partnering with different organisations to rescue lots of critters. 

 image credits: BFA Courtesy of CHANEL