A 30-something's lovingly sarcastic journey through all of Sweet Valley High, and then some

From time to time I make a post about who the cover models were for Sweet Valley High books. It’s always fascinating for me to see what obscure jobs folks took before they went on to become big stars. My readers have been a big help with this as well. So while I work toward my next book recap post, I thought I’d give an update on some of what we know so far regarding the original SVH cover models:

Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield: The original model was a truly stunning soap opera actress named Jonna Leigh Stack. I came across this scoop several years ago courtesy of blogger Cliquey Pizza, who was tipped off by her reader Kathleen. I had never heard of this actress before, but there’s just no way it’s not her. Check out this post by blogger Red Lemonade to see lots of photos for comparison – it’s uncanny. (It also looks like Jonna herself left a comment on Red Lemonade’s post confirming this, although the poster’s name is “Unknown.”) The original SVH cover artist, James Mathewuse, did an amazing job capturing Jonna’s likeness. (He’s still in business today, by the way – visit his website here.)

To see a video of Jonna in character as Summer Blake on the soap opera Santa Barbara, try this Facebook link.

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Jonna Leigh Stack photo from Red Lemonade; book covers from Goodreads

Annie Whitman: It’s already known that star actress Courteney Cox appeared on multiple young adult book covers over the years, including in color photographs taken for the cover of romance series like Sweet Dreams. There are many, many examples out there & I’ve shown a few below. The belief that Courteney modeled for Annie Whitman’s initial appearance on the cover of Wrong Kind of Girl is one I have heard given as a certainty over the years, but have never heard or seen the actress speaking on the matter. But I absolutely believe it myself, especially when you compare Annie’s hair with Courteney’s hair on the cover of other YA books and with her appearance in the Bruce Springsteen video “Dancing in the Dark.”

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Jonna makin’ Courteney cry

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Courteney Cox book cover photos from Brin’s Book Blog

(Thanks to Brin’s Book Blog for the above photos of some of Courteney’s other books.)

Lila Fowler: One of my readers once commented that Lila’s early covers look just like a young Jennifer Connelly, the gorgeous brunette movie actress. I hadn’t thought of that before, but since then, I can’t unsee it and can’t believe I didn’t realize this before. I think that’s definitely her. We do know that the future movie star modeled for plenty of covers with color photographs, including Sweet Dreams, etc. In fact, a couple of years ago Jimmy Kimmel brought her on his show and got her reaction to some of those covers. There was no mention of Sweet Valley High, but I’m convinced. I really hope Jennifer mentions SVH some day because Lila is an iconic character.

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Jonna and Jennifer face off!

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Jennifer Connelly book cover photos from Brin’s Book Blog (Note that the first book is authored by a “Lila” … coincidence? LOL)

Joelle Carter: This actress starred as Ava on the crime drama Justified, which was a favorite of mine. I noticed that Joelle bears a striking resemblance to one of the portraits on the cover of Sweet Valley Saga: The Patmans of Sweet Valley (which I haven’t gotten to yet), and she did indeed model as a teenager, so I think I got one!

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Ava Crowder, is that you?

There have been others I’ve noticed but am really not sure of. For example, I think early paintings of Bruce Patman kind of look like Patrick Muldoon, but I could also see where maybe it’s just a model with a strong resemblance. Dana Larson on the cover of In Love with a Prince reminds me of a young Katherine Heigl, who did model as a teenager, but it’s another big “if.” Finally, Dee Dee on the cover of Too Much in Love reminds me of pre-Married … with Children Amanda Bearse, but Amanda was already a movie actress around the time the portrait would’ve been done, so I’m not sure how many book covers she would’ve been doing at that point.

Various other people have been identified as modeling for things here and there beyond SVH; e.g., actress Amanda Seyfried did some cover photographs for some other Francine Pascal books in her pre-Mean Girls days. When the SVH series was (briefly) re-released in 2008, TV and movie actress Levin Ramblin (The Hunger Games, One Tree Hill, soap operas) appeared as the new cover model for everyone’s favorite annoying twins.

Back when SVH still used painted artwork for their covers, it seems that typically, a photo would be taken of the model(s) and the cover artist would then paint the cover off of that. Jennifer Connelly and others have noted that the photographers would tell the models a little bit about the story so that the models can try to get in character. In later years, Bantam seemed to favor more action shots on their cover rather than portraits, so that may be why they started using other cover artists beyond James Mathewuse. Although, if you look at Jimmy’s web page, he’s painted plenty of lovely action shots (Nancy Drew Case Files, anyone)? I have to say, I really miss beautiful book cover art!

Got any more SVH cover model tips? Let’s hear them. 🙂

Comments on: "SVH Celebrity Cover Model Mysteries" (4)

  1. OMG I adore Jennifer Connelly! I can’t unsee those covers, either! 🤩

  2. The New Jessica said:

    The guy from the cover of Heartbreaker is obvs William Zabka, the baddie from Karate Kid (Johnny).

  3. fallenangel9007 said:

    What about Melissa Fox

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