Most Controversial Magazine Covers in Recent Times
20th July, 2020
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Magazines are a source of entertainment. Sometimes they go all out and come up with the edgiest covers. Here are some that you’ll never be able to forget. Do you know the adage, “don’t judge a book by its cover”? Yeah, that does not work when you are standing in front of a magazine stand. In this case, the edgier the cover, the likelier you are to pick it up. The mag houses know it too; why else would they go all out to make the cover so attention-grabbing? However, in their bid to do so, they have been known to go above and beyond sometimes. Here are some magazine covers that gave rise to so much controversy that you can still see the smoke billowing.
Elle UK - Pharrell Williams www.huffingtonpost.in
01
Elle UK - Pharrell Williams
“Elle” UK’s July 2014 cover saw the face of “Happy” singer Pharell Williams over it. Williams was seen in his usual avatar with just one small, or not so small, difference. The singer had his usual Mountie hat replaced with the Native American headgear, which angered people and sparked outrage so much so that the hashtag “NotHappy” started trending on twitter.
Rolling Stone - The Boston Bomber www.theverge.com
02
Rolling Stone - The Boston Bomber
Dzhokar Tsarnaev or the Boston Bomber of 2013 had his face splashed over the cover of the “Rolling Stone” magazines. This was the August edition of the same year. The cover sparked outrage and controversies against the famous rock mag. The magazine was slammed and shamed for being insensitive, and some even refused to stock it in the shops. The cover to date leaves a bad taste.
TIME magazine - OJ Simpson www.alteredimagesbdc.org
03
TIME magazine - OJ Simpson
“TIME” magazine seems like the master of controversial choices, with all their covers and their person of the year awards. While he was on trial back in 1994, their cover of OJ Simpson had sparks of controversy flying around. Critics claimed that the picture was manipulated to look darker and was also racist. All in all, it didn’t bode well.
The New Yorker - The Obamas www.theguardian.com
04
The New Yorker - The Obamas
The Obamas, arguably one of the best presidents and first ladies the nation and White House has had the honor of knowing, were disturbingly represented on the “New Yorker” cover, and we can’t keep it down. An illustration that was actually placed on the mag cover to address the misinformation that was common among the people at the time, this July 2008 cover was the recipient of some severe backlash.
Conde Nast Traveller - Priyanka Chopra www.bbc.com
05
Conde Nast Traveller - Priyanka Chopra
Having managed to carve out some space for herself in the Hollywood glitz and glam, Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra found herself in not-so-sturdy waters. The actress landed on the receiving end of some backlash for her appearance on the cover of “Conde Nast Traveller.” However, it wasn’t about anything she did; instead, it was about the words that her t-shirt sported.
Vogue Japan - Miranda Kerr theconversation.com
06
Vogue Japan - Miranda Kerr
Another gem of the field to be on the receiving end of some controversy was Victoria's Secret’s model Miranda Kerr. The model appeared in a Geisha costume in the magazine’s November 2014 edition, which also happened to be celebrating the magazine’s 15th anniversary. The crux of the issue seemed to be its racially inappropriate depiction of a traditional Japanese costume on a white woman instead of its traditional wearer.
Vogue US - LeBron James www.telegraph.co.uk
07
Vogue US - LeBron James
One of the editions of US “Vogue” magazine in 2008, sported two iconic personalities on its cover. LeBron James and Gisele Bundchen’s appearance on the magazine’s cover sparked some controversies. The picture that was plastered on the cover was being widely compared to King Kong and his white heroine, which led to people claiming it to be stereotypically racial.
TIME Magazine - Hitler content.time.com
08
TIME Magazine - Hitler
Decades after his assassination, Hitler remains a topic of enormous controversy. What the man single-handedly did and how traumatized he left the world are reasons enough to question his mention anywhere. It's no brainer that when the cover in 1939's issue of “TIME Person of the Year” was dedicated to this dictator, the whole world cried out loud!
Rolling Stone - Kanye medium.com
09
Rolling Stone - Kanye
“Rolling Stone” and “TIME” magazines seem to have a taste for controversial covers. This 2005 “Rolling Stone” and Kanye collab where the singer is seen in thorny headgear and blood decorating his face, seems to be one of many controversial executions by the mag. The fact that the cover might have something to do with the singer’s Grammy win for “Jesus Walks” does not seem to have crossed minds.
Purple Fashion Magazine - Lindsay Lohan www.huffpost.com
10
Purple Fashion Magazine - Lindsay Lohan
If you are looking for one of the easiest and quickest recipes to brew a controversy, we suggest you take a look into religion. It has been historically proven that engaging in matters related to religion is a sure-fire way to spark controversial opinions and debates. This Lindsay Lohan magazine cover from 2010 imitating God’s messenger goes to prove how right we are.
TIME Magazine - Breastfeeding cover www.latintimes.com
11
TIME Magazine - Breastfeeding cover
May of 2012 came with a “TIME” magazine cover where a woman is seen breastfeeding her child. This seemingly unproblematic image proved to be problematic instead. The image cover was in good taste to support the idea of attachment, parenting, but some people could not digest that, and uproar is what it resulted in.
TIME Magazine - Ellen Degeneres content.time.com
12
TIME Magazine - Ellen Degeneres
In today’s age and time, if your favorite celebrity came out as gay, there won’t be much hoopla around it. But over two decades ago, this wasn’t the case. That’s why Ellen Degeneres’ coming out of the closet with “TIME” magazine was met with far-stretched and widespread controversy. Sadly, this unacceptance led to this current day-time talk-show host losing multiple gigs.
Esquire - Muhammad Ali theundefeated.com
13
Esquire - Muhammad Ali
“Esquire” chose the boxing legend, Mohammed Ali, to grace their 1968 cover. The boxer was a part of some controversies that year, as he had converted to Islam and refused to go to the Vietnam War. Making Ali look like St. Sebastian, the martyr, was “Esquire’s” one-way ticket to being included in the world’s most controversial magazine covers.
Paper magazine - Kim Kardashian www.telegraph.co.uk
14
Paper magazine - Kim Kardashian
Seeing as “breaking the Internet” is what the “Paper” magazine folks were aiming at back in 2014, and they had the right ingredients. By 2014, few people were unaware of the existence of Kim K and Kanye and their expertise in brewing viral news. This Kim K magazine cover continues to be a part of discussions, memes, and outrage.
Rolling Stone - Britney Spears www.rollingstone.com
15
Rolling Stone - Britney Spears
1999 showed the answers to two big questions: was “Rolling Stone” willing to break boundaries with Britney for their cover; was the said cover going to give birth to controversy? The answers were a double yes, and rightly so, owing to the sultry picture of the 17-year-old semi-clad artist.
Der Spiegel - Donald Trump www.spiegel.de
16
Der Spiegel - Donald Trump
One of the world’s leading magazines, Germany’s “Der Spiegel,” has done multiple covers with President Donald Trump featuring on them. Here, we are talking about the one where the President is seen with a bloodied knife and the beheaded head of the Statue of Liberty. This symbolic representation of stripping away of democracy was received with massive outroar across the country.
L’Homme Officiel - Benecio del Toro www.huffpost.com
17
L’Homme Officiel - Benecio del Toro
Some magazine covers don’t leave you many options but to question the sanity of the people responsible; the cover of the 2012 winter issue of “L’Homme Officiel,” featuring actor Benecio del Toro, happens to be one of those. For the life of us, we cannot decode why the actor holds a naked and seemingly unconscious woman. Why did anyone even conceptualize and agree to this shoot?
Vanity Fair - Demi Moore www.vanityfair.com
18
Vanity Fair - Demi Moore
Hollywood and its fans expect a certain kind of behavior from its A-list celebrities. When these stars do something different from what is expected of them, it sparks controversial fires. That is precisely what happened when Demi Moore appeared on “Vanity Fair’s” cover while seven months into her pregnancy. Her attempt at female empowerment—by posing naked—did not sit well with the behavioral police.