Most Provocative Magazine Covers Of The Past 20 Years


Most recently in controversial magazine cover history, we’ve all been made privy to Demi Moore’s “missing hip” on the cover of W, which got grief for taking Photoshop too far. But what of the past two decades? From OJ Simpson’s infamous overly-photoshopped Time magazine cover to Demi Moore’s first official magazine media buzz in Vanity Fair back in ’91, we look back on some of the most controversial and provocative glossy covers of the past 2o years.

Which one do you think takes the cake for most provocative? Let us know in the comments below!

1. Janet Jackson, Rolling Stone, September 1993:

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Image: Rolling Stone

By now, magazine covers with half nude celebrities barely incite a second glance. Images of celebrities completely naked covering their own bare assets? No big deal. But what about an anonymous pair of hands cupping Janet Jackson’s breasts in 1993? Back when Jackson was still in her prime, this cover caused quite a stir in the media, even with her pants on.

2. Ellen DeGeneres, Time Magazine, April 1997:
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Image: Time Magazine

Back in 1997, when being openly gay wasn’t nearly as commonplace as it is in 2010, Ellen DeGeneres’ fans were already speculating about the pants-only funnywoman’s sexuality. Not that it was any of their business but DeGeneres decided to officially make it so, and on the cover of one of the biggest magazines no less. After dodging the gay question for years, the comedienne finally came out in her interview to Bruce Handy, and Time spelled it out on their cover plain and simple. They couldn’t make it much more clear than that.

3. Jennifer Aniston, GQ, January 2009:
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Image: GQ

It wasn’t just the birthday suit (plus necktie) that Hollywood sweetheart Aniston revealed on the cover of GQ that got people talking. In the midst of the Pitt-Aniston-Jolie debacle, the revealing cover and candid interview that followed in the mag’s pages led people to wonder whether Aniston was trying to make some sort of competitive statement with her ex’s new love interest. She later presented the lucky tie to David Letterman.

4. Obama, Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, RADAR, November 2007:
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Image: Vanity Fair, Radar

No, our current President did not pose naked for this cover of RADAR. In fact, this is one magazine cover that took to Photoshopping with no intentions of hiding it. In a spoof of the infamous Vanity Fair cover on which Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightley pose nude with Tom Ford, RADAR attempted to make their own social commentary about the upcoming elections. For the most part, however, the attempt was received with confusion.

5. Gisele Bundchen and LeBron James, Vogue, 2008:
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Image: Vogue

When Vogue came out with their annual “shape issue” in 2008, they chose basketball star LeBron James and supermodel Gisele Bundchen as their cover models. While the pairing fit the issue’s focus on featuring the best model and athlete bodies, the two’s stances were eerily similar to this King Kong poster and raised more than a few eyebrows over the racial implications that it suggested.

6. Beth Ditto, LOVE magazine, March 2009:
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Image: Love

In the months leading up to LOVE‘s highly buzzed about launch, editor-in-chief Katie Grand commented that the UK-based glossy would be devoid of sample sized figures. When the mag finally launched with their beyond plus sized covergirl, the media realized that Grand wasn’t kidding. Ditto shocked all by baring her butt naked body with pride.

7. The Dixie Chicks, Entertainment Weekly, May 2003:
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Image: Entertainment Weekly

After setting off a political sh*tstorm by making negative comments about George Bush’s decision to invade Iraq at one of the country group’s concerts in London, the trio took a stand by posing nude for this entertainment glossy. Many Americans chose to boycott the group’s music for months following the release of the cover, but the country singers stuck by their opinions, even releasing the single “Not Ready to Make Nice” three years later which makes commentary about the situation.

8. Britney Spears, Rolling Stone, April 1999:
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Image: Rolling Stone

Before the days of her quarter-life head-shaving crisis and before showing one’s crotch was dubbed “pulling a Britney,” this pop princess was actually still innocent sort of. In the pages of this issue of Rolling Stone, the then 17-year-old posed in a bra and openly talked about drinking wine “with her mom,” at the time. Nice, Mama Spears.

9. OJ Simpson, Time magazine, 1994:
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Images: Time, Newsweek

When OJ Simpson was accused of murdering his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, back in 1994, the trial became one of the most highly publicized in American history. Time made the poor choice of Photoshopping OJ’s mug shot to make him appear darker-skinned in an attempt at upping his danger factor. Unfortunately for the weekly news mag, Newsweek came out with the same un-Photoshopped image on their cover.

10. Demi Moore, Vanity Fair, August 1991:
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Image: Vanity Fair

Though several copycats have followed this iconic Vanity Fair cover shot by Annie Leibovitz, it was at the time viewed as lewd and inappropriate. With all the attention it gave Moore’s career though, we doubt she looks back with any regrets.

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