Magazine covers rarely have the power to stop somebody in their tracks. We’re all so accustomed to the usual format – attractive star with their name in big, bold letters – that we’re largely immune to being impressed. Celebrities often use these cover shoots to ask the world to pay attention to their latest project or their hot new product. However, there are some public figures who give us relief from the opportunistic, self-serving commercialism as they break the mould and use their moment not for vanity but to send a much stronger message.
It’s never easy truly expressing yourself in the most honest light, especially when thousands of people around the world are watching you. Nowadays, we’re so familiar with news breaking via social media that it does take quite the effort to really shock the world and make people stop and think. That’s why these following strong images not only created stunning visuals but also prompted world debate.
The following cover stories are provocative, creative and brave but each one tells a real-life story that could not be forgotten in a hurry.
10. Sarah Reinertsen
Sarah Reinertsen was the first female amputee to complete the Ironman. She was born with a bone-growth disorder which meant that the affected leg had to be amputated above the knee when she was just seven-years-old. This never stopped her as an athlete and now, at age 40, she holds three gold medals as champion of the ITU Triathlon World Championships.
ESPN releases an annual “Body Issue” which celebrates the fine form of athletes, and Reinertsen was the first amputee to appear on the cover. She expressed how impressed she was with the cover saying, “It feels like the next step forward for me. I’ve struggled with body image issues my entire life. Now, to be included in the ranks of great athletes like Serena Williams, Dwight Howard and Adrian Peterson… I’m thrilled”.
9. Demi Moore
In 1991, when actress Demi Moore was pregnant with her daughter Scout she participated in this controversial magazine shoot. Shot by world famous Annie Leibovitz the image was a symbol of female empowerment, but many members of the public labelled it “grotesque and obscene”. Moore, who was married to Die Hard actor Bruce Willis at the time, had introduced a new attractive angle to pregnancy.
The image became frequently parodied amongst other media groups. In 1997, Leibovitz took Paramount Pictures to court after they superimposed an image of Leslie Nielson‘s face onto Moore’s pregnant body to help promote the movie Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994). She did not win her case.
Madonna is no stranger to controversy. In 2014, she dropped her cone-shaped bra and bared all for a topless photo shoot with Interview magazine. The cover represented Madonna, aged 56-years-old, in a sexualised light during a time when arguments and debates surrounding ageism were hot in the press.
The bravery of the photo shoot is in the knowledge that she was going to get a lot of negative criticism in the press for such a provocative shoot at her age. The bold Living For Love singer has expressed that despite bad press she will continue to do whatever she wants to. She said, “I don’t understand. I’m trying to get my head around it. Because women, generally, when they reach a certain age, have accepted that they’re not allowed to behave a certain way. But I don’t follow the rules. I never did, and I’m not going to start.”
7. Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai’s story is one of true bravery and boldness. In 2012 she was shot in the head by the Taliban because she had committed the crime of speaking up about educational rights for girls. The world was horrified such an awful thing could happen to a young girl who just wanted positive change in the world.
Yousafzai recovered from intensive care and she began to tell her story to the world. At just 16-years-old she was applauded by the UN and the British prime minister announced her as “an icon of courage and hope”. Defying those who wanted her killed, she was featured on the front cover of Time magazine in 2013 as the most influential person in the world. She continues her work today as an activist for female education.
6. Nicole Trunfio
Just this month Nicole Trunfio released her Elle Australia magazine cover which saw the supermodel breastfeeding her five-month-old son, Zion. She said of the shoot that the picture was not planned but instead during the shoot when she was cuddling her son it just came naturally. There was support for her proud display of motherhood, but there was also severe criticism.
Trunfio told Good Morning America, “There’s nothing worse than, as a mother, doing something that’s so necessary like feeding your child and feeling like somebody could have an opinion about it or somebody’s looking at you the wrong way”. She then began a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #normalizebreastfeeding to encourage others to feel free to feed their children in public.
5. Laverne Cox
In 2014, Laverne Cox took to the cover of Time magazine in a brave move that transformed her into an icon worldwide. The star of Netflix drama Orange is the New Black spoke in the interview how she was bullied and harassed for being too feminine as a child at school. She is now the first and only openly transgender person who received a nomination for a Primetime Emmy Award in the acting category.
In 2015, she was included in People magazine’s 100 Most Beautiful Women list. Cox’s front cover hit just at the right time, when there was huge debate surrounding civil rights for the LGBT communities.
4. Ellen Degeneres
Ellen Degeneres needs no introduction as the world’s most loved chat show host of her own show which has been going strong since 2003. During her earlier years she was rarely without speculation surrounding her sexuality during her time on sitcom Ellen (1994-1998). She had obvious awkward chemistry with her male co-stars which led fans to play the guessing game long before she officially came out. Her decision to take the cover of Time magazine and tell the world was a brave one.
She used the term “I’m Gay” as she prefers this rather be called a lesbian. The 57-year-old star said, “I hate that term ‘in the closet. Until recently I hated the word lesbian too. I’ve said it enough now that it doesn’t bother me. But lesbian sounded like somebody with some kind of disease. I didn’t like that, so I used the word gay more often”. She married actress Portia de Rossi in 2008.
3. Turia Pitt
Turia Pitt is the real face of true bravery. In September 2011, Pitt got caught in a bushfire which raged through Kimberly, Australia. She suffered from burns which covered 80 percent of her body. Her recovery was a struggle after she had to wear a compression stocking for nearly two years and four of her fingers were amputated.
In June 2014 she took the front cover of the Australian edition of Women’s Weekly. She is now an inspirational speaker and charity worker who even raised $200,000 for the Interplast charity when she trekked the Great Wall of China the same year.
2. Bibi Aisha
Bibi Aisha was born Aisha Mohammadza, she is an Afghan woman who revealed her mutilated face to the world in 2010 on the front cover of Time magazine. Aisha was forced into marriage aged just 14-years-old, she married a Taliban fighter and was subjected to abuse throughout her marriage. At 18-years-old she tried to flee but was captured by the police, jailed then forced to return home.
As punishment she was taken to the Afghanistan mountains where her father-in-law and husband cut off her nose then left her to die. She was rescued by the U.S military and Time magazine took her photograph for the cover story. In a brave move, Aisha told her full story and helped to raise awareness about the treatment of women in her own home country. She was offered free constructive surgery by Time magazine and she began a better life with the help of the Women for Afghan Women shelter in Queens, New York.
1. Caitlyn Jenner
Former Olympian and reality television star Caitlyn Jenner revealed her true self on the cover of Vanity Fair this month. Aged 65-years-old she was photographed by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz who captured her feminine side for the world to see. The brave move came during a week when LGBT communities were promoting civil rights movements. She then broke the world record for the most followers gained by a new account in a day.
The photo shoot had caused Jenner some anxiety in the lead up to the day. She said, “I was always worried – you never wanted to look like a guy in drag, you never wanted to look like a guy in a dress, okay. If you’re going to do that, come out, you really have to look the part”. Her sexual identity had been kept a secret for many decades throughout her 23 year marriage to Kris Jenner. Recently the couple have separated, and intend to divorce.