It’s Tackalicious: 9 Controversial Magazine Covers That Meant Well, But Turned Out To Be Big FAILS

November 8, 2012  |  
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Who doesn’t know that controversy sells? Controversial videos get clicks (Ciara’s “Ride,” and Nicki Minaj’s “Stupid H*e” get banned from BET, but were big hits online), controversial movies sell tickets (Passion of the Christ anyone?), and controversial music can’t be turned away from. And yes, even magazines that do the most sell many copies, and if that’s not enough, they remain in people’s memories a lot longer than a tame cover (Who remembers a Rolling Stone cover with Usher versus the iconic cover with Janet Jackson’s husband holding her boobs??). Some controversial covers are made infamous because of overreactions by a few, but sometimes, they’re made infamous because they honestly weren’t the best idea in the first place. This slideshow is a mix of both. Check out these covers and tell us if these publications had the game all wrong, or if people were just tripping as usual. And of course, be prepared to click!

TLC Does VIBE Post Left Eye’s Legal Troubles

When the ladies of TLC were photographed for the November 1994 issue of VIBE, it was just a few months after Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes was arrested for felony arson charges. Lopes, after an altercation with then-boyfriend Andre Rison, proceeded to burn some of his shoes in a tub in his multi-million dollar home in Atlanta, and eventually, the fire would get out of control, causing the whole home to go down in flames. So when VIBE had the women on the magazine dressed in firemen outfits, Lopes striking a fierce pose in the middle with the tag line, “Burning Up The Charts, Burning Down The House,” folks weren’t too pleased with the fact that it seemed they were making light of such a serious offense, and so soon. Lopes would talk in depth about the fire in the magazine, and some readers would even go on to send letters saying that they felt VIBE was glamorizing her behavior by painting her more as a rebellious star than someone actually dealing with alcoholism who needed help. Either way, the cover became a classic to many, but was it all that tasteful? Probably not…

Mary Goes IN on VIBE For Trying To Keep Her Down

Mary J Blige has been on the cover more times than probably any other artist, and I’m talking at LEAST seven or eight times since the magazine’s inception. And while they seem to have a good relationship, Mary had a fit in 2005 after she was featured on the November issue looking less than glamorous. Around that time, VIBE was still doing an annual awards show and in that year, Mary was given the V Legend award. When she accepted her award, according to Contact Music, she decided to let her feelings be known about the cover, which she felt was messed with (including making her makeup damn near nonexistent and brown) in order to appear sad and downtrodden at a time when she was trying to get past that former image she carried: “I really hated the way you guys shaved off my head, pushed my forehead way back behind my ears. I’m just insulted.” The mag blamed her stylist and Mary continued to blame the magazine for even letting the issue leave the building. “I don’t know what happened, I don’t know if it was purposely done, but I know the magazine had to be approved in that building, so to let that leave the building is disrespectful.”

NeNe Bathes In Diamonds For Ebony

This issue has barely been out very long, but the Dec.2012/Jan. 2013 cover had people scratching their heads as NeNe Leakes was the covergirl. And while folks weren’t mad because the reality star turned Hollywood starlet had been given the green light to grace such an illustrious magazine (well, some were…), it was the fact that the cover was out of character that turned people off. Some even claimed it looked like a cheap Playboy cover since she appeared to be naked in that tub of diamonds. I’m all for trying something new, and Ebony’s covers have been pretty amazing since they’ve had new leadership, but this wasn’t as cute as I think all parties involved thought it would be.

The Fierce Backlash Against Reggie Bush And Essence

Ouch, ouch, ouch. That’s all I can think of when I look back to the heat the magazine got burned with for putting Reggie Bush on their February 2011 cover. While Bush is definitely fine, the cover makes that clear, he’s not really a brotha too fond of the sistas, so his coverboy status didn’t sit well with readers AT ALL. Bush was at the time still dating Kim Kardashian, and anything that follows Kim K gets a boatload of shade. People started claiming that because Bush allegedly doesn’t love black women (which was assumed because of the women he dates), he shouldn’t be on the cover, or in the magazine at all. In my opinion, the anger was a bit overdone, but was he the best choice to talk about love to black women for the Valentine’s Day issue when he doesn’t seem to have a want to date ’em? Naw, not really.

Bey Bey Does Blackface For L’Officiel

I’ve found that Beyoncé is one of those people who will do a little bit of everything in the name of art. But sometimes what’s supposed to be art can just be foolishness. While the cover itself is chic, there are a few images inside the magazine that were questionable due to the choice to paint the singer’s face in black while she rocked fashions that were supposed to give her shoot an Africana feel. Unfortunately, it seemed that stylists were trying paint her darker in order to fit the fashions inspired by outfits and headdresses worn in countries all over Africa. She’s black. Did we really need to put paint the color of a Hostess cupcake on her face to allow her to look right in this garb??


LeBron James Gets The Black Brute Treatment For Vogue

I think anybody who wants to be taken seriously in any form of sports and entertainment has to be giddy when they get a call from Vogue asking them to be in the magazine, let alone, on the cover. But when your big debut in the magazine is the opportunity to play a big King Kong lookin’ mug to Brazilian model Gisele Bündchen, who gets to play the dainty, helpless beauty, you should start asking people to go back to the drawing board. I’m sure James didn’t realize what he was representing on the cover or in the spread, and I’m very sure he didn’t care, but tacky about covers what this issue’s image looks like.

50 Cent and Soulja Boy Get Close, A Bit TOO Close, For XXL

Hmmmm….I’m thinking this was supposed to be an attempt to prove how “hard” these two figures in hip-hop are. It has to be since Soulja is holding his crotch in the image and 50 has his face shrouded in mystery and white cloth. Too bad 50’s got his arm around the guy while Soulja has half of his panties boxers out for the world to see with Fif standing behind him. I think I’m seeing more suspect than “gangsta.” After a short Twitter feud between Soullja Boy and Fabolous over the biggest fail of all time, messing with Kat Stacks, Soulja started throwing threats, Fabolous called him a cokehead and 50 decided to jump in to have his back and throw his own threats. The end result was this magazine cover, I’m guessing to send a message. Too bad the message spurred a collective laugh out loud moment for everybody else.

Bad Weaves And Lightened Skin For Gabby On ELLE

When Gabourey Sidibe was one of many women covering ELLE magazine’s 25th anniversary issue in October 2010, it should have been an exciting occasion, but unfortunately, folks weren’t happy when they realized that Sidibe appeared lighter than usual, not to mention that the wig they put on her head was a travesty. Blame it on bad lighting and bad styling, or maybe it was done on purpose, but enough people cried foul about the cover that the magazine had to put out a statement. They claimed they didn’t touch her up more than they touched up the other cover girls, who were all conveniently white and got to rock their own hair. But seriously, I’m not nearly as bothered by what her skin is doing on the cover as I’m just pissed at that wig! Dead wrong!


TIME‘s Breastfeeding Bonanza Makes Everyone Uncomfortable

As if breastfeeding wasn’t already a topic that gets people fired up, put a mother on the cover with a child getting nourished who is big enough to dunk on my 8-year-old nephew and you’re sure to get a few suburban moms pissed and a bunch of other people maaaaaad uncomfortable. While the article in itself was supposed to be about attachment parenting, which includes the concept of extended breastfeeding, the content was greatly overshadowed by the cover image, which many described as “jarring.” And with the now 4-year-old boy staring into the camera as he suckles his smirking mom’s breast, jarring seems to the perfect description.

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