Lillian McKnight • 16 August 2012

She dared to utter the C word too many times to count in her debut single ‘212’, so it’s no surprise that the current darling of the rap scene, Azealia Banks, is courting controversy in the form of her cover for the latest issue of Dazed & Confused. The September edition features the bold Miss Banks blowing up a raspberry coloured condom, the phrase “AZEALIA BANKS BLOWS UP” liberally emblazoned. Accordingly (and probably to the unbridled delight of Dazed publishers), the issue has attracted much publicity for being banned in seven countries prior to its release. It says a lot that magazines like Zoo Weekly, whose past coverlines include “Ultimate Sex Quiz: How much do you really know about shagging?”, can sit comfortably on the newstand while the Sharif Hamza shot Banks cover is deemed too provocative. The British trend trailblazers behind Dazed & Confused have proved typically cool about the situation, taking to Twitter on August 8 to post the following.

In a media landscape where the magazine as an art form is becoming increasingly sanitised (the most recent edition of German Elle magazine has recycled a four-year-old Tiffany & Co. promotional shot of Sasha Pivovarova), it is exciting to see publications that are still willing to take risks when it comes to eye-catching covers. Clad in Balmain and toting that prophylactic like a total boss, Harlem bred Azealia’s cover is immediately engaging and will, no doubt, prove memorable.

Although judging a book by its cover is rarely a wise choice, the print magazine industry relies entirely on a passing glance over a newsagent’s shelves. Shifting issues and encouraging circulation is key, and risqué covers certainly encourage consumers to nourish an ailing industry. With this in mind, the pages team have been taking a look back at some of the most controversial— and, subsequently, memorable— fashion magazine covers.

Vanity Fair featuring Demi Moore

For the August 1991 issue of US Vanity Fair, famed photographer Annie Leibovitz captured Demi Moore. Not only was the actress seven months pregnant, she was completely starkers save for some particularly exxy looking bling. Naturally, the shoot provoked the sort of outcry normally reserved for things that actually matter, like the paltry service offered by City Rail or the whole Julian Assange debacle.

The image has since become a defining icon of the age of celebrity, and has spawned many a (lacklustre) knockoff. I’m looking at you, knocked up Jessica Simpson!

Garage featuring tattooed lady bits

The mindset of someone who actively decides to get their vulva tattooed, and proceeds to broadcast the results on the cover of an internationally distributed magazine, is questionable at best. But, that is exactly what twenty-three year old Londoner Shauna Taylor did when she starred as the face (or, rather, nether regions) of the premier issue of Dasha Zhukova’s Garage magazine. Feted YBA Damien Hirst got down and arty with Taylor’s lady bits for the cover, and they were then shot by Yves Saint Laurent’s Hedi Slimane. All we can say is, if you’re going to get your baby maker permanantly etched, it’d wanna be by an artist who can command millions of dollars for a dead shark.

Vogue featuring LeBron James and Gisele Bündchen

One would assume that any magazine cover featuring Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen, the evergreen beauty that never seems to stray far from modelling’s most profitable lists, would be an unadulterated success. Well, US Vogue learned a very valuable lesson in 2008 when it teamed she-of-the-never-ending-legs with basketball great LeBron James for its April cover.

The fashion industry is oft criticised for a perceived whitewash— models of colour are few and far between— and Anna Wintour’s effort for her magazine’s shape issue provoked an outpouring of criticism for its portrayal of the Miami Heat team member. Although James was the first black man to have ever appeared on the cover of Vogue, it was suggested that the image was a racially insensitive reference to the classic film King Kong. Didn’t think that one through very well, did you Anna?

Candy featuring Chloë Sevigny as Terry Richardson

Touting itself as “the first transversal style magazine”, Candy was never going to be released quietly. A previous issue proved that tireless slashie James Franco looked just as good dolled up as a girl as in his natural incarnation, but issue number three saw ultimate hipster style icon Chloë Sevigny in the guise of ultimate hipster photographer Terry Richardson giving his trademark thumbs up. The shoot also provoked the following incredibly disturbing video. NSFL, guys!

Interestingly, Sevigny has sinced taken up the role of a pre-op transgender hit man, so she evidently got a taste for gender ambiguity.

Vogue Homme Japan featuring Lady Gaga

I’d offer some commentary but, really, I think the image itself does all the talking. Cheers for doing my work for me, Lady Gaga!