Playboy has been controversial since it started. The men’s lifestyle and health magazine features ‘Playmates’ and nude centrefolds which are the staple of the magazine. With each monthly copy featuring a new celebrity or recognised Playboy Playmate gracing the cover with often very little to wear, it’s no wonder over the decades Playboy has racked a reputation of having some of the most controversial magazines covers ever printed.
Kicking off our list we are going all the way back to the beginning. Where the Playboy empire started its rise to the top, with 1953’s December debut issue of Playboy with none other than the legendary figure herself Marilyn Monroe on the cover.
Dec 1953 – Marilyn Monroe
The gorgeous film star from the golden age of movies graced the cover with a nude photo from her 1949 calendar shoot. As the legend goes, Monroe posed nude for photographer Tom Kelley for $50 when she was an aspiring actress desperate for cash. Many years later Hugh Hefner purchased the photo’s for $500 and featured Monroe on the cover and more nude photos inside the magazine. The magazine’s debut sold 50,000 copies and Hefner attributed a lot of Playboy’s later success to Marilyn Monroe gracing the original cover. Hugh Hefner later acquired a burial plot next to Marilyn Monroe for $75,000. It’s fair to say, without Marilyn Monroe, Playboy may never have been what it is today.
June 1962 – A Toast To Bikinis
Playboy often likes to play around with its logo within covers. A bunny rabbits head is usually hidden somewhere on the cover or hidden in plain sight. In the case of this 1962 bikini issue, not only did it cause controversy for its blatant display of skin on the cover but for the optical illusion, some claim to see. If you cover the top half of the cover horizontally, the rest of the cover looks like a woman’s crotch with her legs spread. Although some would argue this is exactly the cheeky spirit of Playboy, the crowd of 1962 took a little more offence.
Oct 1971 – Darine Stern
Nearly two whole decades after Playboy debuted and eight years after Martin Luther King’s iconic ‘ I have a dream speech ‘, Black model Darine Stern caused a wave of controversy when she was featured on the cover of the Oct 1971 issue, being the first African American Woman fo solely star on the cover, the issue was a big step for Playboy and contributed to there already growing and controversial reputation of printing whatever they wanted.
Nov 1975 – More Sex In Cinema
Playboy’s climbing success and controversial reputation naturally sparked competition within the publishing industry with other magazines such as Penthouse popping up and trying to rival the explicitness Playboy was offering. Hugh Hefner found himself in an uncomfortable position of trying to do more without compromising the integrity of his brand. In an attempt to win what was now being dubbed the ‘Pubic Wars’ Hefner opted for a more ‘raunchy’ cover, featuring a playmate slipping her finger into her panties. This image, although cheeky and shocking, wasn’t exactly what Hefner was trying to achieve with his magazine, and he later admitted he regrets the cover and vowed not to stoop that low again.
May 1980 – The Stewardesses
Women in uniforms, as well as men in uniforms, is considered sexy. However, in May 1980 the Stewardess who posed for the cover of Playboy found herself with a backlash of opinions, with many stewardesses and general women in the workforce feeling like they were misrepresented.
Sept 1996 – Uma Thurman
Playboy is a magazine many celebrities and playmates have been on the cover of and at this point everybody knows the deal. Women willingly pose nude for the cover and are paid for there artistic efforts. However, in 1996’s September issue of Playboy, the magazine featured a topless Uma Thurman from pictures Playboy had acquired from the paparazzi. These photos, taken and sold most likely without Uma Thurman’s permission, were featured through the reflection of the famous Playboy Bunnies glasses and likely tainted Uma Thurman’s relationship with Playboy, as she never willingly graced the cover herself.
June 2003 – Sarah Kozer
Many times a Playboy cover is controversial because of the person on the cover. Who they are, what they represent and what appearing on Playboy’s cover means for them and the world are all reasons a cover might be considered controversial. In the case of June 2003 however, Sarah Kozer outraged Playboy fans when she was featured on the June cover not because of who she is (A minor reality star) but because of who she wasn’t. Considering the June issue, up until then was reserved for the Playmate of the Year. Giving the cover to this D list celebrity over who should have been the playmate of the year (Christina Santiago) was too much for some fans to buy into, and even with Sarah looking like a knockout, fans wanted to see their playmates appreciated.
March 2006 – Jessica Alba
Jessica Alba in the early 2000’s was a sought after actress. Every movie wanted her and every magazine wanted to shoot her. In the case of Playboy, they were no different. However Jessica Alba wouldn’t do Playboy, so instead the publication took pictures from her for a film, and used the photos for there 2006 March issue. Jessica Alba responded with a lawsuit claiming the magazine feature caused damage to her career and reputation, especially since gracing the cover of Playboy is an indication you’re nude inside. Hugh Hefner apologised to Jessica Alba and donated money to her two favourite charities.
Feb 2008 – Tiffany Fallon
Playmate of the year Tiffany Fallon caused a wave of outrage when she posed as a body painted Wonder Woman on the cover of Playboy. Wonder Woman, a fictional comic book character published by DC Comics has been a staple of feminism and the strength of women since her debut in the 40’s. Although Wonder Woman, an icon for women and feminists everywhere, is draped in S&M and bondage symbolism, even down to her weapon being a rope and her powers not working if you bind her hands together, Tiffany Fallon managed to cause outrage by dressing EXACTLY like Wonder Woman. The irony of the outrage makes this cover one of the more fun controversial covers on the list.
February 2012 – Lindsay Lohan
Lindsay Lohan was a rising child star, capturing the hearts of adults and children everywhere with her child roles such as the parent trap and the cult classic movie Mean Girls. The Barely legal actress with the good girl persona was now breaking all the rules, and gracing the cover of Playboy nude, looking beautifully seductive and leaving everyone wondering if the good girl had gone bad. This very topic became the reason Lindsay Lohan’s 2012 issue became such a notorious issue for the already long-running lifestyle magazine.
So there we have it, ten controversial covers, from an already controversial company.