The year 2002 was peak celebrity chaos: Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake broke up. Michael Jackson dangled his baby from the balcony of his hotel room. Christina Aguilera kicked off her Stripped era by getting facial piercings. And Avril Lavigne released her debut album Let Go, uniting an entire generation of pop-punk girls. The time was marked by an overall “more is more” mentality when it came to fashion and pop culture — and that same tumultuous vibe was reflected on the year’s most memorable magazine covers.
In 2002, magazine covers were less high art, more high drama. Cover stories often teased salacious feuds, breakups, or babies on the way, making huge claims about the lives of the stars they were featuring and often dressing them in a dizzying number of layers (think Limited Too mini jackets). Cover darlings included Natalie Portman (Allure and Vogue), Kirsten Dunst (Seventeen), and Gwyneth Paltrow (InStyle and Vogue), all of whom had just released major films — and whose personal lives were ripe for gossip fodder.
In celebration of this unhinged era in celebrity history, Bustle took a look at the nine most unforgettable magazine covers from 2002, from David Beckham as Jesus to Jennifer Garner in all leather. Enjoy.
David Beckham For GQ In June 2002
Some very on-the-nose Christ imagery is happening in this GQ cover shot, in which an extremely chiseled, extremely oiled-up, extremely at-the-height-of-his-popularity David Beckham is seen holding his arms over a cross. The styling — unbuttoned jeans and platinum hair stripe — added a playful touch to the snap.
Britney Spears And Justin Timberlake For US Weekly In December 2002
The cultural impact of Britney Spears’ “Dump Him” T-shirt cannot be overstated: Fresh off her split from Justin Timberlake, the pop star stepped out in a fur coat, a pageboy cap, and the aforementioned shirt. The tabloids vilified her, taking Timberlake’s side after one of his music videos suggested she cheated on him.
Jennifer Garner For Rolling Stone In February 2002
Jennifer Garner became a household name in 2002 on the heels of landing the part of Sydney Bristow in Alias. The J.J. Abrams-created series nabbed the actor a Golden Globe and led to tons of film roles, including that of knife-wielding badass Elektra in Daredevil — which might explain why Rolling Stone ran a leather-clad Garner on its cover with the line, “Just your average butt-kicking coed in leather.”
Pink For YM Magazine In April 2002
“Memo to Britney: Watch your back.” Did Pink actually say this? Certainly not. Did it make for a tantalizing cover line? Sure. In the early 2000s, the press loved to stoke the fires of fictional girl feuds: Pink vs. Britney. Avril vs. Britney. Hilary Duff vs. Lindsay Lohan. And so on.
Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Lance Bass, And Ashley Parker Angel For J-14 In January 2002
So much to unpack here: On this cover alone, J-14 posits that the *NSYNC boys are jealous of Justin Timberlake, that Pink may not be as tough as she seems, that Britney Spears is not really a girl anymore, and that fame has changed Alicia Keys. By looking at this one cover, you immediately know who the year’s biggest pop stars were.
Jennifer Aniston For People magazine In August 2002
The media’s obsession with celebrity couples (and their plans for procreating) reached a fever pitch in 2002, with particular focus on a then-married Jen and Brad, who were constantly fielding rumors about having babies. The pair were regulars on celebrity weeklies, like People.
Kirsten Dunst For Seventeen In June 2002
When Spider-Man came out in 2002, Kirsten Dunst — hot off her success from Bring It On — cemented her place as a multi-faceted actor capable of comedy, drama, and everything in between. For its cover, Seventeen decided to go with a mid-jump shot of Dunst (a big trend at the time), and the actor curling her hands in a head-scratching way that’s giving Salad Fingers.
Heidi Klum For GQ In September 2002
For its 45th anniversary, GQ opted for a cheeky Marilyn Monroe tribute: Heidi Klum, at the apex of her modeling career (and just two years before Project Runway), popping out of a cake with icing covering her breasts! But that wasn’t all: Klum paid homage to Hollywood icons, from Bardot to Madonna, in the accompanying photo shoot.
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