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.