Our favorite covers from Paper Magazine — dead but not forgotten

Taking a closer look at the bold and brash flicks that defined an era of pop culture

by Mary Kurbanov

Graphic by Jennifer TranAugust 24 2023

April 2023 was a particularly dark month, marred by the surprising announcement of Paper Magazine — world renown arts and fashion publication — ceasing all operations. First released in 1984, Paper Magazine has released stories and visuals representing the new age, the contemporary. The magazine has always been forward thinking, often covering topics at the intersection between artistry and internet culture. Their ability to always be a few steps ahead of the entertainment industry allowed them to gain a wide audience and major hype. Celebrities aplenty have donned sick fits and graced the covers of Paper — Rihanna, Zayn, Kim Kardashian, Hayley Kiyoko to name a few. 

Safe to say, creatives everywhere miss Paper Magazine. Here, we have taken the opportunity to feature some of their most audacious covers, giving a sense of what the world of style has been missing now that they are gone. 

March 2017 Cover: Here, Rihanna is a rockstar — riding on the heels of her most recent album “Anti”, the singer-songwriter forgets the mold of pop princess and dives further into edgy RnB. Sebastian Faena helmed this absolutely incredible shoot and ensured that Rihanna took center stage. She serves confident city kid in a stunning coat by Bally, making this a cover to remember. 

April 1993 Cover: Rupaul’s energy and joie-de-vivre cannot be contained to the confines of one meager cover — she is larger than life, and her hair spills on either side of the page. Her electrifying headshot and daring makeup embody the vibrancy of queer culture, embracing the joy in true freedom of self. 

Winter 2014 Cover: Talk about breaking the internet. When this cover hit social media channels around a decade ago, Kim Kardashian and her, well, assets, were at the height of conversation. Perhaps it is the wacky, gravity defying champagne popping, perhaps it is the glamorous look reminiscent of old Hollywood stardom — at any rate, this cover made waves and continues to shape pop culture discussion today.

June 2018 Cover: Affectionately known as “Lesbian Jesus”, Asian-American singer Hayley Kiyoko is the definition of a queer icon. In her emotionally charged music, she shares her experience at the crossroads of youth and marginalization, which this cover seems to reflect. Blue, artfully sculpted legs cross over Kiyoko’s chest, contrasting the orange background and the singer’s serious gaze. Kiyoko’s music makes a statement, and so too does this engaging piece of photography. 

April 2022 Cover: French pop star Stromae has always gone against the grain, embracing gender fluidity in his image and fascinating, contortionist choreography in his songs. At this time, Stromae had just made his comeback with new album “Multitude” after a long bout of silence since 2015. Stromae proves here that he’s just as avant-garde and bold as ever, with a blue tongue and twirling hair accentuating his established brand as a tried and true experimentalist.