40th Anniversary: ESSENCE's 40 Most Beautiful Covers

ESSENCE.COM Nov, 10, 2010

1 of 40 ESSENCE, May 1970

Barbara Cheeseborough

2 of 40

What a sweet smile!

3 of 40

Intricate cornrows, rich mocha skin — this woman is a goddess.

4 of 40

Green eyeshadow and fuschia lipstick is unexpectedly gorgeous here. And how about that flip?

5 of 40

Agent extraordinaire Bethanne Hardison in an early modeling shot. So chic!

6 of 40

We love how the shimmery chartreuse shadow picks up the print on the model’s bandana. This is simply a stunning shot!

7 of 40

The cover model looks exquisite in her beaded cornrows.

8 of 40

The 1980s covers were all about capturing the energy and vitality of the modern working woman.

9 of 40

So sweet! Here, Iman, her former husband, basketball star Spencer Haywood, and their daughter Zulehka pose for a gorgeous family portrait.

10 of 40

Almond-shaped eyes, glossy red lips and an architectural hat? Fierce.

11 of 40

One of the loveliest faces we’ve ever seen on an ESSENCE cover. Makes you want to rethink tweezing your brows to death, doesn’t it?

12 of 40

A young Vanessa Williams, fresh off her historic Miss America win.

13 of 40

Grace Jones works it in ultraviolet shadow, hot pink blush and geometric bracelets. Dare to be you, indeed!

14 of 40

Here, ESSENCE capitalized off the 1980s fitness craze by outfitting Beverly Johnson in chic workout gear.

15 of 40

A fresh-faced Lisa Bonet flaunts her beauty in violet lipstick and little else.

16 of 40

In 1988, Robin Givens was one of the most beautiful — and controversial — women in entertainment.

17 of 40

Supermodel Karen Alexander was one of the most ravishing beauties of the era.

18 of 40

When Janet Jackson dropped her “Rhythm Nation 1814” album, ESSENCE was one of the first magazines to score an exclusive interview with the shy star. And the cover is simply gorgeous.

19 of 40

“A Different World’s” Dwayne Wayne and Whitley Gilbert were one of TV’s hottest couples, so who better than Kadeem Hardison and Jasmine Guy to pose for the 1991 “Love” issue?

20 of 40

Young, impossibly beautiful, and wildly in-demand, supermodel Naomi Campbell was a stunning cover girl.

21 of 40

This vibrant cover makes us want to take a Jamaican vacay, pronto.

22 of 40

Hottie Gary Dourdan poses with a gorgeous model (doesn’t she look like Lauryn Hill?) for one of our steamiest covers ever.

23 of 40

A fresh-faced Tyra Banks flaunts one of the most graceful necks we’ve seen this side of Iman.

24 of 40

Queen Latifah lives up to her regal name with this beyond-elegant shot.

25 of 40

Tan, glowing and gorgeous, Halle Berry proves why she’s regarded as one of Hollywood’s hottest women.

26 of 40

Sigh…Tyson Beckford’s chest never fails to get us all worked up.

27 of 40

At the height of her success, few women were as glamorous and sexy as Toni Braxton.

28 of 40

A sultry Erykah Badu gazes at us with long lashes and a berry-stained pout.

29 of 40

Who knew purple makeup and a net headpiece could be this adorable?

30 of 40

A beautiful, inspiring portrait of true sisterhood.

31 of 40

We love this clever shot of Halle Berry! The marine-blue eyeshadow and hooded catsuit are hot, hot, hot.

32 of 40

Nobody rocks white like Alek Wek. This cover is simply iconic.

33 of 40

Slippery when wet!

34 of 40

Before she was a star on “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” supermodel Cynthia Bailey steamed up ESSENCE’s August 2002 cover.

35 of 40

Angela Basset is the very definition of “ageless beauty.”

36 of 40

On her July 2005 cover, Eva Marcille (then Pigford) showed America why she won “America’s Next Top Model.”

37 of 40

The consummate glamour girl, Beyonce serves up sex appeal, elegance, and style in this iconic cover.

38 of 40

We may be biased, but we think this shot of Mary J. Blige is one of the prettiest she’s ever taken.

39 of 40

The first couple of Hollywood, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith are also one of the most photogenic couples we’ve ever laid eyes on.

40 of 40

In honor of Tyler Perry’s blockbuster film “For Colored Girls,” ESSENCE assembled the movie’s entire female cast for the December 2010 cover. Black girls rock!


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