'Redemption profiles' are the new nude magazine covers, just ask Taylor Swift and Kristen Stewart.


Once upon a time the best way for actresses to drastically redefine their public image or shed new light on past scandals was to appear on a magazine cover minus clothing.

These cover shots were always accompanied by a headline that alluded to the performer’s new outlook on life with an accompanying article where they waxed lyrical about being misunderstood. In reality though it never really mattered what that inky black text said as the power was in the picture.

Cast your mind back to 2000 when Jessica Biel was pictured nude on the cover of Gear magazine in order to shed her good girl 7th Heaven image or when Lindsay Lohan tried to distance herself from a childhood as a Disney starlet or her teenage years as a boozy paparazzi magnet by doing a “mature nude” cover shoot for New York Magazine in 2008.

Of course, one of the biggest additions to this trend was Jennifer Anniston, who posed nude on the cover of GQ also in 2008 in order to separate herself from the jilted wife storyline that was plaguing her in the wake of Brad Pitt and Angelina’s lovefest (it was not entirely successful).

Nowadays, the nude magazine cover trend is not quite as prevalent as it used to be. It’s a flip that could be traced back to the idea that magazine editors are starting to read the room a little, floating the idea that maybe there’s a way for these women to share their stories in a manner that doesn’t always involve showing off their bare breasts.


That is not to say that many of these women were forced into unbuttoning their shirts for the camera, many of them would have found it empowering while others (such as Jessica Biel) have since expressed deep regret.

Nowadays we are seeing a very different way in which female performers use magazine profiles to redesign their public personas. Recently a slew of women including Taylor Swift, Kristen Stewart and Renée Zellweger have all used high profile magazine profiles to tweak their public personas, subtly replying to ways they have been demonised in the past and highlighting how their past breaks from the spotlight have set them on a new path.

These interviews were not framed as apologies for past indiscretions, but more as stories of redemption.

In an August cover story with Vogue entitled Taylor Swift on Sexism, Scrutiny, and Standing Up for Herself chart-topping musician Taylor Swift addressed a time when her persona took a very public hit, when Kim Kardashian West leaked a video of her in July 2016, speaking of her reaction to the scandal in a way he never has before by saying  “I don’t think there are that many people who can actually understand what it’s like to have millions of people hate you very loudly.”

She followed this up with a confession about why she shunned the traditional media spotlight for the release of her Reputation album in 2017, now explaining her absence by saying “When you’re going through loss or embarrassment or shame, it’s a grieving process with so many micro emotions in a day. One of the reasons why I didn’t do interviews for Reputation was that I couldn’t figure out how I felt hour to hour.”


Likewise, actress Kristen Stewart recently appeared in a cover profile story for Harpers Baazar UK talking about her many years hidden away from the mainstream studio film spotlight following the international success of the Twilight franchise.


With a new blockbuster, the upcoming Charlie’s Angels, in the pipeline Kristen used the profile to redefine her past persona as a sulking teen starlet who favoured a death glare every time she stepped onto a red carpet.

“I’ve tried to say this before and I don’t think I’ve ever articulated it properly but people get mad at you because you’re in such a grand position, so if you don’t hold that up, you don’t deserve it,” she told the magazine. “I never valued the fame thing as much as I valued the experiences I got to do while working. Some people were like, ‘You ungrateful asshole!’ and I was like, ‘ Yeah, completely, I don’t want to be famous, I want to do my work!'”


The third entry into this new trend of redemption profiles came courtesy of actress Renée Zellweger recently appearing on the cover of New York Magazine. 

In this profile she explained the catalyst for the many years she had stepped away from filmmaking, announcing her reemergence into the public arena with her upcoming movie Judy by opening up about overcoming her mental health struggles.

“I wasn’t healthy,” she told the publication. “I wasn’t taking care of myself. I was the last thing on my list of priorities.”

She then went on to say that her therapist “recognized that I spent 99 percent of my life as the public persona and just a microscopic crumb of a fraction in my real life.”


The lie that these three new interviews are all peddling is not that these women did not truly live these life experience in the way in which they describe, but more the reason why they are sharing them with us at all.

Despite their combined immense success, they are all in some way seen as stars who have misstepped, who have tiptoed quietly into villain territory and are now profiled as performers who owe us explanations if not apologies.

Even though they do not appear so at first, redemption profiles are very much the new nude covers, as it’s just another way for women to be stripped bare.

For more stories like this, you can follow Mamamia Entertainment Editor Laura Brodnik on Facebook.  You can also visit our newsletter page and sign up to “TV and Movies”  for a backstage pass to the best movies, TV shows and celebrity interviews (see one of her newsletters here).