Studies analysing women’s magazines note contradiction as a common theme, whether it be the content of the magazines and the ideological values presented therein, or at broader, political levels. This paper empirically investigates to what extent contradiction may occur on the covers of real-life magazines (a subgenre of women’s magazines; N = 100). Employing a multimodal analysis of the textual, visual, and compositional modes, contradiction is posited to occur at various levels. Overall, while these covers present a seemingly upbeat character at a glance, themes of a distressing nature – including but not limited to abuse and violence – are present throughout. The interactions between associated texts and imagery, and the relative salience of these elements, are suggested as key factors in these contradictory compositions. Furthermore, these factors are posited as explanations for why real-life magazines are often in full view in magazine racks around the UK, yet are omitted from the scrutiny that other (sub)genres of magazines undergo.