Landing Kate Middleton as your cover girl is a coup that editors of fashion magazines, Vogue's Anna Wintour included, only dream of considering the duchess has famously turned down all such requests.
So when the August issue of Marie Claire South Africa with Kate Middleton smiling brightly on its cover hit the presses it generated a ton of buzz, but for all the wrong reasons.
In a spirit of ingenuity over authenticity, the magazine's editors decided that if you can't book the duchess, Photoshop her. The cover features Middleton's face superimposed on a model's body wearing designs by South African designer Clive Rundle with the headline: "Fashion's new royal icon wears SA's best local designers*" and a disclaimer: "*Of course she doesn't. But she should."
Inside the magazine, Middleton is pictured in a series of five illustrations dressed in clothes from local designers.
"We were so inspired by her fairytale wedding and her life as a modern-day princess, which is why we elected Kate Middleton as our cover star for the August issue," the magazine's editor Aspasia Karras told the Telegraph. "The cover is actually a hyper-real illustration of Kate, meant to be a fan art tribute to fashion's new royal icon."
While the magazine calls their work a "hyper-real illustration," others are calling it creepy, or worse.
"So she didn't actually pose for the cover? How is that a good thing? Aren't you cheating your readers as well as your cover subject?" wrote one commenter to the Telegraph. A series of polls also popped up online asking readers if the magazine's move was okay or a royal faux-pas.
Middleton has remained mum on the cover so far but it's not the first time the duchess has received the Photo Shop treatment.
The July 12 special issue of The New Republic placed a stylized image of Middleton with yellowed and rotting teeth on its cover with a tattered British flag behind her. The cover's title read: "Something's Rotten: The Last Days of Britain."
Last year, the British tabloid Grazia admitted it had altered Middleton's body on its May 9 cover. The tabloid digitally whittled down the duchess' waist in a photo of her at her wedding to Prince William the month before.
In the Grazia Magazine case, the UK's Press Complaints Commission led an investigation into the manipulation. Director of Communications for the Press Complaints Commission Jonathan Collett told ABC News today that if this Marie Claire incident were a case that occurred in the UK, the PCC would have to "enforce the Editors Code of Practice where in Clause 1 states, The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures."
ABC News' Annie Ramos contributed to this report