By Aly Semigran
Updated August 03, 2020 at 06:12 PM EDT
Tina Fey

As 2011 comes to a close, wanted to honor some of the hardworking names and faces from behind the scenes for their outstanding achievements. One of the very best things about Tina Fey’s literary debut — the honest, gut-busting, don’t-read-it-on-the-subway funny best-seller Bossypants — aside from, of course, “A Mother’s Prayer for her Child” and all those wild 30 Rock anecdotes, was that outrageous man-hands cover. Renowned photographer Ruven Afanador recalls what it was like shooting the very funny image that clicked with readers. For more behind the scenes access to the year’s best TV and movie scenes, click here for‘s Best of 2011: Behind the Scenes coverage.

As told by: Ruven Afandor

We were doing the cover of the book and Tina had mentioned to me certain things that she liked, and while we were brainstorming, I told her this idea that she might like. I’ve always been fascinated with the [passe-têtes at the] carnival, where you stick your head in front of the thing and then you see a whole body. I showed her a drawing that I made of the arms of this actor that I had photographed for something else who had these incredible hands and arms. She thought that was funny. We tried so many things, so many different ideas that day, but when we got to that one, [we knew]. It was incredible. The photograph wasn’t composed. Everything is how it happened. She stood on a box and he stood on the floor behind her. He was very shy and Tina told him, “Don’t worry, I’ve been groped all the time. Go for it.”

When I started shooting, I so wish that it had been filmed, because he had his head right against her back and she wasn’t speaking and neither was he, but it really was like a magical thing. Everything that he would do with the hands, her expression would go with it. The harmony was incredible, even though they had just met. Everybody could not stop laughing, and it was fascinating, and I kept shooting far more than I needed. We got the image immediately, but it was just such an incredible thing. I knew right there in that moment that it would become the cover, and I was so thrilled it did. [Ed. note: Other ideas that were thrown around during the photo shoot? According to Afanador, “Inner jokes from her childhood” and a nod to Laurel and Hardy.]

I was thrilled [with the way the way the cover came out.] The arms were reduced a little bit by the publisher because they were a little bit concerned by it, but it still gives the effect. I was totally surprised [by the response] because everything is so saturated, you never know if something is going to register. When she went on David Letterman [to promote the book], he picked on her so much about the cover and how weird the image was and it just started to take on its own life. She’s always been very generous in all her interviews that deal with the cover, and I just think it was so great that she had the guts to go with that image because I think it was a perfect thing for her book. She’s such a genuine person. I understand her great success.

For more on the Best and Worst of 2011, pick up Entertainment Weekly’s new issue, on stands now.

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