The release of Interview magazine’s Kylie Jenner cover has not sat well with the millions of Americans who suffer from life altering disabilities. It’s been called “shallow” and the subject of criticism from disabled Americans.
It’s not often the abled creatives involve the disabled in the world of art. Every so often we vote for the blind guy of American Idol. Or we claim the kid in the wheel chair is our favorite Glee character.
But the disabled community is still greatly left out of the spotlight when it comes to fashion and art. Interview took one of the spotlight’s favorite stars, Kylie Jenner, and paired her with the less shined upon subject matter; The disabled.
Kylie was sexed up and sat in what can only be described as the Bentley of wheelchairs. The juxtaposition of her fame and the unsettling schema of a wheelchair, left a strong offputting twinge in the mind of consumers. Mostly in the millions in the disabled community.
“As a visibly disabled woman, I never have the option to choose if I want to put myself on display. People stare at me, often directly and unabashedly, because my wheelchair demands attention. I’m not sitting to make a cultural statement, though. I’m sitting because it’s my reality.” Wrote Emily Ladau, for Salon. This was written in response to the creative team of Interview’s defense of the shoot. The trendy gold and black leather wheelchair wasn’t meant to be the provocative prop it appears to be apparently. It was meant to metaphorically represent the crutch of fame and attention that Kylie Jenner has been forced to live with. It was meant to be a social commentary on being “an object of vast media scrutiny.”
This sexy, stylized shoot is making the cover, featuring a famous celebrity hailed by billions. It’s meant to shine light on her struggle of being scrutinized, by dressing her up with a disability. However, there are hundreds of actually disabled models that could have been much more suitable to comment on being an object of scrutiny—as well as discrimination an object of, objectification, mockery, and slander. The choice for Kylie Jenner to be the face of this discussion, in this manner, is not the best choice, obviously.
If they wanted a Kylie Jenner shoot, then they could have just had that. But they went a step further and found themselves in a conversation they were not prepared to have. The main problem is, they should have expected this.
Fame, yes can be a burden. But a burden like fame has no business in comparing itself to, nor neglecting the far less fortunate burden, of a disability. Because for millions of people around the world the struggle represented by Jenner isn’t a metaphor, it’s a sad reality.
Emily Smith Beitiks, associate director of the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability in San Francisco said about the cover, “It’s deeply disturbing, People with disabilities are already seen as powerless, and this just reinforces that.”
Interview couldn’t have possibly known how badly the timing for this would be. A center for the disabled was just the recent victim of a terror attack. Donald Trump was recently under fire for what appeared to be him mocking a disabled reporter. Now Kylie Jenner has to face the repercussions of the disabled men and women who find it offensive when their struggles are stolen for style because it’s supposedly a metaphor for her reality. When for them, it’s never been a metaphor, just reality. “Wheelchairs are not a costume choice. My wheelchair is not a symbol of an identity to try on. It is part of who I am,” wrote Landau, heartbreakingly true and desperately needing to be understood.
America is home to millions of unemployed, homeless, overlooked, infantilized, and prejudiced disabled human beings. Their misunderstood daily struggle is hardly given praise or lent a hand to. But Kylie Jenner gets praise for posing in what has become a hollow misrepresentation of a vast majority of mistreated beings. It’s only fair that fashion magazines take this incident and make it up to the community by getting them involved finally. Disabilities are a struggle but art shows there is beauty in everything, sometimes especially in struggle. It’s time we feature them as people, not just props.