Kylie Jenner's provocative photoshoot for Interview magazine got everyone talking for all the wrong reasons.
The Alan Jones inspired photo shoot featured a photo of the 18-year-old in bondage gear, sitting in a wheelchair.
It was this photo which was perceived as having ableist undertones, being offensive to people who actually have disabilities. Kylie Jenner, an able-bodied woman who can walk just fine, gets paid to be in a wheelchair and have it deemed as 'art' or 'fashion,' which for many felt like a large undermining of those people who have life-long struggles with disabilities.
Erin Tatum, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, posted the following message on her Tumblr account. As part of the same post, she included a photo of herself recreating the reality star's photoshoot
I tried my best to create a more authentic version of Kylie Jenner's Interview cover, given that I'm, you know, actually disabled and a real life wheelchair user. I can barely get people to make eye contact with me, let alone land a cover shoot. If being in a wheelchair is trendy now, I've apparently been a trendsetter since before Kylie was born.
There was also backlash on Twitter:
Another thing not working in Kylie's favor was that the photo shoot hit the Internet the day after the release of her new lipstick kit. Many people thought that it was all part of a publicity stunt to help increase sales.
Although Kylie has yet to make an official apology statement, some people have made reference to a recent post on her Instagram which suggests that Kylie would never have wanted to offend or discriminate against people who have disabilities. The post is part of her anti-bullying #IAmMoreThan campaign, where she gives a voice to victims of bullying.
The post from last week featured Audrey, whose post was talking about how she was more than just her wheelchair. The post reads:
kyliejenner Thank you for your words @audreytheartist #repost "#iammorethan my wheelchair I have been doing really great lately and I thought it was time to share my piece of mind with you guys. 2015 has been one hell of a ride, and I am proud of me ; worked so far with amazing people, kept drawing when I couldn't for months because of the car accident I had last year, and also graduated. I left my comfort zone many, many times this year and I kept going, my faith in brighter days never faltering. Being different physically is complicated, you have to deal with loads of shits, and still keep smiling. I want to say to anyone who feels different, lonely or just down, #keepgoing. You never know what tomorrow is made of, in good or bad, so please, keep going and #nevergiveup. Life is weird, so are we, and that's what is #magical. I decided to embrace my flaws a long time ago, and I never regretted once that decision. I'm a young artist, and once again here, it's hard being different because, judgments ("you can draw with your hands?") but it's worth it. I believe one day, I will work for #Sia, making her cds covers, and even make exhibitions in San Fran, Amsterdam and Tokyo. In meantime I'm gonna build my empire, one drawing per day. And #keepsmiling because life is worth living no matter what. I love life. Do you?#audreytheartist @kyliejenner"
Although it does not substitute for a proper apology, maybe Kylie's past track record of acknowledging disabled people on her own Instagram account should be taken seriously before she is labelled as 'ableist.'
Of course, this doesn't take away from the damage caused, but rather points to the idea that this particular pose in Interview magazine was an ill-advised mistake.
Interview's statement has been entirely on the defensive, stating:
At Interview, we are proud of our tradition of working with great artists and empowering them to realize their distinct and often bold visions. The Kylie Jenner cover by Steven Klein, which references the British artist Allen Jones, is a part of this tradition, placing Kylie in a variety of positions of power and control and exploring her image as an object of vast media scrutiny. Throughout the Art Issue, we celebrate a variety of women who are both the creators and subjects of their artistic work, and the Kylie feature aims to unpack Kylie's status as both engineer of her image and object of attention.
So to sum up...
- Kylie's wheelchair photos have offended many disabled people. One reason being that Kylie can make money and fashion as an able-bodied woman appropriating daily struggles of disabled people.
- The photos surfaced the day after the launch of Kylie's new lip kit, which also raises suspicions of this being a publicity stunt.
- Interview hasn't helped with their entirely defensive comment which doesn't really acknowledge how the photoshoot upset many people.
- But, the star has featured the story of Audrey, who talks about her ambitions and not letting her disability get in the way of achieving.
- The star is only young and maybe it was just a mistake that she will learn from in due time.
It's pretty complex, but I think it will all be cleared up when an official apology from the starlet is released.