Kylie Jenner’s provocative cover on Interview has done its job. It’s provocative all right, and has garnered criticism from people who want to tell Jenner the cover “trivializes the concept of a wheelchair.”
Whether the decision to pose in the wheelchair was a good idea remains questionable, and the backlash against Kylie Jenner was immediate. Both Interview and Jenner have defended the choice. In the article, Kylie claims the wheelchair is a metaphor for the attention she receives as “an object of vast media scrutiny,” reports Salon in an opinion piece written by Emily Ladau, a self-proclaimed “visibly disabled woman.”
On the cover of Interview, Kylie Jenner wears a skin-tight vinyl top, and appears seated in a gold and black wheelchair. The interview with Kylie is touted on the front cover as, “The Surreal Life: The Art Issue Starring Kylie Jenner.”
In the interview, Kylie confessed that she likes to play with her appearance because the teenager is “all about, like, experimenting” as she transitions from girl to woman and establishes her own identity. Interview magazine itself has defended the Kylie Jenner cover, releasing a statement to E! Online which explained that their “intention was to create a powerful set of pictures that get people thinking about image and creative expression, including the set with the wheelchair.”
Interview was also clear that their “intention was certainly not to offend anyone” with the images of Kylie Jenner in a wheelchair. The publication added that “[t]hroughout the Art Issue, we celebrate a variety of women who are both the creators and subjects of their artistic work,” explaining that “the Kylie feature aims to unpack Kylie’s status as both engineer of her image and object of attention.”
In her Salon article, Emily Ladau openly criticizes Kylie Jenner’s decision to use the wheelchair as “a prop,” explaining that “[p]eople stare at me, often directly and unabashedly, because my wheelchair demands attention.”
According to Ladau, although Kylie Jenner and the rest of the Keeping Up With The Kardashians clan “deliberately chose to put themselves in the limelight and continuously clamor for attention,” the reality that they’re followed by the media does not give them the right to exploit “a facet of my reality to tell that story certainly doesn’t garner any sympathies from me.”
Another voice criticizing Kylie Jenner has also emerged. Ophelia Brown, a 17-year old teen from Ottawa, Canada’s Merivale High School posted a tweet about Jenner’s Interview photos that has gone viral. Brown is confined to a wheelchair because of a “complex regional pain syndrome that she was diagnosed with at nine years old,” reports Canadian new outlet CBC News.
Brown tweeted Kylie Jenner on December 1, writing, “wow being in a wheelchair is so fun and fashionable! #Ableism is the ultimate fashion statement!” In the tweet, Brown posted a photo of herself, in her wheelchair, beside Kylie Jenner in hers.
The post to Jenner has been retweeted over 26,000 times and garnered over 28,000 likes. Although she did not expect her tweet to Kylie Jenner to go viral, Ophelia told CBC News that she is shocked but pleased at the attention the tweet has received.
In an interview with CBC News, Ophelia said that Jenner’s photo “trivializes the concept of a wheelchair,” pointing out that a “wheelchair is not a fashion accessory, it’s not a prop.” Unlike Jenner in her wheelchair, Brown’s is “not something that I can easily get in and out of. It’s not something that I want. It’s something that I need to get to school, to go out with friends, to live a normal life.”
Although Kylie Jenner has not reached out directly to either Ophelia Brown or Emily Ladau, Brown points out that her “only goal for the tweet was to get as many people to see it as possible and to educate people, as well as Kylie, and the photographer and the magazine that published it,” the teen told CBC News.
[Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images]