Disability Advocates Take Kylie Jenner to Task for Wheelchair Photo Shoot

“Ableism isn’t a fashion statement.”

A cover shoot published in the magazine Interview this week has disability advocates crying foul over images of 18-year-old Kylie Jenner in a gold-plated wheelchair. Jenner, the youngest in the reality-show-famous Kardashian clan, does not have a disability, and advocates on Twitter and elsewhere argued that the photo shoot turns a vital tool into a fashion statement.

Image via Twitter

“The photo just adds more ogling and sensationalism that people with disabilities are used to, without adding to the conversation about what it means to be in a wheelchair in the world today,” disability advocacy specialist Ian Watlington, with the National Disability Rights Network, told Mashable Tuesday.

As others pointed out on Twitter, models who have to use wheelchairs often have a difficult time finding work.

via Twitter

“Modeling in wheelchairs is practically unheard of!” 17-year-old Ophelia Brown wrote in an open letter published by MTV News. (Brown uses a wheelchair.) She continued:

Do you know what that lack of representation means? It means that 9 year-old Ophelia is embarrassed about having to sit out from gym class. It means that 12 year-old Ophelia would rather die than go to school in a wheelchair. It means that 17 year-old Ophelia has been told too many damn times that her disability makes her ugly. I want you to know how much power that wheelchair gives you, and how, honestly, you don’t deserve that power.

“We are constantly told our bodies are broken, ugly, undesirable. Our wheelchairs are seen as prisons, bonds, tragedies,” writer Kayla Whaley wrote in a moving tweetstorm.

Image via Twitter

Jenner has not officially responded to her critics, though Interview said in a statement to E! Online that the photo shoot “[places] Kylie in a variety of positions of power and control and [explores] her image as an object of vast media scrutiny.”

“This photo was a mistake, and if you’ve read this, I forgive you,” 17-year-old Brown wrote to Jenner at the conclusion of her MTV essay. “We’re all learning and we’re all growing. I hope this can be a learning experience for you, your photographer, and the magazine.”

Image via Twitter

(Via Mashable. Cover image via Twitter))

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