Voices of the Community: Offended? or Not? by Kylie Jenner Wheelchair Photos


Kylie Jenner posed in Interview Magazine in what is described with numerous artsy, and fashion industry superlatives to communicate the actual meaning behind shooting an abled bodied “Celebrity Model”  in a gilded, over-sized hospital chair. The images by photographer Steven Klein with styling by Karl Templer has earned exactly what it most likely attempted to achieve; Attention. Not sure the kind of attention they had hoped, but we have come to learn, any attention, even negative seems to pay when your income is earned via the number of eyes on your social media pages and your name being talked about and images shared.

So what is the uproar all about? The article accompanying the photoshoot is an interview with the 18-year-old, and she is clearly more in charge of her decisions than many give her credit, yet, should she be accountable for not understanding how so many in the wheelchair using community feel about her using this “prop” for a gimmick?

You can read the article here and view the images in question, and then decide, where do you fall in the many sides to this story?

Here is a round up of some of the best perspectives, both PRO and CONS on this debate: 

Thomas Gunter via Disabled Life Media facebook

Photography is a medium to express….sad to see something like this turn south. I know a lot of friends and they are stronger than all the hateful comments on here. So please don’t act like you are doing anyone in a chair a favor by attacking this photographer and model. Nobody needs the hate.”

Ana Brown via Interview magazine Facebook

Steven Klein, Interview and Jenner, you all made bad decisions in this. Wheelchairs are not a fashion accessory for abled people to pose with. This disgusts me.”

David Stewart-Feminist  via Interview magazine Facebook

She is an able bodied person and you photographed her in a wheelchair. I have spent the past 31 years working with adults who have no other option but to use a wheelchair. The cover was disgusting-crude and 50 shades past tasteless.”

Daniela Trammell  Interview magazine Facebook

I am very disappointed that you and your creative team thought it was okay to photograph a non-disabled person in a wheelchair. If you were looking to capture sexy, beautiful people with actual disabilities there are plenty of them available. But use a wheelchair as a prop is very unsophisticated and ignorant. Please look at cultural appropriation beyond race and ethnicity. But in the meantime, I will use your lapse in judgement as a teachable moment of what NOT to do.”

PhotoAbility Facebook Post:

“We are proud our models who use wheelchairs do so, with grace, style and dignity. If this is “Haute” now–bring it…and use real models with disabilities like Amanda Perla shown here for your next cover.http://photoability.net/search/q/0-0-3-0-0-1-0-1-amanda.html

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PhotoAbility Model Amanda Perla

Claiming Crip Blogspot

“We need to talk about the fact that Kylie Jenner is allowed to look edgy and sexy in a wheelchair but she has never had her ability to consent to sexual activity questioned because she was disabled. She has never had her sexuality interrogated by random strangers and put on display simply because she was sitting in a wheelchair. That wheelchair has never made her an item on a sexual bucket list that people want to try just to see what it would be like. Kylie Jenner has never heard the words, “You’re so pretty… For someone in a wheelchair.” She’s never experienced unwanted fetishization that seems to be so common for disabled women. She’s never had to balance feeling beautiful, and sexual and being sexually attractive in a world that sees you as anything but that.”

 Jenny Menser Feldman via Facebook
“And with this, Kardashian, Inc. has taken my distain for them to a new level. Kylie Jenner, your posing in a wheelchair that clearly isn’t a part of your life portrays those of us who actually use them as pathetic, mindless, inanimate objects. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our chairs don’t hold us back – they empower us. This is akin to Interview Magazinepainting you in black face because they couldn’t find a suitable model of color to hire. I’m sure the photographer had some kind of provocative statement about society that they are trying to make here, but I’m not buying it. You are young. Young people make mistakes, and for that reason, I forgive you. I just hope you learn from the mounting backlash that is headed your way in the wake of this photoshoot, and will choose more wisely in the future which projects you accept. And to Interview Magazine, if you are looking for images of REAL people beautifully and successfully navigating life in wheelchairs, I encourage you to check out my friend Deborah Davis‘ company, www.photoability.net . ‪#‎AbleismIsReal‬‪#‎AttentionAtAllCosts‬‪#‎GetABackbone‬‪#‎mobileWOMEN‬‪#‎WheelPower‬ “
Rachelle Friedman via Facebook

“I’m in a wheelchair and I’m kinda out there in the media so I feel like I should address Kylie Jenner posing in a wheelchair. Many of you may not agree with me but here it goes. I’m not offended and I couldn’t care less that she modeled in a wheelchair. It doesn’t perpetuate any negative stereotypes and if it did, I’d be all over it. This doesn’t hurt the community in any way. Yes she used something that some people HAVE to use. Well some people model in glasses with 20/20 vision too and then toss those aside. As a community, if we get offended over something like this, we are telling people that we are “taboo”. It’s only going to isolate us from the able bodied community if we come off as so untouchable, different and sensitive. There are way more important and yes OFFENSIVE things going on right now. Like congress looking to take away benefits such as the right to everyday mobility products. How about we make a buzz about that?”

Kylie Jenner is no stranger to negative reviews. As she states in her interview:

JENNER: “Yeah, pretty much ever since I was 9, since the show started, there’s been so much bullying towards me. Like, every single day I see something negative about me. And it’s just completely torn me apart. I feel like I’ve lost so many amazing traits because I’ve listened to stupid people, ignorant people who are bullies.”

So maybe Model/Actor/Director Thomas Gunter’s words “please don’t act like you are doing anyone in a chair a favor by attacking this photographer and model. Nobody needs the hate.” is a good reminder that we are all human and make mistakes out of ignorance, i.e., lack of understanding or information, or just varying views on what is art and perspectives. Let us be kind to one another and remember that we can all get our points across without being offensive in return.

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Deborah Davis

Deborah is a Speaker, Disability Inclusion Consultant, Entrepreneur, Writer and Business Owner of Wheelchair Lifestyle Enterprise Push Living Inc.

She was a Former Dancer, Accident Survivor (C 6-7 Spinal Cord Injury resulting in incomplete Quadriplegia 1985), College grad (BBA Finance 1991 U of Miami), with a background in Sales and Marketing and Non Profit Development and Management.

She is now embarked on new path creating a market for Disability Inclusive Stock Images with the creation of PUSHlivingPhotos.com and publishing an online enterprise: PushLiving.com. The mission is to create Inclusion for people with disabilities through stock images for advertising, marketing and editorial uses, providing accessible properties for travel, swap or purchase, publishing an online magazine for improved health and well-being, providing information and opportunities for Accessible Travel, and operating an online store with products that improve lives.

She is most passionate about building a network of people with disabilities who are empowering, supporting and creating a more inclusive world. Personally, she is a mother of two beautiful, wise and exceptionally bright young women, and residing in South Florida.

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