On International Disability Day, I really thought that the last thing I would be writing about would be the Kardashian/Jenner family. I’ll confess that when I first heard about them, I thought the show was a Star Trek spin off (I’m totally serious – high five if you even understand that one). The whole family have arguably gone on to shape makeup and fashion styles and trends more than any other in the last few years. They are the reason that Mac is consistently sold out of brown lipstick and they are well aware of their status as style icons.
So you can perhaps forgive my anger at Kylies recent photoshoot featured on the cover of interview magazine, where she is pictured sitting like a princess in a throne on a golden wheelchair. Wheelchairs as fashion accessories? That is certainly new to me. Should I expect a request for a golden wheelchair from my 13 year old daughter along with said brown lipstick?
I have long said that ableism is the last acceptable form of discrimination. Most discrimination and denigration of people with disabilities is soft…quiet; like me making a transaction in a store and the cashier handing my husband the change. This stunt, however is as about as blatant as it gets. Although at first look you might think ‘well, she’s not harming or taking the piss out of anyone’, and I can see why you might think that way. People with disabilities so often seem the last soft target because it is believed that we are a minority and no one is actively thinking of us during a marketing or publicity campaign.
I’ve had it said to me in total innocence that perhaps what Kylie is doing will pave the way for more disabled people to be featured in the media, and I can see how some people could think that to be the case. However, looking at the case of inarguable style icon Lady Gaga (hello, can we talk AHS?) who has used some fabul0us wheelchairs and mobility aids over the last 5-6 years due to genuine disability or injury (Lady Gaga is reported to have lupus and has suffered hip injuries and muscle tears), stars in wheelchairs does not make disability any more accepted by the general public, let alone the media.
It’s been a debate for as long as I’ve been alive and surely decades before as to whether people in the public eye such as musicians and celebrities (even the dubious ‘reality TV celebrities’ of the last decade) should be ‘setting a good example’ to the people who look up to them, young people especially. While I think that there is a huge grey area of personal responsibility and common sense, celebs as high profile as Kylie J need to think before doing something as gratuitous as posing on a magazine cover using a wheelchair as a ‘prop’. So many of us, myself and friends like Sarah Willow (who has also written a blog post on this matter) don’t have a choice and don’t need our lives mocked or used for a throwaway photo shoot.
What are your thoughts on the whole Kylie Jenner photoshoot controversy?