Kylie Jenner’s lifeless stare is on the cover of Interview. Great great great, except one tiny snag. She’s in a wheelchair.
Putting people who don’t have disabilities in wheelchairs, leg braces, and crutches has been one tough mother of a resilient trendlet. It’s a fave kewl concept for great creative minds angling for something groundbreaking like people for whom walking isn’t a breeze. It’s been in Vogue, V magazine , i-D, and also that time when Lady Gaga’s handlers carted her off in a wheelchair in that Papparazzi video.
Here’s why this striking cover with this fetish dress is not an awesome time. When people try on a blindfold or wheel around for funsies if that’s not their required mode of living, it’s deeply offensive to those who actually do get around differently. Harriet McBryde Johnson has written beautifully on the subject of using a wheelchair. She movingly illustrates how she loves the feel of the air when she’s going down the street in her motorized wheelchair. That’s Harriet, and this is Kylie Jenner of all people. Kylie Jenner? The enterprising young woman who, let’s be real, has been sprinting down a path lined with privileges, which is why this is such a joke.
It’s been a joy stick of a time with this fashionable concept. Here’s a quick look back.
We’re fully aware that the fantasy of high art and fanciful fashion has as much to do with reality as Nicki Minaj has to do with humility. Totally sincere congrats for all the creativity over the years, Interview. But a high fashun wheelchair is the best thing you could come up with to honor Andy Warhol’s legacy? By all means, put Kylie in a dewy rosebud and give her a mermaid tail, turn her into a peacock and cast Kris Jenner as the wind beneath her wings, or bedazzle her in crystals and rocket her onto the top of a planet all her own while Tyga orbits around her on a satellite with flame accents. This stuff should definitely be glamourized like it is on people with disabilities on the runway, with new technological innovations and in Diesel’s campaign featuring Jillian Mercado (who actually has muscular dystrophy,) but why do this?
Pick stuff apart time: even worse, there’s that frozen look of hers. The series casts her as a doll in all manner of setups because she lives her voiceless life in a dollhouse. Get it? But when she’s a sad doll in a wheelchair, we’re not here for it. The resulting atmosphere is emotionally distant. She’s alienated. A vegetable, frozen and stiff, unable to connect with anyone or even crack a smile at her overflowing lip kit sales. We know that’s not how all people who use wheelchairs go through life.
Sticking Kylie Jenner in a wheelchair with this blase look on her face because she can’t be bothered to walk or care is just thoughtless. It’s the kind of mimicry fashion loves — to put people who don’t actually have to contend with any of the daily challenges, devastation and success marginalized people actually go through. Fetishizing this group in particular with a beautiful tragedy picture is one of the more nauseating moves because there isn’t a minority in the world more criminally underrepresented in media than people with disabilities. It’s humiliation via wardrobe. Luxe wheelchairs are hot? Awesome. Call us when someone who actually uses one rolls through your pages.
Cool gleaming gold spokes guys, but if Kylie were given the opportunity to trade places with a woman who uses a wheelchair, we’re guessing she’d go with “bye.”
Photo by Stephen Klein