Kylie Jenner used the wheelchair to represent her limitations. Which is horrible. Because my wheelchair LIBERATES me.
Last month, 18-year old reality TV star Kylie Jenner caused a furore when she posed for a photo shoot in Interview magazine in a wheelchair. She wore fetish gear with sex-doll hair and makeup. She sat helplessly and sexually objectified, without expression, all in the name of 'fashion'.
Emily Smith Beitiks, associate director of the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability in San Francisco spoke up to say It’s deeply disturbing,” on CNN. “People with disabilities are already seen as powerless, and this just reinforces that.” The context surrounding Ms Jenner's stunt isn't great; according to the English Federation of Disability and Sport, 38 per cent of people believe disabled people are a burden on society and one hundred and eighty disability hate crimes are committed every day in this country.
1.9% of the UK population uses a wheelchair. Why are we still seeing disability being exploited by the media instead of being celebrated?
Gemma Flanagan, 32, from Liverpool was 'shocked' by Jenner's PVC clad wheelchair shoot. She raised an important point when she added, 'I couldn't believe the hypocrisy of it. We're always pushing for fashion houses to represent more disabled women, yet we're told that it isn't suitable.'
I agreed with Gemma entirely. As an able bodied woman and a former model, I would never have dreamed of appropriating disability for fashion. No matter how big the pay cheque was.
Living a life of scruples and principles is paramount to me. It is highly underestimated. In the cut-throat world we live in where 'Get Rich or Die Trying' is a way of life for many, some are willing to do literally anything in the pursuit of money. I believe treating people well, staying true to your principles and representing people fairly is the key to success. Appropriation is a form of exploitation, a way of drawing on the struggles, hardships, achievements and cultures of other people simply to 'Get Rich Quick'.
1. Take (something) for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission.
As the saying goes, controversy sells. I say, at what cost? Historically, people with disabilities have been denied fundamental human and civil rights. In modern societies, there is a huge stigma attached to physical and mental disability. As it stands, the representation of models with disabilities is particularly paltry in the UK. Appropriating disability to sell magazines is simply unacceptable.
These approaches are certainly 'controversial' enough to cause a stir. Yet, I have always believed fashion to be an expression. A way of artistically wearing your personality. From daring colours to fabrics and tailoring; I have always been a fan of fashion. To now watch it becoming a platform that is set upon gaining attention by any means necessary is more than disappointing. It's an insult.
I believe that unless we pave ways for everyone to be fairly represented by the media, the fashion industry, Hollywood, music, and in general daily life, perceptions of minorities will remain closed-minded.
Some time ago, Beauty blogger Sarah Wilson was told by a stranger that she was "too pretty to be in a wheelchair". Is it any wonder there are such skewed views of disability and wheelchair users when it is still a taboo in the UK?
The Paralympics was truly empowering. This is the representation of disability I would like to see more of. We must speak out and take a stand. Not just when these shameless acts of appropriation effect us directly; but whenever any industry seeks to exploit the plights of others to make more money.
Inspirational figures such as Farida N. Bedwei (a celebrated software engineer with cerebral palsy) or wheelchair basketball player Ade Adepitan, are proof that 'Disability doesn't mean disadvantage'. These are the people I would like to see on magazine covers; examples of strength, endurance, skill and incredible talent. Please let's see an end to disability being used shamelessly simply because 'controversy sells'. In the long run, it simply isn't worth it. There are 9.4 million disabled people in England, which is more than 18 per cent of the population. The majority of those are women and
We have so many positive routes to creating change at our disposal. Ways that promote understanding, positivity and a broader perspective of beauty. Let's utilise them and raise a new generation that is more clued up, open-minded and in touch with reality than ours is sadly proving to be.
Making money isn't hard in itself... What's hard is to earn it doing something worth devoting one's life to.
Presenter Ade Adepitan
Carlos Ruiz Zafon