Kylie Jenner shouldn't turn disability into accessory
Last week, Interview magazine published a cover story on Kylie Jenner, the youngest member of the Kardashian-Jenner family at 18 years old, featuring a photo shoot with Jenner in a stylized wheelchair. The photo, shot by Steven Klein, prompted instant backlash; many decried Jenner for taking something essential to many disabled people's lives and making it a couture prop.
Interview justified the shoot by saying the wheelchair is a metaphor for Kylie's existence in the limelight — she is shackled by fame, and subjected to constant media scrutiny. Jenner's stint in a wheelchair serves as a weakly justified societal commentary, and plays into the search for identity she says defines her coming of age.
Although Kylie is still a teenager — "trying to figure herself out, experimenting with herself so that she might figure out who she is and who she wants to be," in the words of Chris Wallace's story for Interview — she should know better than to co-opt a wheelchair as a fashion accessory. As Jenner experiments with new looks in an effort to define herself, she takes something that stigmatizes those who are legitimately disabled, a wheelchair, and uses it as a tool for social gain and high-fashion spotlight.
Disabled people have used Kylie Jenner's own anti-bullying hashtag campaign, #IAmMoreThan, to express their outrage and show that they are more than their disabilities. Jenner has subverted her own anti-bullying values by appearing in a wheelchair, sending the message to disabled people that their disability is only worthy of a magazine cover when it's deemed appropriate by someone as able-bodied.
The Tartan encourages Kylie and the whole Interview team to think more broadly about their fashion choices in the future. These kinds of high-profile photoshoots in magazines such as Interview have the power to enforce or breakdown stigmas against already marginalized groups, and this photoshoot failed to be conscious of its impact.