Interview Magazine is defending its photo shoot featuring reality TV star Kylie Jenner in a wheelchair, telling E! News: “At Interview, we are proud of our tradition of working with great artists and empowering them to realize their distinct and often bold visions. The Kylie Jenner cover by Steven Klein, which references the British artist Allen Jones, is a part of this tradition.”
But Chelsey Jay, Director of Disability for Models of Diversity, a campaign calling for more diversity in the modeling industry, says her organization is “completely against the images of an able Kylie Jenner using a wheelchair. “
“It's very bad taste that it's deemed 'artistic' to place a celebrity figure in the position of a disabled person in an editorial sense,” Jay said. “However in reality, the fashion industry shuns actual models who in real life, depend on these mobility aids, yet are excluded for this exact reason. "
Dr. Danielle Sheypuk, a clinical pyschologist and wheelchair-dependant model, agrees.
“If Kylie was known to be actively working to bring beautiful women with disabilities into the spotlight that she enjoys, I would say 'Brava'!” Sheypuk said. “If she were sharing the photo shoot with a model with a disability, it wouldn't seem as gratuitous and gimmicky as it does.”
Jessica Jewett, who is also wheelchair dependent, adds: “Kylie posing in a wheelchair when she doesn't actually need a wheelchair is harmful to the disabled community on two levels. It's making light of extremely difficult lives often lived below the poverty level, and also it's taking away jobs in the media from actual disabled models and actors. This is a huge problem in show business today. While you might see more people in wheelchairs on television, movies, or magazines, most of those people are actually actors pretending to have disabilities.”
Model Katie H. Wilcox, who runs the website Healthy is the New Skinny, puts the blame on Interview magazine, and pop culture a whole.
“I don't think Kylie is to blame. I think that she is the perfect example of our fame and attention driven culture. The more offensive and shocking you are the more attention you get,” Wilcox said. “We are feeding this kind of content and behavior because girls like Kylie get rewarded, not for contributing good things to the world but by sexualizing themselves and shocking people at every turn. The magazine is to blame, and we as a culture are to blame.”
But Robert Casey, President of Maggie Models, points out that fashion magazines have the right to push boundaries, even if they don’t always succeed.
“Political correctness is a slippery slope and an editorial publication is meant to provoke thought and emotion in their vision,” Casey said. “I sincerely believe they didn't mean offense, or even thought of the disabled community at all -- which is in and of itself another problem. They more so owe an apology for bad taste and poor execution of a tacky stunt.”