Dear Kylie Jenner and "Interview Magazine,"
My name is Kyra. Just like you, Kylie, I am 18 years old and just like you, Kylie, I have sat in a wheelchair – the only difference being, I don't have a choice when it comes to sitting in a wheelchair.
Unlike you, Kylie, when I was nine years old, I wasn't thrust into a life where all eyes would be on me. However, I was thrust into a life that I didn't get to choose and unfortunately I'll never get a choice in how my life goes. When I was nine years old, my body betrayed me.
The muscles in my lower extremities started to atrophy, my spine curved to the point where it compressed my stomach, lungs, heart and many other organs—leaving me at a weight of only 42 pounds until I was 13 years old, years of pain, extremely low stamina and fear that I may not live much longer. My condition is unknown. I may be one of few people, if not the only person, in the world with my condition and there is no way to know how progressive it is.
When I was 13 years old, my condition progressed to the point where I needed life-saving surgeries, and that's when I became dependent upon a wheelchair and ventilator.
You see, when you find out that you never may walk again, it is one of the hardest things to come to terms with. I would never wish it on anyone and I certainly hope that you, Kylie, and everyone at "Interview Magazine," never have to experience something like that.
When I found out my only way of getting around would be by wheelchair, I cried for months. I felt like my life was over. To this day, I still sometimes cry about it and I get frustrated because being physically disabled can be a limiting life. It has taken a toll not only on me, but my family, too. There are many things I've had to sacrifice, simply because they aren't accessible to me, or my disability doesn't allow.
I can't perform simple tasks such as dressing myself, getting a glass of water or even leave my house without having a chaperone. As an 18-year-old girl, this is less than ideal, but it is my life and I've learned to live with it and embrace it.
Kylie, when I saw the photos for your feature in "Interview Magazine," I truly was offended. I realize that you don't have a say in the theme of the feature, or what the magazine wants, but I know you do have a say in what photos they can and can't use, so I'm extremely disappointed that you, along with "Interview Magazine," felt it was okay to publish those photos of you in a wheelchair. You probably saw nothing wrong with it in the moment, and I can see how it would be easy to overlook the fact as an able-bodied person, that those photos wouldn't be offensive – but they are.
In the photos, from what I've read, you are a doll of some sort. When people think of dolls, they typically think of an inanimate object that people can do with as they please. By posing in that wheelchair as a "doll," not only did you glamorize disability, but you glamorized it in a way that shows people with disabilities are no different than a doll – helpless. I can assure you, I am not helpless, and I can also assure you that my disability is not glamorous, nor is it a fashion statement.
Do you know how much I would love to be able to use my wheelchair for photos only and be able to just get up and leave it whenever I please? I don't think you do. However, that's what you got to do. You sat in that wheelchair, posed for those photos and once you got the shots "Interview Magazine" wanted, you got up out of that wheelchair and never looked back.
Kylie, I know that you've recently began a new campaign on Instagram, the '#IAmMoreThan' campaign. Do you want to know what #IAmMoreThan? Well, #IAmMoreThan my wheelchair, my disability and my medical condition. None of those things define me, but they are apart of my life and there's no ignoring that. #IAmMoreThan my physical appearance and I know you are too, Kylie. You are a beautiful young woman who is intelligent and very influential. You and "Interview Magazine" had a lapse in judgment, though. I understand that you are human, and you make mistakes, but please don't mistake disability for a fashion statement or something to be fetishized, glamorized or certainly something to be appropriated.
It is time to stop viewing people with disabilities as "abnormal." Everyone has his or her own version of "normal," and my life is my own normal. The one thing that's the same about us, Kylie, is that facing the public is difficult. We both get stared at and whispered about and people may try to sneak a picture or video. You know how that feels, and it definitely isn't good. You don't like being viewed the way the media portrays you, and I don't like being viewed the way society portrays me. Please, Kylie, don't appropriate the way society portrays me and so many more like me.
As for you, "Interview Magazine," perhaps this got you the buzz and attention you wanted it to get, but at the cost of offending a large population of people. You say that your "intention was to create a powerful set of pictures that get people thinking about creative set and image." There are many ways to be glamorous, fashionable and "get people thinking" without being offensive. Please, "Interview Magazine," tell me what you think these photos are supposed to "get people thinking?" Because as far as I can tell, it only has people thinking about how you've appropriated, fetishized and glamorized people with disabilities. If you really want to have someone model in a wheelchair, then you should use someone who is actually disabled. Believe it or not, disabled models do exist and they are just as beautiful as any able-bodied model. If it is really that difficult for you to come by one, then I'd be more than happy to model for your magazine and show you and your readers what disability really looks like.
Despite being offended by these photos, I do want to thank Kylie and "Interview Magazine," because they remind me what #IAmMoreThan. Being in a wheelchair has changed my life, in what I only used to think were negative ways, but really it is all positive. My chair may be a symbol of limitation in your eyes, but in my eyes, it's a symbol of independence. It allows me to go out into the world and live my life to the fullest. I now see the world from a different standpoint, or rather, sitting-point – and it has truly opened my eyes to so much. I hope that my experiences can help open your eyes too.
I'm sure there will be many people saying that this isn't a big deal, and that I, along with many other people, am overreacting. I've noticed that the people defending your actions aren't physically disabled. So please, don't tell me I'm "wrong" or "overreacting" for feeling the way I do, because I feel objectified and glamorized. Until you're sitting in my wheelchair and until you lose the ability to walk, don't tell me that I'm wrong to feel the way I feel. My wheelchair isn't a fashion statement or something to "get people thinking" – it's my only way to get around my home, leave the house, be able to go to college and be able to partake in life.
My wheelchair is my lifeline, not something for you to pose in and make art out of.