Instagram, since its launch in 2010, has birthed a new way to share fashion photography, with models and photographers sharing editorial photo shoots to a much wider audience than was previously available in print. Kylie Jenner pioneered the method of using Instagram as a platform for self promotion and has experienced exponential growth in her followers during 2015 – going from below 20 million at the start of the year to over 47 million at the end of it.
For Jenner, Instagram has provided the exposure that Keeping Up with the Kardashians did not, and with the growth of her social media, Jenner as a personality of glamour and excess has been birthed. Some of the biggest trends of 2015 can be lifted straight from Jenner’s Instagram (ombré hair dye, lip plumping and coffin shaped false nails) and she also uses Instagram as a platform upon which to share stories of bullying and people who have overcome it.
So, if Kylie Jenner has the amount of influence she does, why does she choose to glamorise minority issues with posts of her in cornrows, dressed up in implied blackface and looking “fashionable” in a wheelchair?A photo shoot released in December 2015 by Stephen Klein for Interview magazine depicted Jenner in a gold wheelchair while wearing latex, and was immediately denounced by disabled people and campaigners alike for promoting ableism (discrimination against disabled individuals in favour of able bodied people) rather than urging photographers to engage with disabled models.
The justification offered by Interview for the glamorisation of disability was that the intention of the photo shoot was to “unpack Kylie’s status as both engineer of her image and object of attention.” She is restricted just like a person in a wheelchair by her fame. Glamorisation is intrinsically linked to Jenner’s nurturing of her own public image as one of excess and glamour as by crafting herself as a personality who is known for trend setting fashion. Her latest fashion statement is a glamorised version of disabilites.
Kylie Jenner’s glamorous Instagram boasting Rolls Royces and red carpet events engages primarily with her public image. So, maybe her followers prefer for her to be glamorous instead of using her influence to raise awareness of sensitive issues.
The public image that she has crafted for herself is someone who is seductive and exciting, not political. It simply doesn’t fit her celebrity persona.