Vogue Brasil drew backlash recently by featuring two soap opera stars who had been digitally edited to look like they had amputations. The actors, Cleo Pires and Paulo Vilhena, were intended to resemble two specific Brazilian Paralympic athletes – table tennis player, Bruna Alexandre and volleyball player, Renato Leite. The photos were part of a larger campaign called “Somos Todos Paralímpicos” which translates to “We are all Paralympians.” According to The Daily Dot, Vogue Brasil stated in an Instagram post that the photoshoot was intended “to attract visibility to the Special Olympics and highlight the relevance of Brazilian disabled athletes in the panorama of the national sport.” Pires and Vilhena are both ambassadors of the Brazilian Paralympic Committee, and Pires claimed on Instagram that the campaign was “endorsed by the Paralympic Committee and the Brazilian Paralympic athletes.”
By choosing to feature able-bodied actors masquerading as Paralympians, Vogue Brasil has missed an opportunity to highlight the upcoming Paralympic Games while raising public awareness of athletes and models with disabilities. As Rebecca Deczynski of Nylon beautifully stated, “The notion of “We Are All Paralympics”—just like the notion of #AllLivesMatter—brushes over the fact that there are individuals in the world who don’t get the representation they deserve. The Paralympics exist as a spotlight for people with disabilities because so often they are ignored by popular culture, politics, and even architecture. The use of able-bodied models to represent an event specifically developed for disabled athletes shows an inherent lack of understanding about the need for specific, diverse representation. Disabled models exist. Hire them—or, here’s an idea—use actual Paralympic athletes to draw attention to the Paralympics.”
The Rio 2016 Paralympics are set to begin September 7 and will last through September 18. To learn more you can visit the official website of the Rio Paralympic Games.
Image is stockphoto of runner with a prosthetic leg, not a photoshopped image from Vogue Brasil.