Vogue Brazil Criticized For Using Able-Bodied Actors in Paralympic Campaign

Vogue Brazil Criticized For Using Able-Bodied Actors in Paralympic Campaign
Getty Images

People with disabilities face many challenges in society, and one of them is invisibility.

READ: Who is Jillian Mercado? 5 Things to Know About the Inspiring Model

This explains why Vogue Brazil is receiving a lot of justified backlash after it was revealed that the photos they featured on the Paralympics were of able-bodied actors Photoshopped to look like amputees. 

The magazine published images of two local soap opera stars: Cleo Pires, who was featured with her arm amputated, and Paulo Vilhena, who was given a prosthetic leg. The images were inspired by Paralympians Bruna Alexandre and Renato Leite.

Vogue Brazil shared the photo on Instagram with the caption, "We are all Paralympians," adding that the campaign was created to "attract visibility to the Special Olympics and highlight the relevance of Brazilian disabled athletes in the panorama of the national sport."

Okay...we see where you were going with attracting visibility, Vogue Brazil. But saying "We are all Paralympians" is not only factually incorrect, it's also problematic. Able-bodied people don't experience the same challenges, discrimination and microaggressions that disabled people do on a daily basis. 

Apparently, the two actors are ambassadors for the Brazilian Paralympic Committee, which approved the images. The photos were taken in collaboration between the actors and the publicity agency Agencia Africa.

"Vogue respects the opinion of the reader who disagreed with the campaign format, but reiterates its commitment to promote the importance of Paralympic games," said the magazine's spokesperson. "We will continue to support all of the Paralympic committee initiatives that can increase the number of attendees at the Paralympic games."

But if you ask Richard Lane, a group head of campaigns at disability charity Scope, there's a bigger issue at hand.

PLUS: WCW Annie Elainey Segarra Talks Disability, Latina Feminism, Media Representation & More

"The magazine has missed the perfect opportunity to celebrate Brazil's talented Paralympians as sporting equals," he said. "It's so rare to see positive and powerful representations of disabled people in the media. There are one billion disabled people in the world. Let's see disabled people's lives properly reflected, not imitated."

We're with ya, Lane.