Whizz Kidz Penny hits back at criticism of Kim Kardashian using disabled models for her latest SKIMS

Whizz Kidz responds to the recent criticism Kim Kardashian received after she used disabled models to promote her Skims brand

The criticism stems from the belief that her motive was more inclined towards profit rather than genuine support for disability inclusion. Here at Whizz-Kidz, we believe it is a step in the right direction in having a more inclusive society and representation.

The backlash primarily centres around the belief that Kim Kardashian only used disabled models for marketing purposes to create a socially conscious image and gain more publicity. However, supporters of the brand argue that Kardashian has given back to the community by featuring disabled models in Skims advertising campaigns, increasing the visibility of disability in media and advertising. Her supporters believe it’s a first step on Kardashian's part towards disability inclusion, providing a platform for disabled models to be seen in the media, which is important for representation and inclusivity.

Penelope, 20 from Derby, is the current chair of the Kidz Board and has been a beneficiary of various Whizz-Kidz’ services since receiving her first wheelchair at age five, said;

“Growing up in an era that was, for the most part, prior to the rise of online activism, I never, saw someone in an advert that looked like me. Existing in a world you are not seen in is strange, because it teaches you to think of yourself as an afterthought - a needless, begrudging addition graciously welcomed by a society which does not need it. This lack of visibility and its’ consequences are key factors explaining why so many disabled girls and women feel powerless within our own bodies, and against discrimination done to them.

Needless to say, I was overjoyed when my best friend first sent me the photos. It’s still exceedingly rare, so to see a woman with the power Kardashian has uplift disabled women – it felt like a true girl power moment. You only need to look so far as reactions to Selena Gomez’ face post-medication to realise that disabled women spend far longer as the butt of the joke than having found underwear that fits ones like ours.

The criticism has come from people such as non-disabled influencer Candace Owens. The commentator stated it "seems ridiculous" to include a model in a wheelchair for top brand campaigns – even though the underwear was specifically designed for disabled bodies. How are we supposed to know if it would work on a practical level if we cannot model it? There are different considerations (from hemlines not working with wheelchairs to too much fabric overhang) that cannot be assessed with a glance. Just last week I finally had the opportunity to try a dress I had yearned after for months and myself, a wheelchair user of over a decade, thought would be perfect. The hemline and cut at the waist was so uncomfortable and badly placed that I could have screamed.

Seeing content like this is therefore especially key online because many disabled people physically can’t, or feel too uncomfortable, to go shopping in person. For example, When I go underwear shopping, which is at specialist stores like Ann Summers or Victoria Secret to try and avoid the taboo of being stared at amongst by people affronted by underwear, I am still followed around and gawked at simply because of stereotypes associated with sitting down.

This kind of behaviour does not exist in a vacuum, it fuels the idea that disabled people are supposed to exist as inanimate objects, and not intimate beings.”

This controversy serves as a reminder that mere representation is not enough. Companies need to consult the disabled community to ensure they are creating products that meet their needs and are available at an affordable price while promoting genuine inclusion, not just profit. It's a nuanced debate, and time will tell if Kardashian's action leads to more companies engaging with persons with disabilities in the future.

Read Next