The Goal of this Instagram campaign promoted by Vogue Brazil was to bring mainstream awareness, promote and boost the tickets sales for the 2016 Paralympics events that were taking place that year in Rio de Janeiro. However, their approach was very controversial because the pair presented against the white background is Brazilian able-bodied famous actors, Cleo Pires (left) and Paulo Vilhena (right), that had one of their limbs photoshopped and replaced body parts of actual Paralympic athletes. Although, the original goal of this campaign was, in fact, to help promote the games and not to diminish it, the post where caption launches the hashtag #weareallparaolympics does capture the problematic message. In a country where 20% of its population has some form of disability, there is no excuse to use non-handicapped people to represent them. Despite the large niche market for handicapped models Vogue could’ve also used their influential media space to promote the actual Paralympic athletes.
The athlete that “borrowed” her limb to be photoshopped into Cleo is the table tennis player Bruna Alexandre and Paulo Vilhena prosthetic leg is from the volley player Renato Leite. You cannot see through this photo but Paulo and Renato are not very different physically yet Cleo and Bruna are. Though Bruna is very pretty, she has a rounder body and very short hair, which does not convey to the Latino standard of sex symbol that Cleo with her hourglass figure, feline features, and thick long dark hair epitomizes. This all shows in different ways how media in Brazil tendency to airbrush social issues and how the overall situation is used to omit Bruna since she does not convey to the beauty standards that they deem as ideal.
This advertisement aimed to bring visibility to the Paralympic games, using celebrities to promote products or ideas is often a good marketing strategy, yet this is not the appropriate space and Vogue’s effort doesn’t seem much genuine. Literally concealing the actual athletes and only using their relevant body parts in the advertisement, Vogue, which survives by selling the latest trends in fashion and lifestyle, is in fact seemingly transmitting a quite problematic message that uses disability as a form of accessory to play with. In my modification, I used the term ‘Le Freak C’est Chic’ and the very ungenuine cheer message to the paralympic athletes below to highlight how bluntly insensitive the advertisement is. Thus, using a glamourized representation of disabled people, they are overly simplifying the complexities of being handicapped. Ignoring how the Brazilian government provides little to no aid to the disabled people not only financially, leading to an overwhelming number of homeless, but also with its very limited accessibility infrastructure as shown in the poor conditions found at very own Olympic village where the athletes were staying in during the Olympic games.
Vogue Brazil is notoriously known for implementing a colonized whitewashed version of what they consider more aesthetically suitable. In a country where 50% of its population is either black or half-black, you can see is very little representation of people of color in its pages, in fact, the magazine threw a party years ago where the theme was ‘Africa’ and ironically 90% of its guests were white.
As mentioned in part 1 the athlete Renato Leite and the actor Paulo Vilhena are not very different physically so there was not really a reason to use an able-body person to represent him yet in the case of the athlete Bruna Alexandre that looks very different from the sex symbol Cleo Pires it does raise the doubt that perhaps this advertisement was indeed just using celebrities to represent those that are not visually proper to be represented in a magazine and by concealing Bruna they propagate the expectations that despite being disabled, women should still be represented accordingly to what is expected by the male gaze. Therefore, by not allowing them to get a space to represent themselves it keeps handicapped people as ‘social invalids’ hiding those that shall not be seen, propagating prejudice towards disabled people and not only conveying sexist female expectations but implying that beauty and disability don’t correlate.