What Was Vogue Brazil Thinking With Its Paralympic-Themed Photoshoot?

Photo: Helene Wiesenhaan/Getty Images.
Vogue Brazil has come under heavy criticism for photos in which able-bodied actors were digitally altered to look like they have disabilities.

The photos are part of a publicity campaign for the Rio 2016 Paralympics that appeared in the magazine, The Telegraph reported.

The images feature Brazilian actors Cleo Pires and Paulo Vilhena, both of whom are ambassadors for the Brazilian Paralympic Committee (CPB), beneath the words, “We are all Paralympians”.

Controversially, both Pires and Vilhena were photoshopped to make it look like they were disabled. Pires had her right arm digitally amputated to look like Brazilian Paralympic table tennis player Bruna Alexandre, whose arm was amputated when she was three months old.

Meanwhile, Vilhena's leg was digitally amputated to make him look like the Brazilian sitting volleyball player Renato Leite, who has a prosthetic leg.

Unsurprisingly, the campaign has come under fire for using able-bodied stars as the face of the Paralympic Games, which has long fought for recognition equal to the Olympics.

Natália Belizario, writing on the feminist website Lado M, pointed out that there are many disabled people who could have featured in the campaign instead, The Telegraph reported.

“There’s no shortage of disabled people to take the place of spokesperson in these adverts and show society that yes, they exist and they deserve as much space in the media as us,” she said.

“No, we are not all Paralympians. We still do not understand the reality of people with disabilities."

She added: “We can all be supporters of the Paralympic movement, but it is always good to remember that the role, more than ever, is not ours.”

It was Pires' idea to depict able-bodied actors as disabled, according to Clayton Carneiro, Vogue Brazil's art director, and the campaign was created by PR agency Africa. The intention was to drum up publicity for the Paralympics.

Carneiro said: “We knew it would be a punch in the gut, but we were there for a good cause, after all, almost no one bought tickets to see the Paralympic games,” reported The Telegraph.

Pires took to Instagram to defend the campaign, saying in a video: “We lent our image to generate visibility. And that’s what we’re doing. My God.”

Ticket sales for the Rio Paralympics have been slow so far. Last week a spokesperson said just 12% of tickets had been sold for the event, which is due to start on the 7th of September.

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