Her skin perfectly airbrushed, her body in a leather-looking corset, her neck braced in some kind of kinky collar.
So, maybe not so much like Tatum’s appearance after all.
But 72 hours later, it would be her own image all over the Internet, juxtaposed next to 18-year-old Jenner, as a symbol of the immense backlash against the magazine. One girl faking a disability for a photo shoot, one living the reality of being confined to a wheelchair. Both in super-tight leather.
“I saw it and I just started laughing with my mom,” Tatum said. “Like oh, what, it’s cool to be disabled now? That’s how the idea of a photo shoot started. I could pull off that outfit so much better than her.”
Tatum, who was born with cerebral palsy, took her mom to the mall near their home in Pennsylvania. She went to four shops before she found a black corset in Spencer’s. They kept laughing about their goofy plan, understanding without saying aloud why they had to make light of this dig at Tatum’s reality.
“I just kept thinking about the creative team, the director, the photographer and all the people involved,” she said. “This was an idea bounced around an entire team and no one thought it would be in poor taste?”
They hung a white sheet as a backdrop and dragged every lamp in the house to Tatum’s bedroom. Her mom pinned her hair up to appear shorter and did her makeup, like she always does. It’s one of the things that helps Tatum appear to be her actual age. She’s often mistaken for being younger — that is, when people actually stop to talk to her. Even though she’s 24, most “able-bodied” people only talk to her parents or whatever caretaker is with her rather than begin their conversation with the woman in the wheelchair.
That makes dating pretty hard. Which might be what bothers Tatum most about Jenner, whose entire family is internationally known for their beauty and sexuality, posing in a wheelchair.
“It’s blatant sexualization of physical limitation, which is ironic because in the real world if you have any physical limitations or have a disability, that seems to automatically forfeit your right to sexuality,” she said.
“Generally people don’t want to be attracted to disabilities because in their minds, they would be attracted to someone who is like a child, or very infantile. That perception makes us a lot less viable as dating partners. The playing field is incredibly unequal.”
Corset on, Tatum turned her head just slightly away from the camera as her mom snapped pictures on her phone.
Then they posted the photo to Tatum’s Tumblr page, where she often writes about her life for a small group of followers.
“I tried my best to create a more authentic version of Kylie Jenner’s Interview cover, given that I’m, you know, actually disabled and a real life wheelchair user,” she wrote under the photo. “I can barely get people to make eye contact with me, let alone land a cover shoot. If being in a wheelchair is trendy now, I’ve apparently been a trendsetter since before Kylie was born.”
She was joining a sea of backlash, but ended up with more than 100,000 comments and re-postings of the photo. By the weekend, Tatum’s face was all over international news sites, just like Jenner’s.
In response, Interview magazine told E! Online: “Our intention was to create a powerful set of pictures that get people thinking about image and creative expression, including the set with the wheelchair. But our intention was certainly not to offend anyone.”