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Is the Ballet World’s Anger Toward Kendall’s Photo Shoot Justified?

As of last month, Kendall Jenner has been facing criticism regarding her photo shoot for Vogue España. Many notable people from the ballet world claim that she completely misrepresented or even belittled the elegant art form. I love ballet and respect the hours of work, dedication and pain dancers go through to fine tune their technique. This video contains clips of Kendall in pointe shoes bouncing and twirling around in the carefully selected ballerina themed outfits by Vogue. The voiceover has her talking about her being a little girl and some of her personality traits. At the end of the video I was entirely confused about what exactly deserved all the criticism.

Photo shoots at the bare minimum are advertisements, especially when it’s an international brand like Vogue. Is it wrong for them to showcase their products and company through a ballet themed angle? As a viewer, the voiceover makes me believe that they were trying to create the classic feeling of being a little girl and romanticizing ballerinas. That includes spinning around in a tutu with your arms in the air. The theme is relevant to the sentiment they’re trying to capture. That’s just what ads do.
Some of the issues that dancers have had include the fact that they did not use a real dancer and that she disgraces the honor that comes with wearing pointe shoes. In an interview for Access Hollywood, Jo Matos, the Artistic Director for the Joffrey Ballet School, states that that she’s wearing the shoes incorrectly. Other dancers over Twitter say her shoot offensively undermines the hard work put in to be an en pointe dancer.

Kendall Jenner is a model. She does not control the theme or approval of her photo shoots. She simply follows directions to display a product or represent a brand. Models usually put on a persona to accomplish this. It surprised me how many people easily misguided their anger towards her rather than Vogue. Even then, Vogue has had an actual dancer, Allison DeBona, take part in a photoshoot for Vogue Italia in August. She modeled while executing ballet maneuvers and was also criticized.
DeBona stated, “Some people originally commented on my video about how I was ‘selling out’ by being too sexual. I was playing a role just like Kendell, except I have technique.” Either way people were unhappy, but they always find a different reason.
Maybe Vogue España should have looked into the pointe shoes at least so Kendall was wearing them correctly. At the same time, audiences should know that advertisements do not exist to portray things accurately. It’s to create a façade or bring in traffic where their product is seen and heard. Whether it’s photoshopping their models or trying something edgy and controversial, most viewers don’t tend notice issues like how Kendall is wearing her pointe shoes. They look at the overall picture and this shoot is aesthetically pleasing thereby accomplishing Vogue’s goals. It is insulting to dancers, but the audience is too ignorant to even set her photo shoot as a baseline for all dancers in the ballet world anyway. So is this issue of appropriation relevant when you see models posing for other themed shoots whether it’s basketball or boxing?
These shoots never received much criticism, especially from those who actually dedicate their lives to the sport just like dancers do. The aim of the shoot is never done with the thought process of offending certain groups. It’s a world filled with consumerism and this is just another company catering to that.

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Sonisha Sanju

Stony Brook

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