‘Crip Camp’ Co-Director Jim LeBrecht Says Wearing a Custom Gucci Tux to the Oscars Is ‘Huge’ For the Disability Community (EXCLUSIVE)
Jim LeBrecht isn’t just wearing any ol’ tux to the Oscars. Instead, he’s in a custom-made navy blue Gucci ensemble with a black and ivory flower-print shirt. LeBrecht, the co-director of “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution” — the Netflix film about a 1970s summer camp for people with disabilities that’s nominated for best documentary — is more of a hippie “blue jeans and t-shirt kind of guy,” he told Variety earlier today from his downtown Los Angeles hotel room, where he was getting ready with his wife Sara Bolder, who is a producer on the film.
LeBrecht not only co-directed the film with Nicole Newnham, but he attended the camp when he was in his teens. He has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair. Before the Oscars, LeBrecht discussed the significance of his Gucci suit for those in the disability community.
What’s a hippie from Oakland, California doing having his hair and makeup done and getting into a Gucci tuxedo?
Exactly! [Laughs] I kind of joked it’s like meeting your new puppy. I met my outfit on the Wednesday and it was remarkable. It really felt like me. It fits so well and it’s so comfortable. I’ve got, let’s just say, a very interesting, unique body. Getting things off the rack is always kind of hard. If the shoulders are big enough then maybe the jacket will be down to my knees or below. It’s things like that, unless I go out and get it tailored, which let’s be honest — the last time I wore a tie was to my father’s funeral two decades ago.
I had a wonderful back and forth with everyone at Gucci and I said, “Look I am somebody who identifies with the ’60s and I want to have fun with this. Obviously, we don’t want to make it look like a clown and the clown college has just came into town, but that I want to have that lightness and free spirit. What wound up happening is this beautiful tuxedo with this nice dark blue fabric with a black stripe down the side. The shirt just felt really comfortable to be in. It’s made out of silk and it’s got this incredible flower pattern. For me, that said everything. It feels really young and fresh. And it says the right things about me.
What did you think when you heard Gucci wanted to dress you?
I was floored. My friend [disability rights activist] Sinead Burke introduced me to Gucci. She and I had talked a while ago when it looked like maybe Nicole and my film was going to become nominated, about how to approach clothing and what to do. And she said, “You know, Jim, if we could find a fashion house that wants to dress you, it’s a real important statement.”
What is that statement?
I think it’s accepting the fact or really saying very boldly that it’s the person and it’s not what your body looks like. It’s who you are and that elegance comes in many, many shapes and forms and sizes and colors and statures and that to really put their sizable effort into dressing me and wanting me to represent them as a label is just, it almost brings me to tears because it sends such a clear and positive big loud message. I think our film has been a real icebreaker for a lot of different things, really kind of bringing to the fore looking at legitimate and authentic stories around disabilities, that there’s interest and there’s box office there. The film has been a real popular film. This has been a big part of our mission statement to reframe what disability means to people with and without disabilities.
What does wearing Gucci say to a young filmmaker in a wheelchair?
I think that it tells them that the doors are open, that it is not out of the realm of possibility that anyone with a disability could be on the red carpet in a wheelchair, with a walker, with their guide dog. In fact, our entourage tonight includes Judy Heumann and Andraéa LaVant, both wheelchair users. Andrea has got a service dog that has a vest that says, “I’m a service dog,” but she’s bejeweled the vest. But having people with disabilities there, I do think is huge. I’m so excited. I’m excited for my community.
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