Jillian Mercado, the Representation of Determination


Savannah Best, Staff Writer

Born on April 30, 1987 Jillian Mercado has become the most recognizable model with spastic muscular dystrophy. She has established a well-known career in acting and has been represented by CAA fashion throughout her modeling career. Growing up in New York’s Harlem neighborhood, Jillian experienced an average childhood. She grew up with a mother working as a seamstress and a father working as a shoe maker. As a lover of fashion, she took particular interest in her mother’s profession.

“My favorite time was spending time with her and watching her sew,” Mercado said in an interview with POPSUGAR.

Although Jillian started her life with simplicity, everything changed drastically when she entered her pre-teens. It had been revealed that she was misdiagnosed as an infant. During birth, Jillian’s hip had been dislocated by the doctor, she was then diagnosed with cerebral palsy. At 13, Jillian was told she no longer had cerebral palsy, but was confirmed to have muscular dystrophy. This led to her progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass.

This muscle disease eventually led to Jillian using a wheelchair. Her situation was filled with adversity, but Jillian always kept a positive attitude.

“I always say having a disability is like having a superpower. It’s something that people never understand, but it’s so magical in itself. I appreciate the world and my life more than the average person does,” Mercado said to DAQUAN.

Jillian’s rosy outlook on life and adoration for the fashion industry influenced her goal of shining a brighter light for those with disabilities. Although reaching a happy end goal, she started with a sad realization.

“I was obsessed with magazines when I was younger. I didn’t see anyone in the magazines that looked like me…I remember when I was on AOL.com, and I would search ‘wheelchair model,’ nothing would show up. In regards to disability and advertisement, it’s usually something like a hospital advertisement; something very degrading. It’s never empowering,” Mercado said to DAQUAN.

Jillian strives to change this using her modeling career. She inspires others with disabilities and shows them that they are beautiful and deserving of recognition. As a firm believer of equality Jillian states in Sustainable Development Goals,

“It’s important for me as a public figure to do my best in reducing inequalities- not only for myself, but for anyone else who may not have the same platform as I do. When we are all given the same opportunity to succeed in life, we can develop a better future for generations to come,” Mercado said.

This view fueled Jillian’s determination to normalize having a disability. She became a strong advocate for diversity amongst the fashion industry, and this continues to thrive as her favorite hobby and passion in present day.