Jillian Mercado has been making a name for herself in the modeling world, appearing in campaigns for brands like Nordstrom and Target – and at this year’s New York Fashion Week (NYFW), she made her runway debut.
At The Blonds Fall 2020 show on Sunday, Mercado went down the runway in her electric wheelchair wearing a beautiful sheer dress with gold embellishments with a statement-making gold headpiece. The model, who is Latinx, queer and has muscular dystrophy, shared a photos from her NYFW debut dedicating her achievement to others with disabilities.
Mercado tells Yahoo Lifestyle that it took a lot of hard work to make this dream a reality.
“It was the determination of myself and my team pushing designers to imagine a world where everyone was represented,” she said. “With my career, everything that I do, everything that I have done has to be elevated. The reason I do this is because the public is used to seeing one type of image when they imagine somebody with a visible disability on a runway. And I’m all about shattering glass ceilings until there is no glass to shatter.”
The model said that during her first NYFW runway experience she felt like she was finally being heard.
“I felt like I belonged,” she said. “There is nothing different or special about it, we were all models doing our job. I would say probably the only special thing about it would be [that] I was representing the disability community and that’s pretty special to me and to many others that just want to be respected and heard.”
According to HuffPost, Mercado grew up in a Dominican household as the daughter of a shoe salesman and seamstress. Though she credits her mother’s occupation as a major influence on her interest in fashion, she also said television played a bit role in motivating her to break the mold.
“Even before I knew what exactly fashion was, there was this TV channel called Fashion TV where they would show various fashion shows from around the world 24 hours, seven days a week. I was glued to the television watching the supermodels walk down the runway and being hypnotized by how beautiful they looked walking, striking a pose, and walking back. I was always so empowered as if I can take over the world with just one walk,” she says.
Prior to Mercado’s work as a model, she was an intern at Allure magazine. She scored her first major modeling campaign with Diesel in 2014 and in 2016, she was featured in Beyoncé’s merchandise campaign for her “Formation” world tour and collaborated with Target. She has shared her journey on social media.
Mercado is working hard to show major fashion brands the value of inclusivity.
“Slowly but surely people are waking up but there is so much to do,” Mercado said. “The fashion world will only become more inclusive if we start hiring people Like us in front of the scenes but most importantly behind. We need to be in those decision-making tables. Only then change will happen.”