Jillian Mercado is hell-bent on seeing change.
It wasn’t Mercado’s first time modelling as she rose to fame in 2014 after starring in an advert for Diesel and modelled in Carine Roitfeld’s CR Fashion Book.
The Latino, who is an advocate for change, discussed her hope of inspiring others to follow their dreams, celebrating inclusivity and being part of Queen Bee’s world, with us.
Why do you believe inclusivity is so important in fashion and beauty?
For a long time there had been one role that describes a beauty and passion for what a beautiful person looks like. Now, we have hit this revolutionary moment where we are causing that notion and actually thinking about why we think that way - when there are so many different types of people of shapes and sizes, so why not celebrate all!
Personally, when I was younger I dreamed of different career choices: one of them being in the fashion industry, but I was stuck because I didn’t see myself in anyway represented.
It was only when I had a moment of clarity I decided to dedicate my life to changing that. So that in the future, determination would be the only thing standing in people’s way, not the way they look.
Are there any fashion or beauty brands you’d like to celebrate for getting inclusivity right?
Absolutely. I’m very happy to say that there are brands out there who are finally understanding that inclusivity and diversity is extremely important. L’Oreal, H&M, Aerie, Dove, Thinx, and Gap, to name a few, have taken what it means to be inclusive in their advertisements by casting an array of models.
What would it have meant to you to grow up with a more diverse representation of people in fashion and beauty campaigns?
I think it would have given me more confidence in myself. Knowing that there would be someone to look up to and seeing them being portrayed as beautiful, would have given me a little bit more self-confidence and shown me that being different is not something to be ashamed of.
Growing up with television and media really takes a toll on how we shape what it means to be beautiful, especially for young people. I feel like, personally, if I would have seen someone who had a disability on television or in media, I believe that I would have been less scared to be myself.
What do you hope the fashion and beauty campaigns of the future will look like?
I hope that in the future companies understand the true meaning of how important diversity and inclusion is.
That they use companies like L’Oreal as an example that not only is it important, but how impactful it can be to the world. Companies need to know that this needs to just be the standard in casting commercials, fashion shows, beauty campaigns and everything else in-between.
What drew you to modelling?
I was always drawn to the modelling world through fashion as a young child, so naturally in the midst of collecting magazines and studying the business of fashion at college, modelling was part of my fascination with the industry. I used to spend hours looking through magazines or watching fashion shows from previous seasons, hoping that one day I would be part of that world.
But, then the harsh reality hit me, questioning why nobody with a disability was shown in the world of fashion - like a designer or a model. Other then also realising that there wasn’t many Latinos out there, I questioned why I never saw a model who had a disability in advertisements for runway shows.
It wasn’t until I signed up in a casting call for Diesel in which I was part of a worldwide campaign that I decided to take modelling into my own hands. I was frustrated with not seeing myself in the industry that I love. So I took the opportunity and decided that it needed to change - to show the world how important diversity and inclusivity is, for not only myself, but for many out there who are questioning as well.
Your Beyoncé shoot had such an amazing response from people around the world – were you expecting it to blow up like that?
It was such an amazing, heart-felt experience to be a part of Beyoncé’s world. I had absolutely no idea that it was going to blow up the way that it did. I had people and friends all around the world sending me links or writing comments about the campaign; which just shows you how important diversity is, not only the fashion world, but for the entertainment world as well. Even today I still have to pinch myself.
You said on Instagram that last year you had a moment when you realised there are people out there who want to join your army on diversity and inclusion. Can you tell us a bit about that moment?
The world can sometimes be a very scary place and is scarier when you think that you’re all alone. But then something like social media comes along and you are immediately connected to everyone - whether the opinions are wanted or not.
A couple of years ago I started a blog in which I would post photos of different outfits I had on, and from that I opened up a conversation that was always a touchy subject. I’m talking about people who’ve thought others who have disabilities as not fashionable or stylish.
For some reason the media has this idea of showing people who have any sort of disability this way, so I showed through my blog that this is not necessarily true and that opened up a conversation.
And that conversation started an army of people, who also understood that diversity and inclusion was very important, using their voices for good.
It was an extremely refreshing moment where I felt that using my voice was going to lead up to something wonderful in the future.
Who do you consider allies in the fight for diversity?
I am lucky enough to say that a few of them are signed to the same agency (IMG) as me, like: Hari Nef, Ashley Graham, Tara Lynn, Zack Miko, Marquita Pring, Cipriano Quann and Tk Wonder.
Would you want to model at Fashion Week? And if so, which brands would you like to appear on the runway for?
That would be an absolute dream! My first love was Alexander McQueen, so I would have to start there. Dolce & Gabbana, Balmain, Viktor & Rolf, Chanel, Rodarte, Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney...
What plans have you got for this year?
There are so many beautiful surprises that I am working on currently so you’re definitely going to see more of me this year.
Who are your style idols?
I love Solange Knowles’ style, Frida Kahlo and Rihanna.
What’s the best beauty and style advice you’ve ever been given?
I have two that come to mind, and both come from my mother. She told me to never ever go to sleep with makeup on, no matter how tired you may be.
And secondly, to leave your apartment everyday with the notion that today was going to be a great day so always look the part - even if you were only going to the grocery store - because you never know what adventures may come your way.