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Jillian Mercado    

Model & Activist

Jillian Mercado is infectiously upbeat and talkative; she can whisk you into a conversation that will loop and turn for hours. While its clear a buoyant attitude comes naturally to her, a good aura can only be expected considering she’s become the most recognizable model with muscular dystrophy and has worked with multiple industry icons ¬ all in less than two years.

Mercado lived and breathed fashion from a young age, albeit unwittingly. Her mother and father, both immigrants from Santiago, Dominican Republic, first worked in an embroidery factory and shoe store, respectively. The fashion bug stuck with her and she went on to study merchandising management at New York’s esteemed Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT).

After graduation, Mercado took up various titles behind the scenes. After working with socialite photographer Patrick McMullan, she held a position at Tumblr before becoming the creative director of We the Urban magazine. Though Mercado never seriously entertained the idea of modeling, she submitted herself to an open call for Diesel, partially on a whim and partially for an opportunity to work with Nicola Formichetti again. The two first became acquainted during a launch party for an issue of We the Urban that featured the denim brand’s artistic director on the cover. With a small push from a friend, Mercado took the plunge. Two weeks later, Diesel notified her she was in the running to be featured in the campaign.

Mercado subsequently appeared on various television shows, including E! News, and received an influx of praise for both her modeling and her representation of the differently abled in fashion. To date, Mercado has starred in campaigns for Olay, Bumble 100, Calvin Klein fragrance, Nordstrom, Target and Tommy Hilfiger. In September 2018 she was featured on Teen Vogue ’s first digital cover. In addition, editorial features include CR Fashion Book , the September issues of Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Glassbook, Jejune and Herring and Herring magazine and she received the 2019 Flaunt It Award, which honors celebrities for using their platforms to raise awareness about a visible or invisible difference that has impacted their lives.

Off-camera, Mercado speaks and participates in summits as a disabilities advocate. Recent engagements include Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine X Together Live Tour, Adweek 's annual Women Trailblazers event, Little by Little in unison with the United Nations, and a panel discussing disability representation in media sponsored by Tommy Hilfiger and Microsoft. She has an autobiography in the works in efforts to share her story and to continuation to encourage the next generation of women and those with disabilities.

Speech Topics


UNBRAINWASHING SOCIETY

From the moment Jillian Mercado burst onto the fashion scene less than two years ago, she’s been making headlines. As one of the most visible and successful models with a disability (spastic muscular dystrophy), Jillian has become an important voice and advocate on behalf of persons with disabilities. But interestingly, Jillian didn’t start her career in front of the camera. She lived and breathed fashion from a young age, as her parents (both immigrants from the Dominican Republic) worked in an embroidery factory and shoe store. She studied fabrics, learned to sew, and then got hit by the fashion bug.

With a degree in merchandising management from New York’s esteemed Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), she worked with top photographers and at Tumblr, was the creative director of We The Urban magazine, and immersed herself in the business of fashion. On a whim, she submitted herself to an open call for a Diesel worldwide ad campaign, which immediately went viral. The buzz was instant, and she soon appeared in campaigns for Olay, Beyoncé, Bumble 100,

Calvin Klein fragrance, Nordstrom, Target, and Tommy Hilfiger. She was featured on Teen Vogue ’s first ever September digital cover and has been profiled in editorial features including Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Glassbook, Jejeune and Herring and Herring magazines. She’s also featured in Zoe Saldana’s upcoming documentary series Breaking Glass.

Off-camera, Jillian is in demand as a speaker and panelist on numerous issues around accessibility and visibility for the disability community --not only in the fashion world, but in all walks of life. She’s addressed conferences sponsored by the United Nations, Google, Microsoft, and Tommy Hilfiger and she continues to do all she can to show that “disability doesn’t have to be ugly, it should be embraced. I wish I had that role model growing up, but to be that role model is great.”

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