Jillian Mercando: Self-love is the best beauty, you can ever feel

Jillian Mercando - model from Diesel's advertising campaign and fashion journalist. She decided to tell on Kulturalne Rozmowy website about her beginning in modeling, ambitions and a life in the world soaked in a stereotypical definition  of beauty.

Sylwia Cegieła: How did it happen that you became a model?

Jilian Mercando: Well, I was always a model but only to my friends and family who needed a subject for their final projects. My first modeling job was with diesel and then I decided to take it on as a extra job.

What was your motivation to be a model?

After taking that job with diesel as a model my motivation was to show the world that even when doors are shut right in your face you always have the key to open it. You just need a little determination.

How did it happen that you took up cooperation with Diesel campaign?

I met Nicola Formichetti who is the artistic director at diesel at a party last spring and we have kept in contact ever since. Then during the summer he posted on his Facebook page about doing a casting call. I quickly signed up because I’ve always wanted to work with him and then a few weeks later diesel corporation emailed me and asked me if I wanted to be a part of this campaign.

What was the purpose of the invitation you to this campaign?

23 models were chosen to be part of this campaign and we were all very different from each other but all the same being that we were all together as a tribe for this campaign. I believe he chose us because we are people who want to show the world that Being different is absolutely beautiful.

What did preparations for Diesel campaign look like?

Well since it was my first ever modeling job I prepared myself by sleeping early and making sure I had a great Breakfast since our photo shoot lasted all day.

Have you ever had any doubt you should take part in this campaign?

I never really doubted myself when I took part of this campaign because I already knew what I was getting myself into, I had no idea that it was going to go viral but I knew that people would be a little bit surprised that a company like diesel will choose me as me as a model. I never expected things to go crazy with it but I am very happy that I did do it and I and continue being too changed people perspective on beauty.

Do you expect that your participation in the campaign give you wide publicity?

Absolutely not I couldn’t have been more blessed to know that people all around the world have seen me in this campaign and continue to follow me through all my work it’s pretty amazing!

What were your concerns before participation in the campaign Diesel?

I never had any concerns but I was definitely nervous to work with legends like Inez and Vinod who were the photographers and with someone who I am admire so much like Nicola Formichetti.

What did you expect after participating in the campaign?

I never really put much thought after I did the shoot with diesel because like I said before I have no idea that it was going to go viral. I just knew that it was going to look amazing! 

How did you feel during your first photo shoot?

I was really nervous but so concentrating on doing my job perfect.

What do you feel being a part of fashion industry?

Well, I have studied fashion for quite some time now so every time I look back on the things that I have done in the industry I always feel at home.

Have you noticed any differences between you as a wheelchair model in comparison with other models?

Other than the obvious difference there is really no difference between us because we are doing pretty much the same thing just a different perspective and angle. We all have to be there early and get our makeup and hair done and styled you’ll have to pose and knocked out your job there is no difference really.

What was the reaction of the nearest environment e.g. family, friends?

I have been so lucky to have AN amazing support of friends and family they have been so lovely to me and encourage me to keep going every day.

Who is your inspiration?
There is so many people that I look up to you but at the end of the day my inspirations are my friends and family who are so different and so collectively colorful that they inspire me every day.

What do feel when you look at yourself in the mirror?


How would you define beauty?

You can’t really define beauty but what is beautiful to me is when someone can look at themselves in the mirror and say “you are beautiful” self-love is the best beauty, you can ever feel.

What does your life look like after becoming a recognizable person?

Well I do have a lot of people coming up to me to tell me that they seen me somewhere which is always amazing but my life is still the same I just get a little bit more jobs than usual now.

How do you feel on the runaway or while performing on TV?

Well I’ve never done run away before and I am very okay about that but being on TV is so nerve-racking and beautiful all at the same time.

What do you feel when people’s eyes are turned to you?

Like I have a responsibility to show them what I got.

How would you define the term “disability”?

I don’t define it because it does not define me. Medically I do have a disability but I don’t write that down on my resume.

Why do you often mention your disability in you interviews?

I don’t ever mention my disability in interviews the journalist do.

You are a media personality. Don’t you think that you are a very important person for many people especially women with disabilities?

I do very much! Growing up I never really had someone to look up to especially a woman who had a disability so being that now I am put in the spotlight because so I take it very close to my heart to show girls that are growing up that we have each have chance to become whatever you want. 

What is your message for millions of disabled people who admire you, and dream about life similar to yours?

Firstly, I want to say thank you to them because it’s the most amazing feeling to feel that you are supported by thousands of people. Secondly, that you should never ever let anyone dictate your life and if you want to do something even though society tells you not to and you feel it in your heart you go for it! In this world dreams and goals should never be stopped just because you look different, being different it’s beautiful and you should know that.

How do you perceive your own image which is created by media?

I never let media create my image I create my own, my Image is someone who is always determined to go after her goals in life.

Have you ever noticed any stereotypes in showing disability in American media?

I can write a encyclopedia of stereotypes that American media has showed about people who have disabilities which is honestly really sad and something I am trying to change myself.

What are you more afraid of: criticism or praise of your achievements as a disabled person?

I have never been scared about criticism because for me people who criticize other don’t love themselves enough. Secondly, I think that we have to change the way people right about people with disabilities these days.

What kind of role does the Internet play in modern civilization?

Internet is a huge world in our time now because it gives us access to different parts of the world all at the same time. It’s a way we communicate with that outside of where you live which is amazing if you ask me.

What is the reason of writing the blog about fashion?

I wanted to find a place where I can express my feelings and style with everyone around the world in one place so my blog is just something that I love to do even on my downtime.

What do you prefer: journalism or fashion and why?

Fashion is a big umbrella with a lot of branches and one of them is journalism so you can’t really compare both of them. With that I just love fashion and everything that has to do with it. 

Who is your favorite fashion model and why?

My favorite fashion model has to be Coco Rocha because she is a very sweet person and is amazing at her job.

Who is your favorite fashion designer and why?

My favorite designer will always be Alexander McQueen because when he was alive he was someone who went out of the box and it created masterpieces through the art of designing. I also love Tom Ford because he’s style is so elegant and flawless.

What would you do in 10 years?

10 years is a lot of time from now so I have absolutely no idea but hopefully I am as happy as I am right now.

What is your the biggest dream?
Really don’t know what my biggest dream would be but I would very much love to have my very own high-rise apartment in Manhattan.

I have read in one of your interviews that you would like to change the world. What exactly did you mean?

Well I just would love to show a different perspective on something that people have been blinded for so long which is that people who have a disability I just as capable to follow their dreams just as any other ”normal” person does. We as a society has been very close minded on what humans are capable of and I am a just a prime example that if you fight for what you believe in things actually happen and come true.


Read this interview also in polish version here

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