Jillian Mercado is the Inspiring Bombshell Who Overcame Her Disability
Growing up disabled hasn’t stopped Jillian Mercado from establishing herself as a successful editor, fashion blogger, model, and an iconic source of inspiration. Recently, Jillian published a beauty manifesto, where the first line reads, “My name is Jillian Mercado, I am 27 years old, live in New York City, I am in a wheelchair and I am fucking beautiful.” The piece goes on to detail Jillian’s experience coming to terms with her own beauty. She’s candid when admitting to having photoshopping her head on to another body in the past, and thoughtful in her questioning—”Do beauty and happiness go together?”
I took the opportunity to ask her some of my own questions. “What’s been the reaction to the beauty manifesto?”
“It’s been just so positive! Seeing the reaction of those who read it has not only proved that the world is ready for change in beauty norms, but has given me the ‘go’ card to continue to have such a positive and empowering view on my life as someone who has many challenges to face on a day-to-day basis.”
“And how have you felt since then?”
She said she felt even more of an obligation to continue her journey, for those who still didn’t feel comfortable or accepted in society. Jillian grew up in New York City, and credits her parents and community for instilling her with a strong sense of self: ”My parents never treated me differently from my sisters, but my mom would tell me how much harder I would have to work in order for people to respect me. She comes from a Catholic and Hispanic background, and knew that the city would help me build my self esteem. It’s hard not to develop a badass sensibility in such a diverse city.”
“My friend explained to me that there are a lot of kids out there who would appreciate the fact that I actually wear what I like, and that I shouldn’t let other people put me down because of my disability.”
While in college at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Jillian interned for Allure magazine in the Conde Nast building. On her lunch breaks, she would often visit a friend working at Sephora Times Square. During one of her visits, Jillian’s friend suggested she document her own fashion on a website or blog. “ I would repeatedly tell her that i didn’t feel like anyone would care what I wore,” Jillian said. “But my friend explained to me that there are a lot of kids out there who would appreciate the fact that I actually wear what I like, and that I shouldn’t let other people put me down because of my disability. So, out of curiosity more than anything, I posted a photo of myself and talked about what I was wearing, and the post went viral on Tumblr. Since then, I’ve gotten insane amount of the feedback from people telling me how much my website has helped them.”
“And has your vision for your blog, Manufactured 1987, changed since then?” I asked.
“Not really, I mean, growing up, I just had so many insecurities about my body and covered it up as much as I could. Being an adult now has completely changed that. I don’t let how other people see me affect my confidence, because as long as I love every curve and inch of myself, that’s all that matters. I want people to connect with that mentality, so I keep my website going.”
“How do you define bombshell?” I asked Jillian.
“A bombshell is someone who is confident in their own skin, who is proud of who they are and let’s the whole world see it.”
I thought about Jillian’s friend who worked at Sephora, who clearly seemed so supportive and understanding of Jillian’s gifts. “How would your friends describe you?”
“Inspirational, funny, outgoing, humble, determined, a go-getter, and the most importantly badass. I’ve definitely been fortunate enough to be surrounded by people who appreciate me as much as I appreciate them.”
No bombshell is exempt from the mandatory beauty and relationship interrogations; I asked Jillian about her favorite products, and styles that make her feel beautiful.
“Nothing makes me feel more badass and beautiful than a leather jacket. Diesel gifted me one that I couldn’t live without. I love a matte red lip, but I have three or four favorite lipsticks I can never decide between.”
“And what about this summer? What’s your summer look?”
“My go-to piece for the summer is the crop top. I started working out over the winter, so I have a body to show the world!”
“What about something you’d never wear?”
“I’d definitely never wear crocs or Uggs,” she told me.
I laughed. “Okay, and are you single? What’s your ideal partner like?”
“My ideal guy would be someone who understands my way of life, has a open mind, and accepts challenges from any direction. He’d be someone funny and adventurous, and love museums and movies. If I like your Spotify playlists, then it’s meant to be—I can tell a lot about someone from the music they listen to. Oh, and he’s got to take care of his body!”
“Okay, okay, I like all of that. Tell us a secret,” I pressed her.
“Hmmm,” she paused. “I like eating ketchup!”
Most importantly, I wanted to know if Jillian felt content with the work she’d already done. “Do you feel there’s a long way to go for beauty norms? What are you still looking to communicate to the world?”
“Absolutely! I think that there are people out there who are still doubting or questioning me, and that’s absolutely fine, because I know I’m still affecting them in some way,” she told me. “Knowing this pushes me even more to continue my journey. They just have to know that I’m not going anywhere—I’m in it for the long haul, baby!
Photography By Hannah Sider
Hair By Clay Nielsen
Makeup By Paige Campbell