Jillian Mercado, a 26-year-old fashion blogger with a condition called spastic muscular dystrophy, spotted a casting call for models on Diesel's Facebook page and decided to throw her hat in the ring. Cut to 2014 and Mercado is not only the face of the spring/summer ad campaign, but also the designer brand's first model in a wheelchair.It started, like most things, on Facebook.
"I've always wanted to be in the fashion world, despite the obvious obstacles in my way, but I try to have a strong and positive attitude," Mercado tells Yahoo Shine. In the ad, a platinum blond Mercado is sitting in her chair, wearing a denim dress with a slit on the skirt, posing next to visual artist James Astronaut. "I was super nervous for this shoot because I'm not used to being in front of the camera," she says.
If her nerves were in anyway frayed, Diesel's fashion director, Nicola Formichetti, didn't pick up on it. "The thing about Jillian is that she doesn't let people worry about her," Formichetti tells Yahoo Shine. "She came to the shoot and everyone showered her with attention and she said, 'I'm fine, I'm fine! Let's do this.'"
Mercado, who was born and raised in New York City, is the editorial director at We the Urban, an online fashion and art magazine. In her downtime, she runs the blog Manufactured 1987, where she posts her musings on art and fashion. She's no newbie on the style scene, having been a regular for years at New York Fashion Week where she volunteers (stuffing gift bags, handing out pamphlets), and in 2012 she began covering events for fashion photographer Patrick McMullan's PMc Magazine.
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Diesel has a history of seeking out the kind of extraordinary beauty that challenges stereotypes within the fashion industry. In August the company took to Tumblr to scout "real-looking" models — including a plus-size female graffiti artist with pink hair, a 65-year-old former fashion editor, and a female former Olympic swimmer who made a career out of posing as a male model.
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At a time when clothing retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch and Lululemon appear to believe in the value of only a few body types, Mercado's arrival in front of the camera is a welcome game changer.
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