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Jillian Mercado, a fashion blogger with muscle dystrophy who's been using an electric wheelchair since she was 12, has found herself in the spotlight thanks to designer Nicola Formichetti. The Diesel artistic director has chosen the 26-year-old as a model for Diesel's spring 2014 campaign.
Mercado, who was born and raised in New York, told Racked that she never thought she'd make a modeling career for herself. A fashion blogger and editorial director at We the Urban magazine, Mercado has plenty of experience in fashion, attending FIT for college and interning at Veranda and Allure. She'd done some styling on the side but never thought she'd land her dream job.
"I suppressed the feeling because I didn't think anyone would take me seriously," she said. "I never thought I'd get picked but my friends encouraged me to try out because, hey, you never know, and two weeks later, they got back to me."
Mercado doing another shoot last week. Image via Facebook
Mercado met Diesel's artistic director Nicola Formichetti at a work party last February and the two kept in touch. She responded to a casting call Formichetti posted on social media, in which he expressed the brand's desire to focus on "modern-day rebels, heroes, and just cool people."
After landing the Diesel campaign, Mercado has lined up a few more gigs, like a shoot she did for Nordstrom last week that comes out in June, and is also in talks with modeling agencies. She said that for the first time, she believes modeling is an attainable reality for anyone.
"I feel like the modeling industry has been stuck on this one notion of perfection. But we are all human, everyone has flaws and it's refreshing when you can relate to someone in an ad," Mercado said. "Sometimes these advertising and campaigns feel so distant because you don't look like the models and they feel far away, it's a fantasy so you don't know why you'd even buy the clothes."
"When we talked about the campaign at Diesel, we realized that it's more than a campaign, it's moving the industry forward and changing the world," Mercado said. "Presenting change [to modeling] is something that people used to be afraid to do and it was a risk."