IMG Models Signs Jillian Mercado, Fashion Editor and Wheelchair User With Muscular Dystrophy.

Jillian Mercado
(Images via IMG Models.)

Earlier this year, models with disabilities, enlisted by the fashion group FTL MODA hit the runway during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City. The headline-grabbing event made a bold statement about the lack of representation of differently-abled individuals in fashion media and advertising. The show also opened up another facet in the ongoing conversation about diversity in the fashion industry.

Recently, powerhouse agency IMG Models made another bold step, by signing fashion editor, blogger, and wheelchair user with muscular dystrophy, Jillian Mercado. Mercado, who appeared in ads for Diesel last year, and has been featured in a slew of editorial features, sees her new relationship with IMG as a major push for young women like her.

“I want to be that role model for my younger self who obsessed over magazines but didn’t see anyone like her,” says Mercado.

Mercado, a New York native born to Dominican parents, has been using a wheelchair since the age of 12. As a young child she was misdiagnosed with cerebral palsy, and was later found to actually have spastic muscular dystrophy. She attended New York’s famed Fashion Institute of Technology, landed a coveted internship with Condé Nast publication Allure Magazine. Mercado channelled her early experiences into launching her own magazine, We The Urban, and shares her thoughts on her personal blog.

“I want to remove the stigma that people who look different can’t be in the industry,” Jillian Mercado tells Dazed.