Jillian Mercado, Who Has Muscular Dystrophy, Stars In a Diesel Campaign: 'I Was Really Nervous'

01/28/2014 at 12:11 PM ET

Jillian Mercado DieselCourtesy Diesel

Jillian Mercado has made a career writing about models and style. But now the 26-year-old fashion blogger is on the other side of the lens, starring in her own Diesel ad as part of the brand’s “We Are Connected” campaign.

Mercado, 26, who uses a wheelchair due to her battle with muscular dystrophy, but that’s not stopping her from putting herself out there in a big way. She stars alongside artist James Astronaut in the striking ad — check out that red lip! — shot by the fashion photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin.

“I was really nervous. I will not sugarcoat that one,” Mercado told Matt Lauer Tuesday on the Today Show. “They made it extremely comfortable to be there. I’m always behind the camera, never in front of it. I didn’t want to mess up.”

RELATED PHOTOS: See more striking celebrity style right here!

The N.Y.C. resident has fought hard for a place in the industry. “It’s a harsh world to be in since, everyone is criticizing how you look, not your brain. There are people who don’t understand, who are very close-minded and don’t think before they say anything. It gets better. If you have a positive attitude and determination in life, everything gets better.”

And she felt Diesel’s new ad campaign, in which the company put out a casting call for models of all backgrounds, was the perfect outlet for her inspiring story. “You don’t have to look like a model to wear Diesel,” she explained. “Every photo they release, someone can relate to it. And that’s rare in the fashion industry.” As for her amazing confidence, Mercado says she has a really solid support system. “I’m blessed to have so much great people around me that push me to do the best I can.”

Diesel designer Nicola Formichetti told WWD of Mercado: “It’s never easy for her to move from point A to point B, but she’s totally fearless and has really been an inspiration to me. You don’t have to be a conventional model type to represent a brand.”

Watch Mercado’s full Today Show interview (and check out her new lavender pixie) in the video below. What do you think of her story? What do you think of Diesel’s new campaign? Share your thoughts below!

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Showing 30 comments

Rae on

Had I only seen the ad and not this article, I wouldn’t have noticed she was sitting in a wheelchair – I was first arrested by her pretty face – and then the other dude’s obnoxiously platinum hair.

Hotgal on

This young lady just shows us what we can achieve if we set out minds to it and not listen to the naysayers. Go Jillian – you rock:

Dejavu all over again on

This is so awesome! I love it when designers use their campaigns to bring awareness in a really cool way.
Amazing :)

Eitlena on

Just so you know many people living with disabilities take objection to the term used in this article. Wheelchair-bound is not proper terminology as Ms. Mercado is not attached to the chair. The correct usage is wheelchair user.

Thank you

Eitlena on

But, still I have much respect to Ms. Mercado and her talent. I wish her much success.

Dawn on

I thought the ad was really nice, the young lady is beautiful. I did not notice the wheelchair until I saw the video. Now, she is a great roll model for the young!

Amaryllis on

There is a human named James Astronaut?

Pattimelt on

You go girl! You are a true inspiration. I wish you a world of luck!

Ris on


Nemalinemyopathy on

My daughter has a form of Muscular Dystrophy and requires the use a wheelchair 24/7, ventilator, Gastric tube, among other equipment. As a mother of medically fragile child I am forever greatful to Diesel for putting a her in their campaign!! I hope to see more of this from other clothing campaigns!

l j miller on

Profound….well done…I agree that it should make no difference if she is in a wheelchair. See her for her beauty both inside and out. Kohl’s always have mannequins in wheelchairs and I’ve always applauded them for their foresight. Through a child’s eye they would never notice the person’s special needs. We need to be more childlike in accepting a person for who they are not what they are.

Tiffany on

She is stunning!!! Someone give her more work! I would love to see her in more magazines. I knew she was in a wheelchair from the title of the article, but when I looked at the picture, her gorgeous face was all that jumped out at me. I had to look for the chair.

It’s time we started demanding our media to recognize that beauty comes in so many different shapes and forms. Jillian is gorgeous, and more than that, her determination and outlook on life (as presented in this article) make her someone young people can truly aspire to emulate.

mrsruedi on


Eleny Mama on

She’s gorgeous…

Liz Lemon on

What a difference from Abercrombie & Fitch’s view of the world. Way to go Diesel!

Kell on

Nemalinemyopathy – I’m praying something wonderful comes your daughter’s way (and yours, too). Sounds like you both deserve it.

Katie on

I have always wondered why more ads don’t represent people with disabilities or wheelchairs more often. It isn’t like they don’t need clothes or want a Starbucks or new eyeshadow too. This is a great ad.

Jen on

As someone who works with children and people with disabilities (or, those who are handicapable!), I’m happy to see companies like Diesel and Swiffer using EVERYONE in their ads. –Swiffer features an ad with a father who is an amputee–So many of my students feel shunned or less-than because they aren’t well represented in the media. It’s a nice change of pace and one I hope we see more often.

S. on

l j miller – while I appreciate your sentiment, on the whole, I have to disagree with the concept of “childlike acceptance.” Acceptance varies from person to person, irrespective of age, and children can be among the harshest critics and the least able to accept a person for their differences because as a people, we’re most comfortable with what we know, what is like us. Acceptance is learned, and it needs to start with adults role-modeling and teaching true acceptance to our children. As a woman who is short of stature and walks with a crutch, I can assure you that true acceptance is a rare and beautiful thing.

TooBigForDeisel on

Wow – I was so inspired by this ad that I thought I’ve never shopped Deisel. I should see what the style is and buy something from this awesome company. HAHAHAHA. Too bad they don’t carry any sizes over 31 in pants/denim for women and nothing bigger than Medium in tops and sweaters (actually most items only come in XXS, XS or S). I’m 5’2″ and 140 pounds. I’m not skinny. But, I’m not huge. I have money to spend on Deisel clothing and would love to support a company that has great ad campaigns like this one. TOO BAD I’M TOO FAT/BIG FOR THEIR CLOTHES.

Nikki on

Who still wears Diesel?

Holly on

<3 it. It's about time a brand picks up a campaign that people actually care about. This is so much better than using famous actors to sell a brand.

htown on

you go girl!!

Andrea on

Diesel…fashion for anorexics!

Sue rice on

This is an absolutely refreshing campaign. Inspiring for young people who aren’t the Typical print model type to take a chance in themselves and let their dreams take them places!

LifeLove on

She’s so fierce.

T.C. on

I have someone( a disabled person) to represent me, Finally!! Thank You Diesel!!!

Jenna on


joshthepartyanimal on

Reblogged this on joshthepartyanimal and commented:
omg yay

l.a.m.b on

Thanks so much for sharing this information.Hope to see some other healthy stuff from you guys. Well done and keep it up!!

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