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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–Brittany Talarico

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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!

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