There are few people who make me stop and re-evaluate what I’m doing in my life. But after hearing about Jillian Mercado and reading about all of the things she has accomplished despite her disability. I couldn’t help but think “Am I doing enough?” Jillian’s confidence and determination to make a name for herself is pretty evident and in my opinion she is the perfect role model for all young women in the world today.
Emerald: The fact that you have a disability and have accomplished so much in life is beyond amazing and truly inspirational. You are a very strong individual and I admire that. Is this due to your upbringing? How did your parents make sure that you never felt like you were different?
JM: The way that I am today is because of all the obstacles that I have had through my life but when you have a great support system from your friends and family it makes it all better. The way my parents made sure that I never felt different was exactly doing that, they treated me exactly how they treated my two younger sisters and always told me that there is a world out there that I have to get ready for so treating me differently wasn’t going to make me stronger.
Emerald: I feel like when you’re in a wheelchair and you are dressed up fashionably people tend to stare at you almost as if you are wrong for dressing up. Have you ever encountered this and if so how do you deal with it?
JM: I honestly dress how I want to dress and don’t really follow trends that much but I do get the occasional person who will stare at me for what I wear. It used to bother me when I was younger but it doesn’t anymore. I mean people have eyes to see so if they want to stare I can’t stop them. Staring isn’t a physical harm, so the way that I deal with it is just to ignore it and if they have something nice to say I knowledge and say thank you. If you want to be immature about it that’s on you and it just shows me who you are as a person so I never talk back or tell people to stop staring because like I said they have all the right too.
Emerald: You work in the fashion industry so I would like to ask you do you feel that the disabled community is largely ignored by fashion brands?
JM: I think when any community is ignored by people who make clothes is just absurd. We are all humans therefore we all wear clothes. Having a community that ignores that is just silly to me. Which is why it shocked me when I found this out during my up bringing. Hopefully now that I am part of the fashion industry things will change.
Emerald: I have a love hate relationship with shopping. I love getting new clothes but I absolutely hate it when I go in stores and I’m constantly knocking racks with my wheelchair or the aisles are incredibly small or even when there is only one disabled bathroom. What are some things about shopping that make you go “really!”?
JM: I exactly know what you’re talking about and I hate that but it never stops me from shopping so I always try to find an alternate route. For example if I am constantly knocking racks, I physically move them with my chair. If it gets to the point where I’m super pissed about it I tell the manager, because it is unfair. The idea of having one disabled bathroom gets me mad but then again I don’t see other wheelchairs when I’m in the restroom so I can see why they would only be one. They do take more space and other people tend to use it more because of that, who don’t need it. And I make sure when I am in a restaurant and somebody is about to go into the bigger bathroom I let them know that I need that more than they do. I think being vocal about issues like this is very important!
Emerald: When it comes to attending events I usually ask before hand if it will be handicap accessible. Most people will go “What?” but it’s so important. There are some art shows or concerts I can’t attend because they don’t cater (have a ramp, handicap accessible bathrooms, etc) to those in wheelchairs. Do you think that companies could do a better job with that now seeing that even though we have disabilities we still have social lives?
JM: If people are telling you “what?!” they are obviously delusional, it’s a great question to ask because you don’t want to be stuck when you get there. Absolutely I believe that every company and every store should consider the possibility of someone who is in a wheelchair who will be attending their store or location as well as even strollers. It kills me when I see a mother of two kids and have to carry huge strollers up stairs. And it’s even worse for me because I can’t go upstairs no matter what. I don’t think that they need to see that we have a social life I think that they have to understand that if somebody in a wheelchair comes around to shop at their store they should have accessibility for everyone. They are just losing customers if they don’t.
Emerald: Do you see yourself as a voice for the disabled community?
JM: Sure! I feel like if I had an opportunity to change things around that have been hidden for so long, sign me up!
Emerald: I have to ask , what are your favorite fashion stores?
JM: well there’s a difference on stores that I can actually afford and stores that I do shop at. I absolutely love shopping at H&M, urban outfitters, when there are sales at top shop and Zaras.
Emerald: If you could share one piece of advice for reaching your dreams despite difficulties what would you say?
JM: Use your disadvantage as advantages. Growing up I thought that being in a wheelchair was the biggest disadvantage I had but A very good friend told me that if I make it a disadvantage it will become a disadvantage so it’s all about how you look at it. No one and nothing should stop you from chasing your dreams and making it become reality no matter what obstacles are in your way. If you want it with your heart and soul you will get it.