Today, Jillian has become one of few models with a visible disability who is featured in major brand campaigns, and in 2018, she found herself featured on a giant billboard in New York’s Times Square. She has used her profile and rising influence to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. “[Having a disability] doesn’t stop me from doing anything. It’s an honour and a privilege to show people that it’s ok to be yourself and still do what you love,” says Jillian, who is committed to become the role model she wished she had as a child.
“All we want is to be provided with the same opportunities and be treated with the same respect like everybody else. I personally do my best to always have these conversations with anyone I meet. It is very important to spread this message so, by 2030, we can see the progress we have been a part of, and younger generations can benefit from.”
Jillian met with UN Secretary-General António Guterres in 2018 to discuss the Organization’s efforts to address inequality – particularly among women and girls with disabilities – and to discuss what more can be done to achieve Goal 10 of the SDGs.
“It’s crucial to know that people with disabilities are everywhere and only want to have equal opportunities – to live a fruitful life without any physical obstacles,” says Jillian. “It’s important for me as a public figure to do my best in reducing inequalities – not only for myself, but for anyone else who may not have the same platform as I do. When we are all given the same opportunity to succeed in life, we can develop a better future for generations to come. ”
With the power of social media, Jillian shares her own story, but focuses on highlighting the challenges that people with disabilities face daily – including disability representation in media. Visual representation of people with disabilities ensures inclusivity, and she wants to see more of it on TV and in magazines. She is also not afraid to to take on businesses – or even world leaders – to raise awareness on equal access and rights.
- A Conversation with Jillian Mercado