jillian mercado's beauty manifesto

Jillian Mercado, fashion blogger, editor and model has been breaking boundaries and redefining norms since she first appeared on the scene.

by i-D Team
19 November 2014, 6:05pm

My name is Jillian Mercado, I am 27 years old, live in New York City, I am in a wheelchair and I am fucking beautiful. 

I'm not even on some Kanye-type wave (although I think we all could learn a thing or two about self-love from him) but more on a philosophical level. When writing this piece on feeling beautiful in your own skin, it was my first instinct to go with what everyone would expect of me and state the obvious with the long, drawn out "beauty isn't skin deep" thesis that you've heard time and time again. And although that point is completely true, it's almost like when you're in post-breakup mode and all you wanna do is cry and chug whiskey even though your friends keep telling you "it'll get better with time, I promise." It's useless. You don't really wanna hear it. So, in short, I'm gonna take this opportunity to be completely transparent with you and hopefully offer some enlightening insight into my views on 'beauty.'

Although I'm human and constantly have my moments just like any person, I've always thought of myself as beautiful. I love my eyes, how luscious my lips are, my hair, and I especially love enhancing all these things with make-up. It wasn't until I was fortunate enough to star in a Diesel campaign that dropped at the start of this year (which completely flipped my life upside down) did I start to think of beauty on a more philosophical level.

Suddenly I was on the homepage of nearly every major media news outlet, doing television interviews and being shot for features in international press. It seemed as though the world was amazed that a young woman in a chair could not only hang with the big dogs in fashion, but also be viewed as desirable and beautiful on a mainstream level: is natural beauty ever better than constructed beauty, like in art or music? Do beauty and happiness go together? What is the relation between beauty and the sublime? All questions I began to ask myself and think about as the world put its magnifying lens on me and offered such praise (and criticism) solely on my looks.

During the years I attended college at Fashion Institute of Technology I got the opportunity to attend New York fashion week and it was an honour to work in the tents. Everyone I idolise was in the same place. I was surrounded by beauty. It wasn't until I was in that world, in the real world of fashion, that I discovered that the industry has set standards on what beauty means. Which is why now people are always shocked that I actually dared to be part of that world knowing how they would think or react. That's the funny part, I quickly learned that this had to be changed. Although I didn't meet the standards they set, I had the opportunity to make my own rules, to change the game, to have people question their own way of thinking. Right at that moment where I felt so empowered, I had this chance to show myself and everyone that I did belong there. Now taking over the world was the obvious next step.

There was a time where I compared myself to people around me, where I followed every trend and every style (yeah, I even Photoshopped my head onto someone else's body). Too soon I realised that I was living a lie, that I was embracing someone else's idea of beauty rather than making my own. This is exactly why it is so important to realise that each and every one of us is different. We must stop looking for guidance on 'how to be beautiful' because we can be our own compasses. We've had it all along, it's in all of us!

I took my very first European trip to Venice, Italy this year. Days before I did some intense research on places I wanted to see while I was there. I have always been fascinated with architecture, historic churches even more so, this trip was going to be out of this world! I found myself relating to their beauty because I, like them, had flaws, and their beauty was in their flaws, which is how I see myself. Beauty is more then external or internal, but being different from everyone else made me feel beautiful.

You may think 'Wow! You make it so easy!' and although I may seem very confident, like everyone else I do have those moments where my mind and my eyes don't sync up and feeling 100% is extremely hard because unless you're a robot nobody feels beautiful all of the time. It is so crucial to take a day off sometimes and put yourself on airplane mode. Nothing in life is easy, believe me, but having a positive attitude and not comparing yourself to others is a start! Look, we don't enter into this beautiful earth with a manual or a step-by-step guide on how to feel beautiful, but that's what is great about it; we have the chance to make our own journey. Everyday is a learning process on feeling beautiful, all I know is that I have this one amazing body and life that I was given. We are all put on this earth for a reason. Every single person is unique and different and that in itself that is beautiful.


Text Jillian Mercado
Photography Barbara Anastacio
Styling Lecibeth Martinez

jillian mercado