Jillian Mercado on Being a Voice For the Latinx and Disability Communities
Jillian Mercado, the 35-year-old model and "L-Word" actor, has been breaking barriers with nearly every career move she makes. And she's just getting started, though she's careful not to reveal too much too quickly.
"I hope more people are conscious of the disability community and incorporate our specific functions or needs when designing a collection or brand. We enjoy fashion as well."
"I am working on creating something in the world of fashion for my community," Mercado coyly tells POPSUGAR. "Nothing that I can talk about at the moment." While she has to remain mum about her forthcoming fashion project (for now), she's excited to dig into her involvement with Tercera Cultura. Translated into "third culture" in English, it's the fifth part of Metaverse's Culture Series, which examines the relationships between technology and those who have been traditionally left behind in the tech space.
"When the opportunity arrived, I dove in," Mercado says. "Representation matters so much, and if I am able to have a voice for my communities, I will make sure we are part of that conversation. That way, others feel like they have a place as well." As part of the series, the Nuevo Norte made its debut. Created by the artist COVL, this destination in the metaverse features bold colors and is a tribute to the artist's Puerto Rican heritage.
One critical element of hanging out in the metaverse is, of course, selecting an avatar that reflects both your personality and your sense of style. "Personally, I wanted to create my avatar as close [to how] I see myself," Mercado shares. "Since I was celebrating myself as a Latina, I wanted to go with a mix of New York and Caribbean — something I would actually wear in the summertime."
Flexing creativity when building your avatar is a way of showing off "your individuality however you see yourself," she adds.
The metaverse's efforts to be inclusive stand in contrast with the fashion world, for instance, which has continued to struggle to cast disabled people in major runway shows or editorial spreads. "There hasn't been enough progress, but that is not to say there hasn't been any," Mercado says. "There's times where I get frustrated — we are still not given the credit we are due. If any brand [or] company preaches about inclusivity and doesn't have the disability community be a part of that, then it's not. There are no excuses for it."
Another step the industry needs to take? Crafting and producing pieces — whether it's garments, footwear, or accessories — with more intention, depending on the needs of the disabled person. "I hope more people are conscious of the disability community and incorporate our specific functions or needs when designing a collection or brand," Mercado says. "We enjoy fashion as well."
In truth, it's all about visible representation at every level, from fashion to tech to entertainment and beyond. Mercado's star shines for the Latinx, queer, and disabled communities, but she wants others to find their light and share it with the world, too. "I'd love to see more of us around, everywhere," she says. "The future is ours — we have the key to what happens with future generations and how our dialogue is represented. Celebrating your culture and your individual communities are important not only for yourself, but for many others who also share the same story."