Model in wheelchair stars in groundbreaking new Diesel ads

Fashion all but ignores the disabled, Jillian Mercado says. So when she heard that Diesel was looking for models for an edgy new campaign, she entered the casting call with the same kind of swagger she brings to her work as a fashion writer and editor.

Mercado and her wheelchair -- and her fantastically fearless attitude -- got the job along with 22 other men and women striking a pose in Diesel's new We Are Connected campaign.

The 26-year-old New Yorker with muscular dystrophy is accustomed to being a trailblazer.

"I've never seen anyone in a wheelchair doing anything in the fashion industry. Like, ANYTHING ANYTHING," the executive editorial director at  We the Urban said in a statement. "When I went into fashion I sort of did it thinking, I would like to be the first one. I was surprised there was no one like me. Like, why not?! What are you waiting for?"

She added: "I feel like society is afraid and doesn't want it to happen, so a lot of people who are disabled are afraid of criticism. And fashion is the most critical because everyone is looking at you. So I was like, 'Perfect! I belong here!' "

Diesel's self-styled brand reboot features an arresting array of real-life artists and creatives who "reject the status quo" and aim to "change points of view through imagery." They include bikers, cyberpunks and Japanese street-style teens.

That, of course, is Diesel's goal.

Mercado's goal? Maybe even grander:

"I would like fashion campaigns to be more daring," she said. "America is very safe. It’s time to be more creative, risky and entertaining. It’s about time!"

Mercado and the groundbreaking advertising campaign were featured on  "Today" on Tuesday, where she explained that the fashion world could be cruel to those with less-than-perfect looks. "I won’t sugarcoat it; it’s a harsh world to be in," she said. "Everyone’s criticizing you for how you look like, not for your brain."

Then, Mercado spent the day responding to tweets like this:

@jilly_peppa thank you for inspiring me and other girls to exude confidence no matter what! @BrigiiteV @DIESEL

— Vivian Fabiola V. (@VivianFabiolaV) January 28, 2014

What do you think about the new Diesel ad campaign? And Jillian? Tweet me @renelynch


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