On a rainy Winter day, we found ourselves in Sunburst Espresso Bar outside Union Square, meeting with the lovely Upper West Side fashion blogger, Jillian Mercado. Surrounding us were people wrapped up in their newspapers, on their lunch break, excited for the holidays drawing near. We wanted to have a Conscious Conversation with Mercado. Regardless of the gloomy weather outside, the downpour of rain did not hinder Mercado. She greeted us in an all black killer outfit: a perfectly fit leather jacket along with black skinny jeans, combat boots, a black beanie, accompanied by an everyday essential, her electric wheelchair.

Diagnosed with Spastic Muscular Dystrophy interfering with her ability to walk, Mercado powers through New York City in her electric wheelchair. Jillian’s family, from Dominican Republic, raised her equally along with her two younger sisters. Placed where she might not automatically “fit in”, she’s developed an admirable sense of strength along with success, immediately attracting the Conscious team’s attention.

However, Mercado faces challenges on a daily basis. She often finds herself being stared on with looks of sympathy and confusion from passerby’s. Her wheelchair was recently stolen. And she is constantly met with awe and shock when she mentions anything about her social life.  “Wow I love that you go out to clubs!” a common comment from strangers. Instead of being elated people recognize her social status, she instead asks herself, “Why shouldn’t I be there?”. This mentality motivates Mercado to take the fashion industry by storm. We’ve seen her in Humans of New York, The Daily Beast, Elle UK, PMc Magazine and  more. Mercado impacts any project she tackles through her positive vibes, sense of style, and determination to succeed. If she is not sitting front row during New York City Fashion Week or keeping up with her blogs, Manufactured 1987 and WeTheUrban magazine, she’s flashing her exquisite sense of style while charging through New York, NY.

She redefines regular and breaks down the barriers associated with “being and looking normal”. Her strength is generated through her determination to tackle the world, regardless of life’s uncontrollable circumstances.  While she understands she cannot control everything, she reminds us we can control our mentality. Reminding herself, “why can’t I be here” and continuously telling herself, “don’t”. Don’t worry, don’t stress, don’t let it hold me back.

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Mercado to talk about her personal life, professional life, and future plans. This interview was touching and meaningful, where we not only developed a bond, but were deeply inspired.

Q | How did you get to where you are today? I’ve seen you on HONY, Elle UK, the Daily Beast, just to name a few. Take us through your journey so far.
I got to where I am today by having a lot of patience, working very hard, and wanting a better future for myself. It pretty much all started last year when I got some sort of fame online. All the things that I have appeared in, just has really been pure luck. It’s truly a blessing. I just am who I am and it’s beautiful when the world can accept you as such.

Q | Can you see yourself anywhere besides fashion? What are your other passions? Are there other causes or hobbies you enjoy?
You know, maybe if you asked me this question in the past I would have said yes, but I truly feel like I am where I am supposed to be. I love fashion and it’s where I’m most happy. I said growing up that I would never pick a career choice or job that I would hate or not feel excited going to. I wake up every day  loving what I do so and I can’t see myself anywhere else. Besides fashion, I love music, I love going to museums and visiting exhibitions, and I am a huge movie fan. There’s nothing like a good day going to the movie theater and escaping your world for 2 to 3 hours. I have been volunteering for about six or so years with a nonprofit called Invisible Children and it brings me so much joy that I can help people on the other side of the world. When you have an opportunity to live in a country like the United States, it’s amazing to give a hand to someone else who truly needs it.

Q | Years ago your wheelchair was stolen outside of a friend’s house. It was a long journey for you. Starting over with your old rundown wheelchair to raising enough money to get a new one. Take us through that experience, and explain how it affects you today?
This is true, it was a long journey. It took so much patience and strength to get over the fact that someone removed me from doing things I do on a day-to-day basis, a part of me. But it did give me confidence in myself because I got so many messages and emails from people who are struggling with getting a new wheelchair or feeling like there was no one to hear them. I also got to meet so many people in person that said how much of an inspiration I was. Saying how brave and strong I am for being myself. Something that I would never think people would appreciate me for. I am definitely more careful today with my chair and things that cost a lot of money since it was very pricey. It also pushed me to wake up every day and appreciate the little things in life because you never know when it’ll be pulled out from under you.

Q | Do you have any quotes which keep you grounded?
Love life. It’s two words that I actually have to tattooed on my skin. I live by it and breathe by it and will continue to. A friend of mine sent me this quote the other day “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Q | Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I don’t know about five years but all I know is that I just want to be happy with my life because there’s nothing more greater than happiness, you can’t buy it, it just is. I do know that I  want to continue to be myself. To work for what I believe in: for my career choice, for my life and for everyone who’s around me. Also, I would  love to live in a high-rise building with floor-to-ceiling windows and lots of natural light overlooking Manhattan.

Q | How can we stay in touch with you?
I have so many ways that you can stay in touch with me. Most importantly my email: manufactured1987@gmail.com

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At Conscious, we are inspired by remarkable people, and so we set out to tell stories that highlight real human interactions and human dignity. You can read more stories like this when you pick up your copy of Conscious Magazine. Subscribe today via our Conscious Shop and sign-up for Conscious Updates.