Inspiring, Disabled Model Jillian Mercado Joins Nordstrom's Summer Catalog

Jillian Mercado in a wheelchair advertising boots in the Nordstrom annual July anniversary catalog.

Jillian Mercado in a wheelchair advertising boots in the Nordstrom annual July anniversary catalog.  (ap/Nordstrom)

Fashion blogger and inspiring model Jillian Mercado caught people’s attention when she became the face of Diesel clothing’s spring ad campaign earlier this year.

The 26-year-old model suffers from spastic muscular dystrophy and has been wheelchair-bound since age 12. Now she is the face of Nordstrom’s summer catalog.

In the catalog Mercado sits in her wheelchair modeling boots along with a male model wearing a prosthetic leg modeling Nike running shows.

Nordstrom’s annual July catalog has featured models with disabilities since 1997. Hiring professional models with disabilities has become so much a part of the company’s DNA that its regular customers may not even realize how unusual it is. 

"Identifying companies that utilize models or actresses with disabilities has been like finding a needle in a haystack," said Meg O'Connell, a partner at the consulting firm Global Disability Inclusion.

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Nordstrom, she added, "is a leader in this space and has been a long-standing supporter of disability inclusion not only in their advertising but also in employment and accessibility in their stores."

The clothing that Nordstrom models wear is not adapted in any way. The model wearing Nikes has one on his foot and the other on his prosthetic device. Mercado has short spiky hair as part of the punk look of her outfit, which includes a dark leather jacket along with the featured sale item, short boots with a buckled strap.

Nordstrom spokeswoman Tara Darrow said using the models is "really about reflecting the customers and communities we serve. We serve diverse customers and it's an opportunity for them to see themselves when they're looking through the book or online. ... We don't promote it or go out and talk about it. We just think they look great."

O'Connell said that the advertising and retail industries may be at a "tipping point" in terms of including models with disabilities. She noted that H&M and Diesel have also recently featured models with disabilities, while Swiffer recently featured an amputee actor and a Duracell ad used a deaf football player.

O'Connell said people with disabilities represent a significant marketing opportunity, with $225 billion in discretionary spending, and "companies that understand this will have an advantage."

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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