We can begin to try to list the infinite reasons Jillian Mercado is a High Quality Human Being but we will probably run out of room. To start, she embodies a resilience to face life circumstances unlike most. It's pretty clear that no set backs are going to stop her from living her best life. We chat with Jilly poolside in West Hollywood, CA to discuss her move to LA, the challenges faced during her travels and how she’s using her platform to make sure there is inclusion and accessibility for all.
HQHB: Hola Bebe,
So you just moved to LA?
Jilly: I did! It’s already been one year last week.
HQHB: What has it been like to leave your birth city?
Jilly: It was bittersweet. Leaving NYC was definitely hard because it’s where I have family, it’s where I grew up. I never thought I would live anywhere else but I feel like I needed to be out and grow on my own. Los Angeles was the first place I’ve ever traveled to alone about five years ago. I knew I wanted to come back. Luckily for me I have a few friends who live out here so the transition wasn’t so bad. But I do miss NYC very much.
HQHB: I love that you’re a jet setter and were able to manifest to life thoughts from five years ago! What advice would you give those with or without a disability who make excuses to live their dreams, whether it be to travel or move to a new place?
Jilly: I’ve always loved to travel. Since I was little, I spent a lot of time traveling to my home in Dominican Republic.
I’m a very adventurous person by nature so when I set my mind to travel alone to a place I’ve never seen before, I just do it, it’s definitely become an addiction.
Traveling or moving to another place is scary, you never know what will happen. Unexpected things are bound to happen (even if you’ve planned everything perfectly). But I think that’s what life is about, finding yourself in unexpected places.
I would tell people that being scared is OK, it’s an emotion that we all have but once you open the door there is a whole world waiting to be explored. Once you start to see beyond the fear, you start noticing all the beautiful things that life has to offer you, how many people appear to ride along with you. A beautiful part of life is that even when we feel alone we come to realize that we’re sharing a planet with billions of people, so we’re never really alone.
HQHB: Agreed, do you have any current fears you’re working on evolving from?
Jilly: A current fear that I’ve been working on is being more confrontational. It’s hard for me to stand up for myself in a way that is going to benefit me mentally. I’m someone who doesn’t really like fighting or discussing, especially if the energies clash. It’s good to talk about problems head on and not suppress it which is what I tend to do.
HQHB: What I love about you is that you're super spontaneous, even when you're faced with unexpected situations, you approach them with incredible grace and patience.
It’s rare to find that quality in our millennial population + New York community. For instance, just yesterday you had your $30K chair broken at LAX airport..
Jilly: You have to have patience if you want to understand the world and peoples' decisions better. Instead of getting mad or pissed off, I try to do everything in my power to stop for a second and remind myself of the things I love most (even if that’s just sitting by a pool and doing nothing). It’s a good opportunity to recollect your thoughts.
Something I’ve learned to do from personal experience is to stop and think about your next steps in a tranquil and peaceful place. Then you start to see the positive in situations that seem horrible.
In this broken chair situation I realized, I’m fortunate enough to have a huge platform where I can talk about these type of issues. I don’t only speak for myself but for all the people who have had to deal with their chairs being broken while traveling (which happens 27 times a day in the US). So many of these people are screaming for help and it seems that the world chooses not to listen. So I took the situation which was extremely horrible for me and turned it into a way to come together with everyone who had a similar situation happen to them unite to create change.
I created the #DisabledAirlineHorror for people to share their stories and connect. My goal is to eventually have these airline companies understand how important it is for us to travel. It’s unprofessional on every level and inconsiderate to leave travelers stressed out about having their devices broken once they land.
HQHB: So grateful for HQHB’s like you, who bring more and more awareness, like this new SUV you posted about recently that is luxurious and accessible. It goes to show everyone is deserving of luxury & special treatment.
How else do you hope to see accessibility evolve for everyone?
Jilly: Well thank you for having me! I figured that the whole point of being in my position is that I can use my platform to build a path towards a more accessible future & create more space for others to voice their opinions too.
I could say that there are a lot of things in this world needed for the inclusion of everyone and I feel that in every conversation about diversity or inclusion, we are always left out. Hopefully people start to understand that we are here and aren’t going anywhere. We’re only becoming stronger and our options and needs deserve to be respected. I’ll continue to be active until I see a change in front and behind the scenes
HQHB: You’ve definitely been making a clear and bold statement, a friend told me she was so happy after seeing you grace the billboards of Times Square representing Latinas & women with disabilities.
Last Q, whats the closest to the LA dream you’ve felt so far?
Jilly: Thank you! Well, its a secret but I can say that I’m filming something that will be premiering in the future…
HQHB: Ahh! We can't wait to see!
photography by Helena Lu