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Dominicana Jillian Mercado Had To Watch As Airport Staff Broke Her Wheelchair And She’s Not The Only One Who Has Experienced This

For model and disability activist, Jillian Mercado, travel is a regular part of her schedule. About every three weeks, Mercado flies as part of her job and she has used almost every single airline through the course of her travels. No matter what airline she chooses, the result is always the same. Without fail, there is always a problem with airline workers properly checking and stowing her electric wheelchair. Mercado has spastic muscular dystrophy that tightens her tendons and muscles. As such, walking for any substantial amount of time quickly becomes very exhausting for the disabled activist. In order to aid her mobility, Mercado regularly uses a wheelchair.

“It gives me the freedom to move around and be extremely independent,” Mercado recently shared with FIERCE by mitú. “Without it, my life is pretty much put on pause.”

The model’s most recent interaction with an airline resulted in her chair being manipulated to the point of breaking.

Twitter / @jilly_peppa

While traveling out of JFK Airport, Mercado encountered an unfortunately common situation. As per usual, the model filled out the “Claim At Gate” voucher for her assistive device — her 300-pound electric wheelchair. The claim allows her to write down all instructions for her wheelchair so airport workers are able to move and stow the device without problems. Mercado also always verbally explains the important details of her chair’s care to (hopefully) prevent any damage from being done.

There’s also a box to mark if one’s wheelchair can fold down or not. Mercado’s specific chair does not fold down and she was sure to note this both on the form and verbally. Still, it didn’t do anything to stop what happened once her chair was checked.

“There is too many times where — even though you go by the book and add your extra steps — everything is looked past and done by their own accord,” Mercado explained. “In this incident that’s exactly what happened.”

The flight would be delayed by three hours because the airline had difficulties forwarding the model’s chair.

Twitter / @jilly_peppa

The disabled activist was told about the difficulty surrounding her chair while she was seated on the full plane. Mercado told FIERCE that she felt embarrassed knowing that the plane full of people knew that her wheelchair was the reason for the delay. Six hours later, she was at her destination but still had to wait an additional hour to get her wheelchair.

Once she saw it being wheeled towards her, Mercado knew there was something majorly wrong with the situation. Realizing what the issue was, she went live on Instagram to document the damage.

“I realized that my chair was not the way that I left it,” the model explained. “They completely snapped the backside where I rest my upper body forward. Like I mentioned before, my chair does not fold and here I saw it completely folded. Soon after, I realized that some cables were also pulled apart.  I couldn’t believe that this was happening to me once again.”

Mercado had no recourse besides reporting the damage at baggage claim.

Twitter / @jilly_peppa

It’s important to note that wheelchairs and other assistance devices are not baggage. They’re essential to the mobility and freedom of their users. Often, without access to their devices, disabled people are left to seek aid from friends, family or the kindness of strangers. It’s a completely dehumanizing experience. There is no piece of luggage that can compare to the importance of these devices.

Mercado had to be pushed in a manual wheelchair by an airport worker to report her damaged chair. She was then stuck at the airport without a chair she could leave in and without the ability to get anywhere on her own. Luckily, the model had some friends in the area who were able to help her but she easily could have been stranded without access to the device that affords her freedom.

Mercado has yet to receive a suitable response from JFK about the damage to her chair.

Twitter / @jilly_peppa

The only answer Mercado received was an unspecific tweet from JFK Airport. The tweet reads:

“Jillian, we are so sorry that you had to be put through this at our airport. We hope that your chair was functional when you arrived at your next destination. You should reach out to the airline directly if you need to make a claim for any damage to the wheelchair. Good luck.”

Mercado pointed out that the clear lack of a personalized and caring response goes to prove that the airport lacks any disabled representation in leadership.

“This definitely would have not happened if somebody internally knew how important our devices are. I always say: you can’t speak about us without us in the conversation.”

To encourage other disabled Twitter users to share their travel horror stories, Mercado has encouraged the use of the hashtag #DisabledAirlineHorror.

Twitter / @jilly_peppa

Traveling while disabled is oftentimes difficult and uncomfortable but it is something that disabled people can do on their own as long as they are given access to the tools needed. Most importantly, Mercado wants the abled people who read her story to understand that disabled people have the right to live — and access to everything that comes with life.

“It’s already enough that society already has us in this stereotype were we don’t go out, aren’t fashionable or date but to experience life is to live it as you please,” Mercado insisted. “We are human beings just like everyone else. If you are going to provide a service, provide it to everyone with respect. This is how we literally move forward in life. That should be respected.”

9 Disabled Latinas Killing It In Fashion And Beauty

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9 Disabled Latinas Killing It In Fashion And Beauty

g0lden.bebe / Instagram

Thanks to ableist movies like “Me Before You,” “Split” and “The Shape of Water,” when most people think of disabilities they often associate it with all things depressing, scary or pitiful. Mainstream media  consistently portrays disabilities in a way that have led many of us to believe that those in the community only come with one story and one shade: ones that are depressing and white. Fortunately, the stories of the disabled community are so much diverse, they’re beautiful, fierce, many are positive and all come in the many different skin tones that contribute to Fenty Beauty’s existence.

Here are nine Disabled Latinas who are challenging beauty standards and showing the world how beautiful and diverse Disabled Latina beauty is.

1. Tamara Mena

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Happy #cincodemayo!! 🇲🇽 I’m Proud to be #Mexican!! So with that said, today is NOT Mexico’s Independence Day!! Today, a really important battle was won that led us to our Independence Day on September 16th! So it’s not Mexico’s Independence Day, today! Just for all of you who may not know!😉 But somehow this is a day that someone in the US figured out, hey let’s make a lot of money celebrating mexico, selling lots of margaritas 🍻 and tacos🌮! 🤷🏻‍♀️😄 So cheers to that! Enjoy today ☄️and be safe!!! Don’t drink and drive!!🙏 It’s not worth it! 😉 What ya think about this look? All my clothes and accessories were hand made and embroidered by indigenous people in Mexico!♥️ • OMG I forgot to tell you all the most important thing about today, TODAY IS THE ANNIVERSARY OF MY SECOND CAR ACCIDENT, in which I was driving! It was so bad that we dropped 50 feet, my car rolled over three times, that car is totaled…but by god’s grace and my angels watching over me,we all survived, my mom, @marthaelviap and my cousin @dayrarominna!🙏♥️ So today I don’t just celebrate, cinco de mayo, I celebrate life!! Because I’m SO so lucky to be alive so cheers to LIFE!!! • __________________ Feliz Cinco de Mayo, a los que lo celebran! Yo sé que en #Mexico no se celebra tanto como en E.U. Pero bueno cómo orgullosa Mexicana, les comparto esta foto!🇲🇽♥️ A celebrar! Pero si tomas, no manejes por favor!🙏 No vale la Pena 😉 Bendiciones! Les gusta este look? con ropa típica y accesorios hechos a mano por nuestros paisanos de #oaxaca! ♥️ • Chicos me olvidé de compartirles lo más importante de este día, HOY ES EL ANIVERSARIO DE MI SEGUNDO ACCIDENTE DE CARRO, en el cual yo estaba manejando! Fue horrible, tanto que nos caímos a un barranco y mi carro se volcó tres veces, caímos 50 pies y ese carro fue perdida total…Pero por la gracia de Dios y nuestros ángeles que nos estaban cuidando, todas sobrevivimos mi mamá, @marthaelviap y mi prima, @dayrarominna!🙏♥️ Así es que hoy no sólo celebró el “5 de Mayo” CELEBRÓ La VIDA!! Porque soy MUY afortunada en estar VIVA después de ese accidente, así es que salud por la vida!!! 🙌

A post shared by Tamara Mena (@tamaramenaofficial) on

Born and raised in Leon, Mexico, Mena immigrated to the United States at 13. The bilingual motivational speaker, actress, and model advocates for disability rights by frequently sharing her experiences on Instagram. When Tamara was 19, she suffered a car accident that left her paralyzed from the mid-chest down. The accident also caused the death of her boyfriend. In the years following the incident, Tamara has worked as a public speaker and encouraged others in the community on how to thrive in the face of a derailment. She participated in the famous beauty pageant Nuestra Belleza Latina as the first woman to be in a wheelchair in the competition and is one of the first Disabled talents to work with Ipsy. These days, she continues to use her voice and style to show young Disabled Latinas that they can achieve their dreams.

2. Jillian Mercado

This Disabled Afro-Latina has been killing it on the runway and in front of the camera since her modeling career took off when she landed an ad campaign with Diesel Jeans. Born with muscular dystrophy, a genetic disease that causes progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass, Jillian has used her voice to highlight how she and others have grown up with a severe lack of disabled representation in the fashion world. Since this New York Based Dominicana’s ad with Diesel Jeans, she has been signed with IMG models and has worked with Target and other large major brands. She’s definitely one to keep an eye on in the fashion world.

3. Marimar Quiroa

This Selona/Latina is killing the makeup game on Instagram and YouTube with her vibrant use of eyeshadows to create signature looks. Marimar is a 23-year-old Latina born with a facial tumor called “Cystic Hygroma.” She uses sign language to communicate with her followers on YouTube and Instagram and spreads a message to others to embrace their beauty. Growing up Marimar felt she needed to hide her face but after discovering makeup, she has embraced her features and found a passion in being a makeup artist.

4. Christina Feliz

Christina Feliz Martinez is a makeup artist and professional model based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Inspire by her Latinidad, chronic illness, and love for makeup, she uses her platform to share looks that she creates that celebrate it all. Because of her chronic illness, she has retired from modeling full time but does shoots occasionally. These days, she’s mostly focused on her work as a full-time makeup artist who highlights beauty products that can be a benefit to the chronic illness community.

5. Dru Presta

Standing at 3ft 4in, this Puerto Rican-Sicilian model born with a form of dwarfism is on a mission to change the fashion industry one photo at a time. Dru grew up in Reno, Nevada where she experiences bullying and isolation from her peers. Determined to not let the ugliness of others affect her, Presta uses her platform to show her audience that sexy can come in many sizes.

6. Annie Segarra

Annie Segarra, more commonly known online as Annie Elainey is a Disabled Peruvian-Ecuadorian Latinx with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) which is a connective tissue disorder. On YouTube, Annie creates videos that bring awareness to EDS but also speaks about the intersection of being disabled and Queer. Their platform has become a safe space for Disabled LGBTQ+ to feel seen and supported. When Annie isn’t creating videos, they’re slaying on Instagram with their #disabledandcute fashion looks. Their photos show outfits paired perfectly with their mobility aids.

7. Jessica Ruiz

Jessica Ruiz is a Puerto Rican-Irish makeup artist based in Philadelphia whose main tool in creating looks for her clients is her mouth!  Born with arthrogryposis, a condition that doesn’t allow her joints to move “normally”, she learned how to apply makeup with her mouth by holding the tools between her lips. She made makeup accessible for herself and after being rejected by a beauty school because of her disability she said “girl bye” and began a career for herself as a makeup artist. Her biggest break came when she had the opportunity to work at the Philadelphia Small Business Fashion Week where she was the lead makeup artist for the event. Jessica is making a name for herself as a disabled Latina MUA, and won’t be stopping any time soon!

8. Elsie Tellier

Living with Cystic Fibrosis (a terminal illness that affects the respiratory and gastrointestinal system), this Mexican-French Canadian uses her wheelchair to show off her love for fashion and her personality. After finding clothes that were comfortable and made her feel good while being in her chair, she began painting her wheels with pictures of galaxies and flowers to match her aesthetics. She uses her mobility aid as a fashion statement that challenges society’s absurd beauty standards. Tellier has said that her big goal is to see fashion brands make fashion accessible for those who use aids like wheelchairs, crutches, canes etc.

9. Giovanna “Gigi” Giscome

giovanawashere_/Instagram

This Afro-Latina from New York City and based in San Francisco Bay Area combines her love for fashion and modeling with her disability rights activism. Gigi has said that as she was growing up her parents taught her to love her disability but she soon noticed that that outside of her family atmosphere often revealed how uncomfortable they were with her disability. While she personally felt fine about being disabled she knew she wanted to change the mindset of others and did so with the help of fashion. Modeling and becoming a fashionista is Gigi’s way of fighting beauty standards which typically only showcase white, able models. Her fashion choices make a statement that both she and her disability are beautiful. Her photos show that she can bring it when it comes to high fashion with jaw-dropping looks.

Ana Gabriela Molina Has No Arms, But That Won’t Stop Her From Competing To Be ‘Miss Veracruz’

Things That Matter

Ana Gabriela Molina Has No Arms, But That Won’t Stop Her From Competing To Be ‘Miss Veracruz’

Gabriela Molina / Facebook

Ana Gabriela Molina de los Santos, is a young woman with no arms who is competing to become ‘Miss Veracruz’. The criteria of beauty pageants is usually archaic and problematic: women must be of a certain age, height and weight and their body measurements must not exceed certain inches. Women with different body types, and conditions are not usually part of these competitions, but Gabriela is determined to participate and set and example. 

Ana Gabriela Molina de los Santos has no arms.

Credit: Gabriel Molina / Facebook

The contestant in the Miss Veracruz 2020 beauty competition is spreading the message that no obstacle is too big when you’re prepared to work hard for what you want. During the presentation of all the beauty queens participating to become ‘Miss Veracruz’, Molina was the one that sparked the most interest in the audience. 

Ana Gabriela already took home the title of beauty queen of her own town ‘Miss Nanchital’

Presentación de candidatas Miss VeracruzMuchas gracias a todos sobretodo a mi familia que pudo acompañarme y a los que…

Posted by Gabriela Molina on Monday, December 16, 2019

Molina already won the competition in her hometown for Miss Nanchital 2020, and caused a sensation after participating in the presentation of Miss Veracruz contestants last weekend in Xalapa. “Thank you to everyone, most of all my family who were able to come and those who, despite distances . . . have always shown me their support,” she said in a post on Facebook. 

She’s a psychology graduate and motivational speaker who wants to raise awareness for people with disabilities. 

Presentación oficial de candidatas a MISS VERACRUZ 2019-2020

Posted by Canal 12 Súper Cable on Sunday, December 15, 2019

Molina graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology on December 10 and is a motivational speaker, hosting conferences on personal development. She says that completing her degree was key in helping her gain the strength of mind and confidence to participate in a beauty pageant. “No dreamer is too small and no dream is too big,” she wrote in another Facebook post.

Beauty pageants have long been criticized for reinforcing unrealistic standards for women.

Competitions judging women based on their looks, their smiles, their hair, make-up and clothing have been critiqued for years. Some of these contests promote standards of beauty that are unrealistic. In fact, the criteria by which women are chosen or even eligible to compete is very problematic in itself: she must be between the age of 18 and 25, a certain height and weight and her body measurements must not exceed a certain number of inches —but for Ana Gabriela, none of that matters. She wants her success to be an example for other girls who look just like her. 

Molina is working toward more inclusivity in beauty pageants, and she might just succeed by becoming ‘Miss Veracruz’.

Ningún soñador es pequeño y ningún sueño es demasiado grande… 👑💙♿Mil gracias Alondra Aguirre Professional Makeup y SoulDesigns Fotografía Profesional

Posted by Gabriela Molina on Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Ana Gabriela hopes that her participation in the competition will show others that her disability has not stopped her from chasing her dreams and that if she can accomplish her goals despite having no arms, then anyone can accomplish their own.

If she were to win, she’d use her title to raise awareness of disability.

Everyday, the Veracruzana wants to encourage children with disabilities to pursue their dreams.

Hoy tenemos a una super modelo de lujo Gabriela Molina

Posted by Pericentro Fashion on Tuesday, December 3, 2019

“The word ‘pity’ is not in my vocabulary. And the term ‘pobrecito’ really angers me, because I can do just as much as you can.” she says. 

She was always drawn to beauty pageants, even as a child. 

Ever since she was a little girl, Gabriela dreamed of participating in a beauty pageant, “I always told my family, one day, they’d see me there, modeling or competing.” she said in an interview with Mexican news channel, Noticias La Fuente. At the time, her family dismissed what she said. “No one would imagine a person with a disability participating in a platform like that.”

 The winner of the Miss Veracruz 2020 competition will go on to represent the state in the Miss Mexico pageant. Last year’s Miss Veracruz, Marilú Acevedo, was the first runner-up in the Miss Mexico competition, barely losing the crown to Ashley Alvídrez of Chihuahua.