The body is beautiful and powerful. That is the message Latinx actress, model, and activist Jillian Mercado is sending. And she is doing so with a beautifully naked spread in the May issue of Women’s Health Magazine. 

The magazine’s Body issue hits the newsstands on May 9th, and the accompanying naked article is on social media

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In it, Jillian Mercado appears proud of her naked body, every inch of it, scars and all, and encourages others to do the same. 

A brave and vulnerable gesture

Mercado is a New York City girl of Dominican ancestry. As a wheelchair user — due to muscular dystrophy — she is one of the few disabled and visible professional models in the fashion industry.

As an actress, she has worked in The L Word, Between the Aisles, Generation Q and Cripfished. 

With photo shoots like the magazine’s, she fights the lack of representation of people with disabilities in the fashion industry and against the stigma.

“Being comfortable in my own skin did not happen overnight. Quite the opposite, it was a long battle and a roller coaster of emotions that took place for years to get to this place,” she wrote in her Instagram account, alongside the naked picture of her in her wheelchair. 

“I like to imagine that my body is like the most beautiful garden I’ve ever seen,” Mercado wrote. 

“A garden is only beautiful because you take time to water her, give her as much sun as possible, love every single pedal and leaf, make sure its surroundings aren’t harming the garden, but most importantly believe, believe that one day, you will look at yourself, and be amazed at how beautiful and unique you are,” she wrote.    

In the Women’s Health article, Jillian Mercado discusses being diagnosed with muscular dystrophy and how she faced it 

“After being diagnosed in my teens with muscular dystrophy (a condition in which your muscles slowly begin to deteriorate), I started going to physical therapy. I didn’t like it,” she said. 

“I felt “othered” being pulled out of class to go to PT. But like a kid who hates eating veggies, I realized how good it was for me, and I started to love moving my body,” she said. 

She says, “Every time I push myself to work out, I notice changes – in my energy, my state of mind, and my ability to take on physical tasks that I didn’t have the strength for before.” 

“For me, strength is both physical and mental. It’s waking up in the morning and having the willpower to work toward my goals. And I want to do it all. I want to star in a big action movie. I want to be in a fantasy, like Star Wars, ” she said.  

“Growing up, I didn’t have anyone to look up to whose lead I could follow in mainstream media,” she said. “To be in the position to do that for someone else is magical.”

Mercado doesn’t retreat from the public eye; she uses it to knock down conventions and be a voice for others. 

This is not the first time Mercado has posed in the nude. She went naked for the coffee table book, Curves, The Book.

And just look at her photo in the “Innovative” issue of The Untitled Magazine. You will see a Queen with a capital Q.

Long may she reign.