There’s a new girl in town and she is getting mad recognition from none other than Queen Bee herself! Model Jillian Mercado, who has muscular dystrophy, is one of the new faces in the ad campaign for Bey’s new clothing line. Slay, girl!
Mercado, born to Dominican, parents made the announcement on Instagram with a picture of the website — where she’s front and center — said, “So BEYond excited to finally announce that I’m on the official @beyonce website!!!” she writes. “A special shout out to Queen Bee herself and the amazing team behind it.”
Mercado, who’s actually an experienced model — she’s modeled for Diesel, Nordstroms and has a contract with IMG — told Racked, “I feel like the modeling industry has been stuck on this one notion of perfection. But we are all human, everyone has flaws and it’s refreshing when you can relate to someone in an ad,” she said. “Sometimes these advertising and campaigns feel so distant because you don’t look like the models and they feel far away, it’s a fantasy so you don’t know why you’d even buy the clothes.”
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
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
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 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.
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’
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.
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’.
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.
“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.
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