TODAY

TODAY   |  January 28, 2014

Model in a wheelchair: Fashion ‘a harsh world’

Jillian Mercado, who has muscular dystrophy, sits down with Matt Lauer to chat about her new ad campaign with Diesel and her challenges working as a model.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> remarkable woman hoping to be an inspiration to a lot of people with disabilities . jillian has overcome serious physical challenges to make it in the fashion world. and now she's the face of a new diesel ad campaign . we're going to talk to jillian in a moment. but first, a little more of her story.

>> diesel's we are connected ad campaign stars a variety of models not normally seen on the runway. perhaps none more inspiring than jillian mercado. only part of what sets her apart from the crowd. she has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair to get around. but that's never slowed the 26-year-old fashion editor and blogger down. she was chosen by diesel to an online casting call . mercado had never modeled professionally before. instead, making a name for herself behind the camera and maintaining a busy social calendar filled with industry events and openings. these days, things are even busier for mercado who is proving when it comes to high fashion , you don't have to walk the runway to show you have style. jillian , good morning. nice to see you.

>> good morning.

>> i mentioned you're no stranger to the world of fashion. you've been working in and around fashion for a long time. but it's the first time you spent in front of the cameras. were you nervous?

>> i was really nervous. i will not sugar coat that one. but they made it extremely comfortable for me to be there.

>> were you nervous about the process? or were you nervous about how it would be perceived?

>> no, not at all. i was just nervous. always behind the camera, i'm never in front of it. so i was just i didn't want to mess up.

>> it takes an enormous amount of confidence to do what you chose to do here. where does the confidence come from?

>> good support system from my family and friends. i'm blessed to have so much great people around me that push me to do the best. but i can -- and, yeah, i'm blessed to have a great family.

>> because the fashion world's not for wimps, by the way. there's a lot of pressure in it. there's a lot of criticism in it. there's an obsession with appearance. and you seem to be able to shrug all that off.

>> yeah, because i really love what i do. and that won't stop me. from doing what i love to do.

>> i was thinking last night as i was reading a little bit about you. i was thinking here's this young lady who has overcome these challenges and puts herself out there in these photos. and we hear so many times, so many other stories about young girls and young boys dealing with body image issues. and are really struggling. what advice would you give to someone in the younger age group who is dealing with that?

>> i won't sugar coat it. it's a harsh world to be in, especially that everyone's criticizing you for how you look not for your brain.

>> have you had to deal with that?

>> yeah. of course, on a day-to-day basis i do, just going into the train station . there are people who don't understand, are very close minded and don't think before they say anything. but it gets better. you know, if you have a positive attitude and determination in life, everything gets better.

>> these diesel ad campaigns are generally provocative, they get people to talk. so when they see your pictures, what do you want them to talk about?

>> you know, how diesel is a company where everyone can wear it. you don't have to look like a model to wear it. and i feel like these photos show there's every photo that they release someone can relate to it. and that's rare in the fashion industry to be able to relate and say, you know, that's me in that photo through that person.

>> well, they're beautiful. i have to say. you like them? you like the way they came out?

>> they're beautiful. each and every one of them.

>> jillian , what a pleasure to meet you.

>> thank you for having me.