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Black Disabled Creatives logo. Photo courtesy of blackdisabledcreative.com
Black Disabled Creatives logo. Photo courtesy of blackdisabledcreative.com

Jillian Mercado created the Black Disabled Creatives to help increase representation

She is a Dominican actress, model, and disability activist whose database is helping increase representation for Black and disabled creatives.

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Actress and model Jillian Mercado was born with muscular dystrophy and has used a wheelchair since childhood. Growing up, she developed a love for fashion, which likely began as a result of her mother’s work as a seamstress. 

Mercado would later follow her lead into the fashion world. 

She got a degree in fashion merchandising from the Fashion Institute of Technology and worked on the editorial side of things for a few years. In 2014, she landed her first modeling gig and appeared in an ad campaign for Diesel.  

Over the next few years, she was featured in campaigns for everyone from Target to Beyoncé. In 2019, she was cast in “The L Word: Generation Q” as Mirbel, a queer and disabled immigration attorney. During New York Fashion Week 2020, Mercado made her runway debut when she modeled for The Blond’s, a New York-based luxury apparel brand.

Later that year, Mercado created Black Disabled Creatives (BDC) in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests. She noticed that to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement and to be more inclusive, people were sharing lists of Black-owned businesses or Black creatives to follow. However, she failed to see a list of those with disabilities. So she created it. BDC is an online community-driven database of Black and disabled creatives. 

Approximately 15% of the world’s population has a disability. According to the World Bank, this accounts for almost 1 billion people.

In an interview with Crystal Emery, Mercado explained, “​​One of the reasons why I did Black Disabled Creatives was so that the connections that I do have, or the connections that I have gained, so they can see that there’s a lot more, there’s a lot more of me out there. There’s a whole, whole massive community that has been underrepresented, invisible, not because we wanted to be invisible [but] because they chose for us to be invisible and not give us opportunity because of fear, again.” 

The site currently hosts over 200 profiles of creatives from industries like fashion, design, and publishing. Their Instagram is followed by over 9,000 people. In 2021, the site won a Webby Award for Website and Mobile Site Activism. 

“I know that the creation of a platform like BDC will serve to make sure that the lack of representation I experienced is no longer the case for younger generations. It also is a great place to create a community for those of us with disabilities, so that we can hire [or] recommend each other for jobs that we are working on,” BDC user, Daphne Frias told Remezcla.

The Black Disabled Creatives Instagram features artwork, as well as quotes about those in the community. The day after President Biden’s inauguration, a quote was shared from the poet laureate, Amanda Gorman, discussing her disability. 

Within a few months of the site's launch, people were already getting jobs because of the connections they made there. To learn about more creatives visit: https://blackdisabledcreatives.com/

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