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Jillian Mercado Beyonce

Beyoncé casts wheelchair user in new merch ad

The star enlists Jillian Mercado, a model with muscular dystrophy, to model her new merchandise

Beyoncé has enlisted Jillian Mercado, a wheelchair-using model with muscular dystrophy, in a new advertisement for her “Formation” merchandise. Shot by Daniel Avesco, these images picture Mercado modelling a range of products including hats, t-shirts and sweaters emblazoned with lyrics – such as “hot sauce” and “I twirl on them haters” from the singer’s track.

Sharing one of the images on her Instagram, Mercado wrote, “OK LADIES now let’s get in FORMATION! So BEYond excited to finally announce that I'm on the official @beyonce website!!! A special shout out to Queen Bee herself and the amazing team behind it 👑.”

Mercado, who is also a fashion blogger, made headlines in August last year when she signed to IMG Models – the same modelling agency that represents industry heavyweights such as Gisele Bündchen and Kate Moss. As well as this merch ad for Beyoncé, she’s starred in ad campaigns for brands including Diesel and Nordstrom and, more recently, in an editorial for CR Fashion Book shot by Michael Avedon. 

Mercado has also been outspoken about the need for diversity in fashion – “When I grew older I soon found out that the problem was that there wasn’t enough diversity in fashion and that I have to do everything in my power to change that,” she said in a recent Dazed interview.

“I feel like it’s about time that we give a spotlight to so many people who only want to feel accepted – and that is something that we can all relate to. The challenge is to not to stop talking about it. This isn’t some kind of fad that will come and go, not while I'm around,” she continued to say.

Equality is on Beyoncé’s agenda too. “Formation”, which comments on the failure of race relations in the US, has been praised as her most political work to date. The track’s accompanying music video embodied a powerful celebration of African American identity and showcased diversity in skin tone and body size.