October 15, 2020
EP. 28 — Jillian Mercado
Actor and model Jillian Mercado joins Jameela this week to discuss Jillian’s experience growing up with muscular dystrophy, going from a child obsessed with fashion to an adult woman working in the fashion industry, how she became a Diesel model, that “different” isn’t bad, advice on how to date a disabled person, and the need for more representation of disabilities in media.
28 — Jillian Mercado
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:00:00] Hello. Welcome to another episode of “I Weigh” with Jameela Jamil. I’m feeling edgy, not just because the world is ending right in front of us, but mostly just because I’ve got really bad PMS and I’ve only just started to realize the power of telling people that I have PMS. I felt so ashamed of it for such a long time that I used to deny it. And I used to get really angry if anyone would even ask me if I had it, even if they asked it, not in that annoying boyfriend way, but in a sort of genuine concern way when you’re being slightly irrational. But I, I’m just done with trying to pretend that this massive hormonal cycle that happens every single fucking month isn’t just turning my insides upside down. And I don’t even get it that badly. But my mood as I’m getting older is definitely starting to shift. And today I just feel like punching everyone in the face. And I found it very helpful to just say that first thing in the morning to everyone I see. It’s like, “How are you”? “I’m homicidal. I’d like, I want to punch everyone in the face. Stay away from me. I’m in a very bad mood”. I’m grumpy. I’m feeling grumpy. Women feel as though we’re not allowed to just say, “I’m grumpy, I’m pissed, but I’m not talk. I don’t want to smile. I don’t want to have a cuddle. Just fuck off”. And so yeah, just trying that today. Been by myself for the last couple of hours ’cause everyone’s avoiding me, probably for the best. And I’m loving it. Frankly. I’ve just been sitting on my own, bingeing “Emily in Paris”, a very silly French show. Well, it’s an American show set in France. It’s on Netflix. I also sat down and watched something this week that was very scary for me. A guy called Carlos Watson, who works at a company called OZY, decided to make a documentary series about change makers and their defining moment. And he included me in the series. For what, when I signed onto it, I didn’t realize would kind of be like a documentary style journey through my life. And so I did it earlier in the year and it got released this week on Hulu, for those of you who are in America, and it’s only 30 minutes long, but watching, A, I mean, it’s the sort of thing that normally I hate watching, especially after the last year of seeing journalists like edit me in order to make me sound like an idiot or an asshole and twisting all my words and like taking me out of context. So I was scared knowing how much they had on me and how easy it would be to just misrepresent me. And I am glad and relieved to say that that didn’t happen. It’s just quite a nice, normal portrayal of my life and also just wild. It’s so surreal when you have been mentally ill for a really long time and you look back through your 20s or whenever and you realize that you don’t really feel like those years happened to you and you see all these, you know, videos or pictures. And I have all this footage of me like out in the world doing these big public scary things. And I don’t remember any of those moments because I was just sort of out of my body. So that was really odd, just seeing how many things I’ve done and realizing that, gosh, I didn’t really do my 20s. So it made me feel very grateful that I am now in a place where I’m at least aware enough to try to make the most of my thirties and to try to be present and to try to get rid of anything in my life that is toxic and stopping me from being able to live in the moment. But it’s called “Defining Moments”, it’s on, it’s on Hulu and it’s just like a sort of like breakdown of, of my sort of triumphs and my fuckups. And, and it’s not bad. It’s, is, it’s nice. Gloria Steinem’s in it. That’s bizarre. And, and she’s great. Anyway, I’m feeling shy, I’m moving on. I did also, though, want to tell you that if you are enjoying the podcast, which it sounds like you are from the lovely messages, you are sending, that, A, you can still vote for me on People’s Choice Award, but B, we have a YouTube channel for “I Weigh” now where we have a kind of it’s almost like an extension of the podcast where we take great experts and we make videos with them about the sort of subjects that we’re covering on this channel. And we go into depth and we cover such specific parts of different communities. And it’s really, really good. And I know I’m not allowed to say that because I’m A, English, B, it’s, I’m almost a South Asian. So never supposed to brag. And, and C, I am, it’s mine. So I can’t say that. But fuck it. I think when women are proud of something that they’ve done, they should be allowed to say that. And I’m proud of the YouTube channel. It’s just my name at JameelaJamil, whatever Jameela, YouTube.com/JameelaJamil, oh god, I sound like such a grandmother. And it’s full of videos that I think you’d really like. And, and sometimes it’s guests that you have on this podcast that we take kind of outside of this and, and, and into a new area. So I’m just letting you know about that in case you’re interested. I’m putting up stuff in the next couple of weeks that is really, really cool. And took a long time to shoot, but it makes me feel very proud of what we’ve built over at “I Weigh” with this community and inspired by all of you. But anyway, let’s move on to our guest for the day. Her name is Jillian Mercado. You might know her from the new reboot of “The L Word”. She is an actress. She is a model. And she is an advocate for disability rights. She is someone who herself has a disability. And she is such an outspoken member of her community. She’s so inspiring. She doesn’t pull any punches. She’s fun. She’s beautiful. And she was such a pleasure to be able to talk to. And I also feel like when people talk to someone with like a, especially a visible disability, they can really-, if they themselves do not share that visibility, they, they, they sort of tiptoe around a subject that does not need to be tiptoed around. People with disabilities are no different to anyone else, and they’re thinking a lot of the same things, going through a lot of the same things. They just aren’t always allowed into the same places because our societies are backwards and fucked. So this was just a very free conversation in which I talked to Jillian about some of the things that other people are too scared to ask her. First of all, how a disabled person wants to be referenced and how they think someone without a disability should be referenced or what it’s like to date a disabled person or what it’s like to be a disabled person who is dating and how they feel and how they would like to be spoken to and treated. And obviously, that community is not a monolith. She’s just one member. But she really went there with me and she was so empathetic and patient. And I feel like this was just a conversation that we all need because there is still this sort of like invisible line between non-disabled people and disabled people. And I think we really need to work to erase that line. And it’s on our society to break that taboo and that fear and that ignorance. So I hope you enjoy this episode. She’s a great actress and just a wonderful human being. I’m so glad to have come across her. She was so, so open with me. And I love this episode to pieces. So without further ado, this is the absolutely excellent Jillian Mercado. Jillian Mercado, welcome to “I Weigh”.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:07:45] Hi. Thank you for having me. I’m super excited to meet you.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:07:47] Oh, I’m so happy to have you. And I, you know, I love, I’ve been researching you for the past couple of days. I just love so much of what you say and the way that you carry yourself in the world, the way that you guide people so unapologetically. And you are so thoughtful. And I so value your perspective. So I’m really thrilled to be able to sit down and have a chat with you.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:08:11] I’m already gonna start crying. Thank you.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:08:15] So-.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:08:15] I try, I do my best.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:08:17] So for those of you who don’t know, Jillian is a wonderful actress. You can catch her on “The L Word” and also a model, an advocate and a leader, online. You and I talked about this before. I think a lot of people who don’t exist within the disabled community feel awkward around disability and they don’t know how to approach it and they don’t know what is the correct word to say, what is an offensive word to say, what is the better option. And because people are almost so awkward around it, they don’t even fucking ask. And so I thought, let’s just get that straight out the way now. How do you prefer to be referred to?
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:08:51] I am a disabled person.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:08:54] You are a disabled person. And when it comes to talking about people who do not have disabilities, what is your preferred term?
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:09:02] A few of us in the community has, we’ve talked about this and, you know, usually it’s each, each person has their own viewpoint on it. I like to say “non-disabled”, because that’s what it is. You just don’t have a disability, whether it’s invisible or not. Because the other term, we feel like, it’s very, like a cute way of saying disability without actually acknowledging that the person is disabled.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:09:31] You’re talking about “able bodied”. And also-.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:09:34] I am talking about, yeah. I’m talking about people who don’t have disabilities, correct.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:09:38] Yeah, exactly, as in that terminology. And so, so you’re saying that when it comes to that expression, I mean, you mentioned to me that also there are certain things that people with disabilities can do that are extra. So the idea that you are either able bodied or disabled isn’t enough. And so I, I love that. And thank you for illuminating me on that. And if I slip, you can slap me and I shall come back and do better. And I would love to, I’d just love to start at the very beginning with you of your experience. You are one of the only people with disability who is in mainstream Hollywood. Absolutely killing it in massive fashion campaigns. You are such a role model. You’ve been on the cover of Teen Vogue and, and yours is the story that needs to be told so much more often, not just specifically yours, but the ones of your community. I’ve been speaking out about this for years. And so to actually be able to sit down and talk with someone about that experience and the way that the media erases it and the impact that has on society is something that’s so important to, to not shy away from. And so I appreciate you coming on to talk to me about all of these things. Let’s start at the beginning. Will you tell me your experience with your health and disability?
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:10:56] Yeah. Interesting enough, my, my life journey thus far has been a lot of confusion, a lot of misunderstanding with myself and health practitioners that kind of role-, wrote my book on my life. I was misdiagnosed when I was very young. They told my mom, I had cerebral palsy, at the age of three, and I undergoed so many exams I can’t even count right now, how many exams I went through. None of them was really helping what I actually have. Which then I realized, when I was really nosy at the age of 13, looking at my medical papers that a doctor actually wrote that I had muscular dystrophy, which is what I actually have right now.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:11:50] Mmhmm.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:11:50] Which really messed up my mental health because I thought I was one person, in reality, I was another, and not that it ever affected me as far as like-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:12:02] You didn’t carry shame around. Yeah.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:12:04] Yeah. Yeah. It was just like, OK, now I have blo-, I thought I had blonde hair, but I actually had brunette hair this whole time. That kind of, that kind of in a way where it wasn’t really, I mean, and that’s a privilege in my world to say that, ’cause I feel like there’s a lot of young adults out there who it makes it, it’s more of a negative perspective that they have with disability. And I’ve been fortunate enough that my family kind of understood that I had a disability. Understood that this world wasn’t really accepting of people like myself and told me at a very young age, that no matter what I do in life, I’m going to have to work 10 times harder than every other person who doesn’t have a disability because of these unfortunate stereotypes that the world has with us. So, that happened, and then during my teenage years or, or so, I went into the actual realization that the world really hated me. And there was no representation, no where in media. No where in magazines where I used to for at a very young age. And I went through a very, very, very dark time. That really messed me up mentally because I just didn’t see myself out there. And I felt that, you know, obviously I, you know, was a mistake to society and that, you know, and that I was a burden to society and like, you know, even asking for help for other people, I felt ashamed that I asked for help. You know? And I think that, I think that, that goes through a lot of people that have disabilities, mine pretty much all the time because the world wasn’t made for us and mine. It was made for people who don’t, who don’t have disabilities, you know, and I really, really, which is why I’m so passionate about representation in the media and just anywhere, to be honest, because I feel like if I would have seen someone like myself just doing the most ordinary fucking thing you can think of, like, you know, someone at a post office or something, you know, who had a disability, I would feel like, “Oh, OK, so I really could do anything”. But because, you know, it’s unfortunately stigmatized as a horrible thing, I’ve had people tell me to my face that, you know, obviously something in my past life, this person obviously, like I was like a criminal or a horrible person and now I’m paying for it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:14:44] My God. You also told me that people would say really condescending shit to you, like, “You’ll be able to walk when you’re up in heaven”.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:14:52] Yes. I was going to say a lot of religious people, you know, whatever you believe. They feel like the afterlife. They would tell me to my face that like, “Don’t worry, sweetie. Don’t worry, sweetie. Everything is gonna be fine because in heaven you’ll be able to walk”. And I’m like, “Yo, I’m like, I’m living my best life right now. I’m pretty good. I don’t know what better that’s going to be in the next life. But this life, I’m alright”. But, you know, at the end of the day, it does really affect you, it does really hurt because then you’re like, so my life right now is not valid to you?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:15:26] No.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:15:28] I’m not worth anything right now, you know?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:15:30] Exactly. And also, like, thinking back to all of the films, you know, I, I had experiences with various disabilities, growing up in particular. And I remember that every single thing that I would see, they’re like three movies a year at best, the one movie a year, I would see with someone with a disability. They were always dying really soon. And they were like bitter and angry and impenetrable and too proud. And then the person who didn’t have a disability was, you know, would fall in love with them and then they would die. It was always this. Yeah, it was all this just like tragedy. And so, and also always played by fucking able-bodied actors. And they would do that for the clout of like you manage to portray the role of a, a non-human, basically a disabled person. And so, you know, it would be almost like a run for an Oscar for an actor to-.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:16:25] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:16:26] To play someone.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:16:26] We always call it “inspiration porn”, let’s just put “inspiration porn” across this year. And that’s unfortunate, it still happens today.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:16:35] But also what people don’t realize is that, you know, and I’ve said this before, and you might disagree, but that’s all about what this podcast is for. It’s for being free to disagree that maybe once we have loads of fucking roles about disabled people or gay people or nonbinary people or trans, when, when we are just stocked full of roles, then you can have the dregs going around. But the two to three fuckin’ parts a, a year, backoff. We can’t take-.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:17:05] That’s the hope, honestly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:17:06] Truly, it’s just like, they can’t take your roles, so therefore you don’t get to take-, you know what I mean?
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:17:12] No, no, 100 percent. And I feel like, I feel like that’s the goal. I feel like that’s what I want to see and hopefully, in my lifetime. And I’m going to say something that’s truly, it’s gonna sound super controversial. But I think that that’s how I see it and how my community sees it, it’s like back in the day, you know, people who were white, we’re playing blackface. You know, they were playing people who were black. Can you imagine that happening now? No. There’s no way. And I feel like, and now, you know, there’s, you know, there’s black people playing black people and playing like just roles, for that matter, playing characters. You know, and I hope that in my, in my lifetime, I can see anybody playing anything, you know? And it won’t be a problem. And somebody who’s not disabled, can play somebody’s who’s disabled, but as you said, there has to be so many movies out there who actually depict our stories the right way and authentically so that we can move forward.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:10] Yeah, exactly. But also, you know, I think part of the reason that they don’t write parts for people with disabilities more often is because they think it has to be this big dramatic storyline, so, A, you’ve got a lot of non-disabled people writing at the helm of Hollywood, right? So they’re like, “Well, I can’t relate to my experience. I’m not going to write about it”. And then their perception of that experience is A, they have a social awkwardness towards it or they want to write this sort of just like, as you said, inspiration porn. And so, you know, and so they they want to write the big tragic love story or sob story. And actually, all we would have to do is remember that people with disabilities are just people so they can get into relationships or be in a, be in a disaster movie, be in “The Hangover”. They drink alcohol. Like they party, like it’s the idea, like they’re in relationships, they do mundane things like sit in a laundromat for fucking hours, like ‘”40 Days and 40 Nights” is, there’s so many roles you look at and you’re like, “That could have been a disabled person”. It doesn’t have to be this like big, dramatic, devastating experience. It’s actually very mundane and normal. And all of my friends with disabilities do not live sort of sensational lives. Yeah, it’s so frustrating and it must be so frustrating for you. But then also, I mean, some somewhat of a relief to finally be smashing a lot of those glass ceilings and, and breaking through stereotypes.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:19:40] You know, yes, is the short answer. As you know, the industry can be very scary. You know, it can be frustrating. There’s many times where I just wanted to quit and go, yep, I’m just gonna go apply for a job at a grocery store ’cause this is too much or something really random.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:20:10] Will you talk to me a bit about how you actually got into this industry? What was your journey? Was it something you’d always wanted to do when you were younger? You know, in those dark years of not feeling represented, is that part of what made you want to be the representation that you weren’t seeing in the world?
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:20:24] In a way, when I was younger, I used to really scarily hoard a lot of magazines. I think that subconsciously I was looking for someone like myself to see in these magazines. So I was, when subscribing to magazines was a thing where they would bring it to you through your mail. I would prob-, I think I subscribed at the time, maybe six or seven magazines, which my mom yelled at every single time because our mailbox was not as big. So all these magazines were like crammed in there. And I think that every month, you know, very innocently, I was just like, one day I’m going to be somebody on the cover. One day I’m going to see an editorial or, you know, even an ad for that matter, that didn’t necessarily have someone with a disability who was like, that was like an ad for a hospital or for like a medical equipment or something medical, for that matter. I just felt like from what I’m seeing in the world, we’re capable about so many things. Right?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:21:31] Mmhmm.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:21:31] And fashion being just like an everyday part of society because we all wear clothes. Why am I not seeing this in advertisement? Like that, that was my question when I was younger, I just couldn’t compute that in my mind, that why I wasn’t seeing it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:21:46] Well, they presume, they presume maybe because they can’t see any disabled people that, and don’t know any, that they’re all just naked all the time. Perhaps. Maybe they think you just don’t wear clothes.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:21:54] Maybe.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:21:55] They must do. They way they fucking market things.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:21:59] That has to be it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:22:02] I mean, you know, yeah. Yeah. I’m surprised that I didn’t come up with that one. When I was younger, I was like, I wear cloths, this is really confusing. So I was just like, OK, maybe next month, maybe next month, maybe next month. And it came the time to pick colleges. And I went to, I was born and raised in New York City. And when I went to pick colleges, my mom, I remember specifically my mom telling me whatever I do, make sure that I’m really happy, make sure that it brings me joy, going to work every single day or, you know, studying what I’m, what I’m doing every single day.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:22:40] Oh, my God, what a great mom. That’s so wonderful.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:22:44] I know, I know.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:22:44] Everyone needs that advice.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:22:46] I know. I mean, my mom was a very tough, Latina lady. But there were a lot of great advice that she gave me when I was younger. And it’s such a, it’s such a privilege to say that, that I had such a strong mom. Even sti-, even today. And she, you know, gave me this specific advice, I remember, because I was really confused, ’cause I didn’t know where I wanted to go for college because the only thing that brought me joy was fashion, yet I was really worried that this world wasn’t going to accept me the way I am because my disability is very, very, very, very, very visible. You know, you see my chair before you see a body. And I was just terrified that, you know, I was gonna go into the admissions office and a lady would look at me and say, “No”. Sounds, you know, insane thinking about it now, but that’s what ran through my mind. And I was like, you know what, I’m going to do my best, I’m going to sign up to every single college I can think of. And if they say no, at least I know it’s a no and I can move on with my life. But I wanted to, and I was also really, I mean, I’m kind of really stubborn still, and I’m really, really determined. And I was like, I have to do it because at least, at least if they say no, I can prove that they said no. And it wasn’t just me thinking, you know, or assuming-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:14] I love that, by the way, I love that. I live by that, that premise, that it’s better to, better to fail than to wonder what if for the rest of your life. I think it’s so important. I think those are two of the words that haunt me the most when I, when I have, when I’ve allowed my ego to interrupt my curiosity.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:24:37] And you find so many wonders once you do.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:39] Yeah.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:24:39] Like a whole new world just opens up.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:42] Great, we’re gonna have to pay for that song now. Thanks for singing it. No, I’m joking. But yeah, absolutely. I think it’s, I think it’s so vital that people, that people stop being so afraid of rejection. What was it like growing up with other kids? How were they towards you? Were you accepted?
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:25:01] No, I was liked.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:25:02] Did that kind of confidence carry you through? Yeah, OK.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:25:11] Especially for people who have disabilities, they already assume that you need special education. They assume that you need things that maybe you don’t or they hinder you even more. I mean, growing up, I was put into therapy as an elective, like a class. It was like math, English, therapy, never asked for therapy, never requested for therapy. But the therapist told me when I asked why I was here, and she said, “Oh, because obviously somebody”, I mean, and I’m obviously paraphrasing. She said, “Obviously somebody who has a disability needs therapy”. Mind you, I think we all need therapy. I think as an adult I have definitely realized that every single human on this planet should have therapy.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:25:56] So, again, so it’s just like these kind of like, these kind of codes of otherising basically, just kind of throughout your childhood.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:26:02] Basically.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:02] Yeah.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:26:02] You know, making, making the word “different” seem like a bad thing. And not like a good thing, you know? Because for the longest time I will, I’ve always been told, well, you’re, you’re the same as everyone else. You’re not different. Sweetie. Again, with the sweetie. “Sweetie, you’re not different. You’re just like me”. And I’m like, “No, I’m not”.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:23] What a rude thing to say. What a rude thing to say.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:26:27] I am different and I’m happy to be different. And that’s what makes me unique. And that’s how I kind of like taken back the word. So when other people, other people, you know, in their ablest mindset or non-disabled people go like, “Oh, no, I treat you the same as I treat everyone else”. And I’m like, I see what you’re trying to say. And you might, it might seem like you’re doing us a service or be, or I’m pretty sure it’s well intended, but you’re actually hurting me by saying that because for me, I need special accommodations to go to places. You know, I need to know that there is no steps at a restaurant. There is no steps at a bar or, you know, even on set. You know, they know that I’m there. So they have to make the stage have a ramp. You know? That’s not being the same as everyone else. I’m different, but that’s OK, you know? As long as we are-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:27:17] So it’s the, it’s the “I don’t see color” thing.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:27:20] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:27:21] Yeah.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:27:23] Basically. Yeah. For me, it was pretty much middle school where, excuse my language, shit hit the fan and I understood that I was different in a bad way. So from first grade to, I want to say middle school, I was always the only one who had a, a physical disability in my class. So there was literally no one like me that I could visually see, which made me like the black on a white paper. So there were a lot of kids, who had a lot of questions, had a lot of like misinformation from their parents. Or like, if we were in the yard, the teacher would literally remove a student from my bubble or from my, you know, at least three feet from where I am because they thought they were going to break me or hurt me or anything like that, so I was always isolated.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:28:16] Oh God.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:28:16] From just being a kid. And, you know, and playing around or whatnot, because in their eyes, they saw a lawsuit. And in my eyes, I’m just, I want to be a kid. I just want to play with my friends. You know?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:28:28] So looking at the setup, you have this incredibly kind of ambitious and self-assured and, and so, such a driven young woman who’s going through all these experiences of the world, just continuously being like, “Mmm, not you” or “Not now” or “Not yet” or “No”. All the time. And so, and so you are still persevering through this. You, you find a college that you like, do you end up finding a college?
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:28:57] Love. Yes, I do. I went to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:29:02] How cool.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:29:02] And it was, it was awesome. I found my little community of, like, creatives who I identified with so much, who when like out of the ordinary, just to make like the most beautiful gowns and silhouettes and like runway shows. And because I was never told that being different was a weird thing or being different was a bad thing. I felt so at home. It was, I felt like home. To be honest, just be surrounded, be, to be surrounded by those people.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:29:34] How did you get into, how did you get into modeling?
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:29:37] Modeling was me at a fashion event, at the time I was working for the social media company and I met the creative director of Diesel, the clothing brand, and we were just literally talking about our dog for three hours, I believe, with blaring music, like dance music. Just like think of like a club in New York City before the pandemic. In the corner, just talking about our dogs. And we exchanged social media and I saw that he posted, they were doing a casting call for the next campaign. And a friend of mine at the time was like, “You should totally do this”. I was already doing like stand-in photo shoots with my friends who were in photography, in college. So I would, I had some like familiarity of being the, of being in front of the camera. Sorry. And I was just like, all right, fuck it. Like what would, like, you know, that, this could be fun. Like, this could be fun. Like, I thought this was gonna be like a one time thing. I find out two or three weeks later, I got a call or e-mail, I believe, from the headquarters of Diesel. And they’re like, hey, you’re on the running, you know, whatever number to become the next Diesel model. And I’m like, wait, what? Is this real? Is this fake? Is this somebody, this is when like “Punked” was around. I was like, am I getting punked? What is going on here? This is spam. I did it. It was a worldwide campaign. And the, I can’t even describe the amount of messages I got from random people who fo-, then found me on social media and were telling me like, “I thought I would never see something like this in my lifetime”. For the fashion industry to highlight somebody with a physical disability as a model on a campaign that had nothing to do with their disability. It was, you were just there as a model promoting clothes. And it sounds so basic, but it’s so revolutionary because in hindsight, we just now celebrated, I believe in June, the 30th anniversary of the A.D.A. I am currently 33 years old. So from my birth to the age of three, I had no rights. We as a community had no rights in America. We weren’t considered anyone who deserves health insurance, a home, care, a say, anything. So seeing something like that in the scale that it was, I think that it impacted them more than me, because I didn’t realize the impact at the time. I didn’t know innocently how monumental that was and how historical that was. It sounds weird even saying it out loud.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:32:44] Yeah. Thank God. Because you would have just been carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. I’m really glad that you were able to just do it as a model, just like as a girl in a campaign. Having a lovely time.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:32:55] You know?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:32:55] If I may, if it’s not too invasive, can I ask you about your condition and how it impacts your body?
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:33:03] Yeah, I always tell my friends and I now consider you one of my friends that I am pretty open at any questions. I think, as I mentioned before, it’s better to ask and obviously in an appropriate way, let’s also be careful about other people’s emotions, about sensitive topics, and that I try to do my best to, if the moment is appropriate to educate. You know, we’re all ignorant in some way, shape or form. But if we’re willing to learn and educate and then change, to cater to the betterment of the person who you might have affected because of the ignorance, then that’s, I’m totally cool with that. Like, that’s how we should be doing things, you know? So with that said, my, I have muscular dystrophy. And for me personally, it’s like a spectrum. So, you know, there’s a lot of people have it, you know, in a different level as I have it, ’cause I don’t believe that people have it worse or better. It just, you know, depending on who you are and how you, your perspective is. But for me, my muscles, my tendons get really tight sometimes. And for me, it kind of, emotions affect it. So when I’m really happy or really excited or really nervous or really terrified and scared, my muscles kind of become super tense throughout my legs and sometimes my arm, where I can’t, like I can’t do anything. Not that I am completely like paralyzed, but in a way where I have to, like, literally close my eyes and kind of like meditate, so I can relax. And it actually takes energy for me to do that. So that, that’s how my disability affects me. In other situations, they’re people that get, their muscles deteriorate over time. And sometimes, unfortunately, they do pass on. But I, that’s, like that hasn’t happened to me, yeah. Muscular dystrophy, there’s a lot of variations over, over-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:35:11] For sure.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:35:11] What it means or what it has for different people.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:35:14] One of the reasons that I asked is just because I think that that’s an important lens when we’re talking about what it’s like to survive an industry where your hours, are 4:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., sometimes I have an invisible disability and I wake up in pain. I go to sleep swollen in pain every single day. And I find it challenging. And I have got significant privileges in what I am, you know, what my body can allow me to do at times. So what is this industry with these kind of hours and these kind of demands, like when you have an unpredictable and is, I mean, is it painful? May I ask?
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:35:51] Yeah. I mean, sometimes it is, sometimes it’s painful. For example, the way I describe it is like that it’s like having a panic attack but being able to like, talk through it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:36:05] Wow.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:36:06] So.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:36:06] Yeah.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:36:06] It’s like your whole body is freaking the fuck out. But you’re able to act like nothing is happening at all.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:36:20] Tell me about this industry with a visible disability.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:36:25] Yeah, it’s, you know, a ho-. It’s, you know, it’s tough because I feel like when you’re in a position when you are the only representative, representative. The only one representing your kind of community, it’s very hard to kind of like have them understand that, you know, there are needs that you need, there are, you know, different-, that you need to continue working or to do your job properly. But also, you’re, you’re like against the wall because you’re afraid that, like, this will be extra work for them, which obviously means that they’re not going to bother with you because this is too much for them and it cost money or whatever the hell, you know, and-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:13] That expensive metal and wooden ramp. So, so expensive.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:37:19] Super expensive. Ten thousand dollars. I mean, I only take one that is diamond encrusted.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:24] Uh huh. I’ve heard that.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:37:26] You know?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:27] It’s fait. You do you, queen.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:37:31] You know?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:32] Yeah. OK. So. So so. Yeah, I understand that. I understand that, that fear that you don’t want to seem, I can’t believe I’m using this term but quote unquote “high maintenance”.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:37:41] Yeah. You know/?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:42] Which is basically just some maintenance. That’s all you’re asking for is just some maintenance.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:37:47] It’s just respect. You just respect. You know, I’ve heard a lot of situations where people ask for like really bizarre things in their greenroom and they get it, you know? And I just ask, I just ask for the decency and respect.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:38:01] On that, I once interviewed one of the most famous pop stars in the world. I’m not going to say her name because I’m scared of her. But I was interviewing her and she, she demanded, like eight very, very unique and expensive puppies from a breeder to be able to play with before she would come on set to be interviewed. Right? So we, we, we managed to rent. Oh-.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:38:24] Wow.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:38:24] This is not my fault. I was 23. I was involved in this. I didn’t even know about it until it happened. But these, these sort of like kind of like it’s really, really, really expensive, rare, beautiful, cute little puppies were brought from a, from a family who, you know, had all of them together and, and she played with them beforehand. It cost a lot of money, by the way. And then she just stole one of the puppies. And we didn’t know until after she’d left because she carried it out in her mink coat and just waved goodbye. And because her coat was so furry, we didn’t see this little face in and amongst her elbow. And she took it on a private jet back to New York. And we just never got it back. She never paid for it. And we had to go back and tell the little kid who’d kindly loaned us his puppies, that the cutest one that he wanted, is now gone. So A, I guess, don’t breed puppies. That’s the moral of the story. But-.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:39:20] Yep, adoption.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:39:21] But B, celebrities are high maintenance and nightmarish. And so I don’t see why, you know, I used to be, I had a company for a while where I was trying to create more access for people with disabilities in Britain. And then I moved to Los Angeles, so I was like, OK, I am eventually find a way to build up the power to start this again here. But I remember at the time, I must’ve gone to 250 venues across the whole of the UK just asking them to, to create, you know, just some sort of accessibility. And they would always tell me. Oh, well, we, you know, we just don’t have enough clientele to justify the reparation costs. And it’s like, well, if no one can get into the fucking building, how are you going to know how much clientele you have? And so on the plus side, you have been able to find work and production companies who will work with you. And I hope they have treated you well and kindly.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:40:12] You know, they, I’ve been very privileged and lucky and blessed and all those beautiful words that I have a big mouth, and if things are not accessible, I will politely, obviously, make it known. And I think that once people understand, you know, education around someone, around hiring someone with a visible or invisible disability, I think it would be, you know, things will get better. But in the meantime, I think it’s important to speak up when you see things that are unjust specifically for, you know, yourself or for your well-being, in a way where it’s obviously not yelling or anything like but in the mindset of education. And that’s how I try to do everything and any set that I go into, even if it’s not accessible, there’s been a lot of times where I’ve been to castings and, you know, there’s like five flights of steps. And I’m like, you knew I was coming here. You know? I’m pretty visually, you know, present with my disability. So you could have told me instead of taking like three trains to go into Brooklyn at a time to get to this casting, to get here and having to do my reel or, you know, little video that they do, out in the street because trust, even if, you know, I wasn’t that accessible, I made them do the video outside because they had to know that this was not OK. But again, there’s been a lot of incidents where I’ve had to step, step up and say something. Thankfully, you know, I’m in a position where I have a team and they know and they ask, you know, before I get to a place or whatnot. But I think that it’s important that people understand that, mind you, side note, PSA. Anybody can become disabled tomorrow. You know, disability is not someone who only targets a race, only targets income, only targets, you know, a country, or a city, or a state. It, it can be any single person. And I think that when people really understand that you can go to sleep and wake up and completely have a different life, which I hope that in my lifetime it doesn’t have to be the case, where if you do all of a sudden, have a disability, you can feel secure and safe, that things will not be 180 for you. That there will be health care, that there will be people around, that there will be adaptable fashions that you can, you know, do your transition better for-, there could be a lot of more representation and education and hiring and opportunities that, you know, maybe, of course, you know, that’s, you know, a whole different perspective that you’ll have. But it won’t be such a you know, such a way where all of a sudden you start to think, what did I do wrong, you know? And I think that that’s important.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:43:19] Yeah. And also, can I, can I add a PSA onto your PSA?
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:43:23] Yes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:43:23] All right. So I would also like to say that, you know, you mentioned a second ago, you know, if you are someone with a disability, don’t feel afraid to speak out. But at the same time, those of us who do not have some, who do not have a visible disability, something’s going to alter our ability to be able to walk into the room, to be able to get up on the stage, I think it’s also on us to start being more aware. I’ve become very mouthy about that sort of thing now, where there’s no elevator in a building or I’m on a set and it doesn’t feel accessible. I feel very, very, very passionately about it. But again, that’s in part because I was in a wheelchair when I was younger. So I know to look out for those things. But that doesn’t mean that everyone, all of us, cannot stand to start to think about that wherever we are. Just think about like, would everyone be able to get into this room? And I think if we start to ask ourselves this question and then start to ask the establishments or the producers or the venue owners, for example, I think things would start to change. And if ever there was a time where speaking out is starting to be rewarded and heard, it is now. So it’s on all of us collectively as a society, not just those with disabilities, to start asking for some more basic fucking access.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:44:43] And I think that’s beautiful, because that’s exactly when people ask me how do I become a better ally? What can I do to be of service to your community? I’m like, honestly, that. That’s like the easiest thing you can do, is to just speak up for those who aren’t there or if I, I’ve had a couple of instances where my friends’ friend would message me and say, hey, I was at blank and I saw that it was not accessible, and I, my mind immediately was like, if Jillian was here, she would not be able to get in. So we had to say something about it. And she spoke to the owner and apparently the owner said that they’re getting, or fixing it, or getting a ramp or whatnot. But those steps are so necessary because the point, the, if people start saying that more and more, it would just become a norm, you know, and every location and every public place will be accessible even if nobody ever goes into it that need it. You know? I think the point is, is just to have it, as like you have a roof on top of a house.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:45] I think that’s great. And I think that’s so true. So you’ve gotten to a better place, even though you’ve stayed strong. You were somewhat afraid to always speak out, or be seen as difficult or a problem. But now you are a success and you are this role model and you are a model and everything is going so wonderfully. And I see you on all these billboards, campaigns. But let’s talk about now how all this representation that we’ve spoken about, the representation, not even just on screen and in magazines, but also within your own middle school. You know, having no other kids with visible disabilities to look at. How does all of this then impact one’s social life? Out in the world, like, how do you feel like this permeates our culture? Because I think it’s created like an awkwardness. It’s almost as if, you know, you’re an extraterrestrial to some people. Where they’re like, talk to you very loudly and slowly.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:46:38] Or slow. Mmhmm.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:46:39] Yeah.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:46:41] My favorite one, the slow one is my favorite one ’cause I’m just like, I’m from New York. And we do not like talking slow. We like things fast and on time.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:46:54] Yeah.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:46:55] Yeah. I mean, it creates a weird barrier because I feel like a lot of people don’t want to say anything that’s going to offend me if they know me or if they don’t know me I, and I’ve been told this several times, that I look very intimidating to people. Dates that I’ve been on, you know, the people are like, you’re just very intimidating. You need to slow it down a little. And I am just like, cool so great, awesome. So-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:24] Well, I don’t know what you’re doing on those dates. Are you just going straight for the, straight for the genitals? You might you might be going too fast. “Hi. Nice to meet you”. Straight for the genitals. No, it’s fine.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:47:36] I’m crying here. No, not at all. I’m just regular.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:43] You have people who just kind of read so much into everything about you. And they kind of decide on their own narratives based around you, because I guess imagination is all you have if you’re not learning anything about a community and you’re not seeing also the diversity within that community. They’re not a monolith, like they all have different experiences. There is, there are truly not as many differences as you would think. And, you know, I’m blessed to have many people with a variety of different types of disabilities in my life to, for me, to be able to speak with some authority on the fact that this is just, it’s just, we’re all the fuckin’ same. We all just have different ways.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:48:24] Honestly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:24] But, yeah, so, so do you feel as though people then, I mean, there’s so many things that you’ve spoken out about before, like you know, talked about the kind of myth that disabled people should only date other disabled people.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:48:38] Mmhmm. Yep.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:38] And able able bodied people are sometimes, you and I spoke about this, the able bodied people sometimes might even be attracted to or be falling in love with a disabled person, but might be afraid of approaching them because they don’t want to be considered fetishizing.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:48:51] Or weak. I’ve heard of that one.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:53] Why weak? What’s that?
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:48:56] I wish I can give you an actual definition, but I, I through the vine, through my life experiences, let’s say I heard, been told confessions of people being like, well, you know, what would my family say? They would just feel like, you know, I am not, I’m kind of being more of a caregiver. Like, I’m, kind of like lessening themselves for dating someone who has a disability.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:49:23] Oh, my God.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:49:26] Yeah. Mmhmm. The list of shit that people say I can write an encyclopedia.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:49:32] So what has been your experience with dating? I mean, you’re a stunningly beautiful woman. But how’s it, how’s it been?
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:49:41] I mean, I tried. The dean, it’s the dean. It’s been quite interesting, I think, for me. I was very much a late bloomer. Let’s say. I, I definitely, it took time for me to love myself, just the way I am. I think that a lot of people who have physical disabilities are always told that they’re not beautiful, that they’re not worthy of love, that they will never find a partner, that they won’t even have children or have a family because of lack of education on their part and ignorance as well. So it took me a long time to rework that and kind of remove all of those negative words out of my brain and, you know, try to condition myself where, you know, I tell myself pretty much every day, even to today how worthy I am and how there’s no one like me and how amazing my perspective of life is. And that’s just magical and beautiful in itself. And it takes a lot of work, a lot of work, a lot of therapy, a lot of, you know, journaling. And it’s something that we should normalize right now. But it takes me a long time. And I don’t, I don’t think I went on my first, you know, going on a date or being, or being romantic till I was in my 20s. I think I was 21 when I first had, like my anything romantic.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:51:25] Well, you can say it with less judgment. ‘Cause some of us were 22. OK. Some of us were, some of us didn’t get-.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:51:31] I’m not judging. I’m just saying, I’m just saying.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:51:34] Some of us took a bit longer. OK? So let’s just calm down for a minute.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:51:41] You know, so many movies we have, as, in America, where it’s like love, love, love, love, love, love, love. When you’re like a teenager, you know? Having your first kiss, having your first sexual experience, everything happens when you’re like 15 or 16 or whatever. And I was just like, Hey guys, I’m 20. And I haven’t touched a skin. So, I mean, cool. Awesome. I just missed throughout the whole that-, throughout that whole journey. I guess I’m never going to have that journey, which is so not true. But I have had a lot of interesting stories where people were very either cautious of me, of people not wanting to quote unquote “break me without asking”. And I think that consent is a huge part of it where, as it should be a part of any relationship. I learned that it’s important to, you know, to have consent in every level, in any, in anything that you do, that both parties are on the same page. I think for someone like myself, who has a visible disability when the world has always told, like, you need to kind of like shut down what you think is consent and make sure that they’re OK before you’re OK. Because then if you let this person go, like, there won’t be somebody else who’s going to give you that permission or that like love because of the notion that people who have disabilities, don’t find love or don’t have experiences. So when you do find that one person, don’t let them go.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:53:23] Oh yeah.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:53:23] Which is very problematic and horrible.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:53:27] Yeah.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:53:27] To even have that thought.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:53:28] It’s resulted in some unbelievably toxic relationships for my friends because they just have this feeling of time’s running out. And this is also not just people with disabilities. This can also be people with different body shapes or, you know, hair. But it’s, it’s one of those things that can lead you to putting up with so much shit that you don’t deserve.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:53:48] So much.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:53:48] I also think, you know, to be a little bit more graphic to lean into this subject a little bit more. But the conversation around sex when it comes to people with disabilities, it’s kind of, you know, just makes everyone kind of clam-, clam up. Not everyone, obviously, ’cause some of us aren’t completely ignorant, but it does make people feel very, very awkward and very, very shy and almost like there’s something supposedly virginal and infantile about someone with a disability. And they’re so fragile that you’d break them if you had sex with them. And so I think that that is something that we really need to debunk as a myth. Sure, someone might have certain fragilities. But, you know, I’ve got a dodgy hip. I’ve got a dodgy hip. Reverse cowgirl, not me. It’s not happening. There are certain things that you’re just going to have to ask me about beforehand. And I’m going, I’m going to say no.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:54:37] 100 percent. And that’s what I’m talking about consent, you know, it’s about having that communication. Having that notion that it’s OK and it should be normalized to talk about it really with the person that you’re going to, you know, be doing these acts with. You know?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:54:51] So are you saying this in the kind of context of someone might choose not to have sex with you because they’ve just presume you can’t have sex or it would be painful for you or they would break you or they would hurt you in some way?
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:55:03] Correct.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:55:04] Yeah.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:55:05] Correct.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:55:05] And so you’re saying we should just have the fucking conversation of, like, hey, do, would you like to have sex with me? If you did, how would we go about making that really fun?
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:55:16] Exactly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:55:16] I mean, don’t say it like that. Because that was the unsexiest delivery of all time.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:55:22] You know-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:55:23] My poor boyfriend.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:55:26] Some people might think that, you know, like, you, the thing, the point is that you don’t know, you know? Let’s just-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:55:32] Let’s get into it.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:55:33] Just get into it. You know? Have that conversation. I think we would all be in a better place. I would, I think there would be way less ignorance and toxic relationships if people like just understood that that’s just like step one before going into your whatever you prefer.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:55:50] Yeah, I, I made a documentary once about consent, and this woman came on and she was talking about the kind of analogy of if you’re cooking someone dinner in your house, then it is only polite to make sure that you know their preferences or allergies. And so she’s like, why is it so weird to do something like that, something vaguely in that area? There’s something as important and, and special sometimes, depending on the encounter, but something as important as sex.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:56:21] It’s supposed to be magical.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:56:21] Yeah. And it’s, but it’s also intimate. It’s intimate. Regardless of how you feel about the person. There is an intimacy there. And so, you know, I think it’s important to be at least as respectful regarding that as we are around a cooked dinner. That’s what menus are for. So, you know.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:56:37] I agree.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:56:37] Let’s bring, let’s bring the menu into the sex, please. Thank you. And so how do you address that with people? Do you kind of preempt that conversation of just like?
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:56:49] Yeah. Me personally, I, I make sure we’re vibing, obviously, this is like, steps to dating Jillian. Scene.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:56:58] No, but I think this is helpful because I think some people don’t know. And I think I’ve so want them to know that this is just, we’re just two gals talking about some sex.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:57:12] No, no, no. I’m, I just crack jokes all the time. But for me, and I obviously can only speak to my personal experiences, is that, you know, I make sure we vibe and I make sure like, you know, we have things in common and that like, you know, if it leads up to this magical moment that we have the conversation before I even see the person, you know? I make sure that they’re in a comfortable space to talk about it because it’s so stigmatized, because it’s so cold. Like it’s, you know, a horror to even bring it up. I make sure that they are in a comfortable position, that I’m in a comfortable position as well, mentally and physically. You know, I like being in my room and on my bed to talk about it. Interesting enough. But, you know, I like having those conversations. And I’m like, OK, so, you know, you know, if this does happen, I just want to let you know that you can throw me that I will not break. So what happens will happen. And that if, you know, things get either too rough or things get, or they’re too uncomfortable, like I’m telling you that I’m going to speak up, that I will stop whatever is happening. And I will say, you’re hurting me. Or, you know, I may fall or may, I may not feel comfortable with the situation. And-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:58:35] Did you say “throw me”? Earlier.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:58:38] I did. .
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:58:39] What the fuck do you mean? Where’s anyone throw-? I don’t know if I’m ready to be thrown. Also, I’m just too big. But where are you being thrown?
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:58:52] Yeah, you know, you know?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:58:56] Oh, you mean the old bookshelf. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. No, I get it. I love this midair shagging that’s going on in your house. “Throw me”. No, that’s quite hot. I love that. I wish that we would all do that. I talk about this so often. I bring this up at least once every four episodes. Like let’s get into the difficult conversations before we even meet. Let’s not develop all kinds of feelings and intentions towards each other without knowing that we are vaguely comfortable of some sort of conversation.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:59:30] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:59:30] You know, I think, I think asking someone before you’ve even met them, like, are you capable of having slightly potentially awkward conversations or are you capable of having real deep conversations with me? Because if not, then jog on.
JILLIAN MERCADO [00:59:43] Yeah, and I think I’m at a point in my life right now where I just don’t have time for that. And if we’re not on the same page, then be blessed. And I hope you have a great day. But I will be on mine and we go be cool. And that’s it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:00:01] What advice do you have for non-disabled people out there who, who are, who are maybe attracted to a person with a disability or just, you know, who maybe are afraid of entering into that dating space, what advice do you have for them?
JILLIAN MERCADO [01:00:18] Tell the person. Tell the person you really dig them. Tell the person that, you know, you like, let’s hang out and like, you know, get some coffee. I don’t know what the kids are doing these days, but you know? You know, just make it as, I hate using the word “normal” because, I mean, what is “normal” nowadays? Or when was it ever, like what? Who invented normal? But I think the moment when we start realizing that people who have disabilities are people too, and that we deserve the same respect as you would like to be respected. That’s when we can, you know, hopefully live in a better world. Because, you know, again, it’s just been told there we are, we’re not supposed to have these things or not to have these emotions or these experiences.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:01:10] Yeah, you’re just a heroic sob story or an inconvenience, basically. That is the kind of-.
JILLIAN MERCADO [01:01:14] Yeah, exactly.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:01:14] To put it incredibly bluntly, that is the way that so many people have been made to feel. And it’s just such a-.
JILLIAN MERCADO [01:01:20] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:01:20] It’s so, it’s so ridiculous, it’s so ignorant. It’s social, it’s like we’re missing out so much.
JILLIAN MERCADO [01:01:26] It’s so ignorant.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:01:26] And again, not to like hero-ify all people with disabilities, but anyone who’s been through something more often than not will come out of that with an interesting perspective and with substance and with a, like a sense of kind of some, some stoicism. And this is not all people. Again, they’re not a monolith.
JILLIAN MERCADO [01:01:46] Right.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:01:46] But I have found that in my life, albeit with mental health or albeit with trauma, albeit with something, everyone I know and love has been through something or has navigated something that was otherwise tricky. And that’s the thing that has made them, you know, partially just more open and more empathetic and more interesting. And so I, I despair of how much we shut people out. It’s also really ridiculous when it comes to making friends with a per-, maybe someone who’s disabled at work because you think, well, you know, there’s certain things that they won’t be able to do. So, you know, they probably, we couldn’t invite them out clubbing. First of all, yes, you can. Second of all-.
JILLIAN MERCADO [01:02:21] First of all.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:02:21] Second of all, it’s fine if, if they can’t go. Like I don’t go clubbing because I’m a miserable old fuck. So it doesn’t really can’t be friends with me. My friends just go clubbing without me because I’m a bit daft. I don’t like loud places and I hate everyone. So it doesn’t stop people from asking me to be friends. Well, maybe it will after they heard me put it like that. But I’ve always been a miserable old fuck. Always. Since I was like 19. And so, you know, this idea, these like imaginary barricades that we build between ourselves and those who just might look a bit different. Those exist across the board. Look at the trans community. Look at the racial divide that we keep being made devastatingly aware of because we can’t believe how little it’s progressed. The fear of the unknown is why we as a society have to stop making people with disabilities unknown.
JILLIAN MERCADO [01:03:19] Preach.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:03:19] We all have a responsibility to fight for that representation in our workspace, not just in fashion and in media. We have to make, we have to make room for this community who has been shut out for no good reason.
JILLIAN MERCADO [01:03:33] This is just given to us and they’re like, here like, hey, I just kind of just want the most minimal of respect. That’s all I want. Nothing else. We don’t want revenge. We could. We could.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:03:46] OK, stop thinking about it, I see the wheels turning. It’s very time consuming. But yeah. Yeah, I, I know exactly what I’m saying. And I think anyone out there who is oppressed in any way, even if you are a straight cis, white, non-disabled woman, you are someone who, who has at some point been told what you can or can’t do. Right? By, maybe by a man. Oh, you can’t do that. That’s not for you. Oh, you want to enter this industry? Oh, probably not. Oh, you want to be the CEO? That’s not going to happen. If you have ever been told no for no good fucking reason, just because of the way that you were born, then you have an understanding of what it feels like, somewhat to, to exist within a community that get told that all the time, every step of the way. This year has been so fucking interesting to watch how so many of my friends have been told, because they are, they have visible disabilities that mean that they, they, they need a chair or they need a frame or crutches, they’ve been told that they can’t be hired and they’ve gone like 10 years without jobs that they were fully fucking qualified for because, well, you can’t work from home, unfortunately. You know we’re, you wouldn’t be able to to keep up with work in our office. And we can’t, you know, we can’t run a company with some employees working from home. Boom. 2020.
JILLIAN MERCADO [01:05:11] Oh, look at that.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:05:12] Everyone is fucking working from home. Whole massive industries surviving, some even thriving from home.
JILLIAN MERCADO [01:05:21] Look at that. Look at that. Wow.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:05:22] Isn’t that amazing? All that while. Literally, I don’t know if we’re ever going to go back to office spaces. I think a lot of business are thinking, why would I bother paying the rent? I think everyone’s, I’m so interested to see what happens when it comes to hires of people with disabilities now that we know that it is completely possible, we just had to try.
JILLIAN MERCADO [01:05:43] It was always possible.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:05:47] It was always possible. And so.
JILLIAN MERCADO [01:05:47] Mmhmm. I’m so glad you brought that up. I’m like, I can cry. I’m so glad you brought that up, because that’s just it. I remember the second that everyone started working from home and I was in my living room, in the middle of my living room, and I was just like, wow, look at that. Look at that. Look how easy that was. That was like a switch of light.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:06:13] Yeah. Yeah. I think this whole time has been quite triggering for people with visible disability. Just the way that, you know, and I understand because it’s new, people are, you know, a lot of people complained about lockdown. It’s like, ugh, being in my house all the time or I can’t go out. There are certain things I can’t do. I can’t go to the pub anymore. And you’re like, yeah, yeah, that happens sometimes. To millions and millions of people, that’s just their existence. So may this, may this year open everyone’s eyes and make them realize more about people who are different from them. May we all, myself included, continue to be more accountable with our responsibility and our privilege and, and stop missing out on fabulous people like you just because we have some fucking wood and metal and courage.
JILLIAN MERCADO [01:07:00] Yep. Couldn’t have said it better myself.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:07:04] Jillian, you’re, you’re so wonderful. I wonder, do you have any words of encouragement for anyone out there? There’s this thing, like I know that within our “I Weigh” community, we have a lot of people with disabilities, do you have any words of encouragement through what you’ve learned through such an extraordinary life story? For those people out there who maybe are having a triggering difficult year? Or maybe they’re coming to the age where they’re about to start dating or they’re about start socializing more, if this pandemic ever fucking ends?
JILLIAN MERCADO [01:07:32] I think I would probably tell them that as cheesy and as corny as it is gonna sound that they are not alone. And I’m looking at this web cam right now. You are not alone. There is an immense, and I can’t even emphasis this a lot, as much as I am right now, immense community out there of people who love you unconditionally, who sympathize with you, who have so much empathy towards you, and have the tools to make you feel safe and make you feel wanted. And that, you know, even though there’s moments where you feel like you want to quit, where you feel like you want to run away, where you feel like, you know, there won’t be a no, no tomorrow. Just know that, you know, we are out there, and I’m including myself in it, that will do their best to help you, do their best to reassure you how amazing and beautiful your life is and how, even though, you know, days can be difficult and how if you want to cry, trust me, cry. I love crying sometimes. Just cry. I think you have a normal life crying, cry it out. Write things down. But know that we are here for you. And because, and also that even though social media can be a little scary, sometimes, with a bunch of people’s opinions.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:09:04] I don’t know what you mean. I don’t know what you mean, I’m always, I’m always fine.
JILLIAN MERCADO [01:09:08] Yeah, I know you have a lot of great people who say lovely things to you, you know? So many opinions.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:09:13] One big love fest. It’s constant applause, it’s actually embarrassing. It’s really embarrassing. I wish I would just be criticized sometimes. Yeah, sorry, go on.
JILLIAN MERCADO [01:09:22] To know that I found such a great community of disabled activists, of disabled people out there who are living their best life and who are educating the world because they choose to. Also PSA, you don’t have to educate anyone. Especially nowadays. There’s Google. It’s free. Also, YouTube is free as well. There’s many people out there who are educators and who will, you know, teach you. But know that there is a community online that is literally the foundation of love and care and acceptance and that you are not alone at all.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:10:10] Thank you. And before you go, will you tell me, Jillian Mercado, what do you weigh?
JILLIAN MERCADO [01:10:15] I want to say I weigh my independence, my family, whether it’s my immediate family or my chosen family and my life.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:10:27] Thank you so much. I’m so glad you’re here. Thank you for being so illuminating. And I will see you again soon. Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode. “I Weigh with Jameela Jamil” is produced and researched by myself, Jameela Jamil, Erin Finnegan and Kimmie Gregory. It is edited by Andrew Carson. And the beautiful music that you’re hearing now is made by my boyfriend, James Blake. If you haven’t already, please rate, review and subscribe to the show. It’s a great way to show your support, I really appreciate it. And it amps me up to bring on better, and better guests. Lastly, at “I Weigh” we would love to hear from you and share what you weigh at the end of this podcast. You can leave us a voicemail at 1-818-660-5543. Or email us what you weigh at IWeighPodcast@gmail.com. It’s not pounds and kilos, so please don’t send that, it’s all about your, just, you know, you’ve been on the Instagram anyway. And now we would love to pass the mic to one of our listeners.
I WEIGH COMMUNITY MEMBER [01:11:26] I Weigh. Hi, my name is Aiden, and I went from laying indoors every single day and having no motivation to do anything to getting up, making new friends and getting out there and just enjoying life as it is. So, yeah. That’s my accomplishment.
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