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Jillian Mercado© Herring & Herring

Jillian Mercado shares how the Metaverse can bring opportunities for people with disabilities, representation, and more

The future is here

Jovita Trujillo
Jovita Trujillo - Los Angeles
Senior WriterLos Angeles
DECEMBER 7, 2022 3:52 PM EST

It’s 2022, and we are officially living with the Metaverse. While Meta is still at its earliest stages of development, they are making it a goal to create more accessible entry points into the future of tech for communities that have been historically excluded. One of the ways is with the Metaverse Culture Series: Tercera Cultura. The installment, which includes “Nuevo Norte” in Meta Horizon Worlds, explores the dimensions of Latinx family structure from the first culture (generational, familial) to the second culture (inside the immediate home) and third culture (a blend of both) with room for the youngest generation to bring their community into the future.

They also released a Tercera Culture docu short that featured Latinx culture shifters exploring identity, and authentic expression. One of those powerhouses in the documentary was Jillian Mercado, a Dominican physically disabled Latinx model, actress, and advocate for greater representation in the industry. HOLA! Had the opportunity to enter the Metaverse for our first interview in virtual reality, where we talked to Mercado about the different opportunities the Metaverse can bring, what representation means to her, about her cultura, and more.

Jillian Mercado© Meta

We’re here, we’re in the metaverse. So this can be a very confusing thing to try and explain to someone. How would you explain this collaboration?

Oh, it’s the, it’s the future. It’s creating, what the generations will be a part of, you know? It’s a blank slate to like express yourself and, be creative and imaginary to like the highest degrees. So it’s whatever you want it to be. It’s your creation.

There are alot of artists that are apart of this. What kind of opportunities do you see arising in the metaverse as time goes on?

I’m such a fashion girl, so I would hope to see that aspect of fashion shows and even interviews like this, maybe having talk shows in the metaverse. Business-wise, like having shops. So if people’s actual artwork was being sold here to having tangible income and money, that would be amazing. Cause that would just open up such a big opportunity for people who may not have the finance to travel, or to have business meetings in other countries, or to even physically. As far as my community, the disability community goes, a lot of people just aren’t able to access things and places. So to have a space where they’re able to do it in the comforts of their home is such a beautiful situation where they won’t feel left out. And all we want is to feel included in anything that we want to do.

Jillian Mercado© Herring & Herring

So take me back to the first time you entered the Metaverse. I mean, the first time you put on these goggles and you’re like, what is this?

It was sort of like, ‘whoa, this is amazing.’ It took me a second to like really understand what was happening. I mean, look at this. I always tell my friends- they know that I’ve been working with Meta and they’re like, how is it? And I’m like, you really have to be a part of it to like actually feel, because it’s incredible, you know, it’s incredible what technology can do and can access and connect people quite literally, with people over the world. But also can create a space where you can, like I can have family parties with all my family, like around the world in one place, like what? And like, play our music and, and everything like that. And that’s just so beautiful to me to have. So my initial reaction was, whoa.

I love that. It’s true. And I think one big thing is representation. What does representation mean to you when it comes to your community, your upbringing, who you saw growing up?

It means that you are accepting me as a human, you know, it’s as simple as that. It’s that you’re humanizing myself and my layers that make me. I represent a lot of intersection, and without one of them, it just won’t be me, you know? So representation just means that a community or a person or, you know, a brand or whatever is giving me that opportunity to be myself- authentically myself, with no if and or buts. It’s just, ‘we want you for who you are.’ And that’s sometimes very hard to come by- to work with a group of people or to be in a place where people are accepting and open and also able to educate themselves on how they can be better and do better to make sure that the various people in their community can also feel safe and can also feel included into that conversation. It’s so important to be able to say that I’ve been able to, given the opportunity here.

Jillian Mercado© Herring & Herring
Every job that I do and everything that I put my hand on I always make sure that I have my culture behind me or with me for that matter.

I can imagine that you’re a role model and inspiration for so many people. What’s been kind of the most rewarding thing when it comes to the way you’ve represented your community?

It very much kind of like solidifies that I’m on the right track with helping my community. Everything that I do, and or the future projects that I may be working on, I always have that in the back of my mind. How can I be a better service to my community? How can I help my community also be a part of the conversation that I have the privilege to have at the moment? Because it takes a village, it takes a team of people to create change. And as much as I can be a leader or inspiration to others, my hope is that you take that inspiration and you take that kind of like energy and implement it to yourself and know that you have a spot and you have the opportunity to be the best that you can be.

Yeah. Tell me a little bit about your relationship with your Dominican culture and your upbringing.

Oh my gosh. We can talk about that for three hours. I’m very proud of my cultura and you know, I grew up in a very Catholic Dominican household and my parents had a lot of traditional views and you know what they gave to us growing up in New York City, I was able to bring my culture into the future. And this is kind of like the best example for that,, where I can bring my traditions and I can bring what I learned and what we shared as a family at home too. Also, understand how important and how beautiful and rich our culture is and how important it is to keep that legacy going. You know from the music to the food to like the attitude to the people, like it’s just so rich in even all those layers and every job that I do and everything that I put my hand on I always make sure that I have my culture behind me or with me for that matter.

Jillian Mercado© Herring & Herring
Nuevo Norte by COVL

What are you manifesting for 2023?

What am I manifesting for? 2023? That’s around the corner I just realized. I want to say, this sounds so kumbaya, but more empathy. I feel like we as a society just need more empathy and more understanding that we all live on this planet. More awareness of the people around you. More opportunities for people that may not have the luxury or the privileges that, you know, I have, you have that anybody else can have. And just giving space to that, you know, and accepting that we’re not all the same. And that’s the point.