Owning Our Bodies: Disability &
SXSW Interactive Panel, 2016
Submitted by Audrea Diaz, profile journalist and
Crip culture activist
Main themes in conversation
• Self-love and acceptance
• Media pressures in relation to body image
• How each panelist is combating ableism in the
• Personal/professional challenges due to
disability, and how we are overcoming them
• The media largely tags the disabled as inspirational. While this may be
true, our conversation aims to help the audience understand that we do
not exist solely to make you feel better about yourself. We exist to be
dreamers, doers, and forward thinkers.
• This is a statement to humanize our community; and If we are to use our
bodies and experiences as agents of change, we must first do so by
changing your mind on disability perception.
• Often times this means changing our own perception, as we’re constantly
given messages telling us that we’re unworthy of a fulfilling life. We’ll
center on how actively working in media helps society to embrace us for
our individual talents and a determination to live on our own terms.
Confirmed Panelist Lauren Ruotolo
Lauren Ruotolo is the former director of
entertainment promotions for the Hearst
Corporation, and is the author of “Unstoppable
In Stilettos”. Currently, she’s freelancing as an
entertainment and social promoter for Johnson
& Johnson and Pandora jewelry.
She’s been profiled for Marie Claire; appeared
on The Wendy Williams Show, and The Nate
Lauren has McCune-Albright syndrome, and
lives in NYC.
Find her on Twitter and Instagram.
Confirmed Panelist Jillian Mercado
Jillian Mercado is the founder of Manufactured 1987. As of now, she is creatively working with Diesel’s fashion
editor Nicola Formichetti, and is pictured above in a campaign for the brand.
She has been featured on Elle, Paper Mag, and Jezebel amongst others.
Check out her interviews on The Today Show, HuffPost Style and StyleLikeU.
You can view her full modeling portfolio here.
Jillian has spastic muscular dystrophy; she lives in NYC.
Find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr.
Confirmed Moderator Audrea Diaz
After beginning my career reporting on Austin’s
fashion scene, I’ve shifted to feature music
personalities. Read my piece on Austin’s
Musician of the Year here.
I’ve been documented by Style Over Stress, and
you can check out more of my work on
I have Cerebral palsy -- I’m from the Rio Grande
Valley, and currently live in Austin.
Find me on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.
• Speech at NYU Hospital
• Interview: KXAN Austin News
• Interview: New York News , Good Day Street Talk
• Interviewed by Lifestyle Expert Claudia Chan
• “The Rise Of The Intrapreneur”, Fast Company (May 18, 2015)
• “Fashion Blogger Jillian Mercado Stars In Edgy Diesel Ads”, HuffPost Style (January 22, 2014)
• “Wheelchair-bound Blogger Warms Fashion Week Hearts”, The Daily Beast (February 7,
• “Meet the wheelchair-bound star of Diesel's new campaign”, UK’s Daily Mail (January 22,