We had the good fortune of connecting with Mercedes Villa and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mercedes, what do you want people to remember about you?
I’ve always liked to think of myself as “A Healer.” Many times, people go through hard circumstances during the worst of times and I don’t know how, but I always catch them during a time that they needed somebody the most. Whether it’s talking to them about what they’re going through, giving them a random shoutout on social media, giving them reassurance/motivational words or simply making them laugh, they always say “you don’t know how much I needed that” and that simple gesture is something that they remember. I’ve been told that I inspire people through my photos and concepts solely because they can tell that I am unapologetically and authentically myself. That’s all I want. To touch the souls, minds and/or hearts of as many people as possible. Whether it’s family, friends, a stranger, someone I’ve known for 5 years or 5 minutes, I want them to remember that at some point, I was there for them and present, even when they never expected it. I touched their soul in a positive way. I made them feel inspired, empowered, comforted and reassured that they are special as their authentic selves and NOW IS THE TIME FOR THEM TO EXPRESS IT AND SHARE IT WITH THE WORLD! I don’t want to just be remembered for my craft, but more so for the person behind it. I want every single person that comes across my path or my work to understand I wasn’t always this confident, outspoken, expressive individual—it took time. And for them, it may take time also, but they can all get there!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
When I originally started as a model, I solely wanted to show my strength as just a curvy, plus size model (I’m a size 12, however, in the modeling world that’s considered plus size. I’m also still considered curvy because I got these hips and thighs!). But, as I progressed and grew as a model, I realized my style didn’t fit in just one box. I could do beauty shoots, print, commercial, streetwear, athletic wear and even runway. I soon realized that THAT’s what set me apart from others! The fact that I was a VERSATILE, CURVY model and I not only explored that by trying different styles, but I expressed it and took pride in it. Many others are nervous or fearful about trying new things or they only know how to stick to one aspect of themselves. I wanted to show ALL of what I could bring to the table! Like I previously said, I wasn’t always confident, outspoken or sure of myself. Actually, majority of my life, I constantly battled trying to gain self-confidence and the courage to just be myself. But, you learn that all of that comes with time, patience, and a desire within yourself to finally say “I’m ready to be the person that I WANT to be! I don’t want to be scared or in the shadows anymore!” Of course I’ve faced rejection, many “no’s,” loss of confidence and A TON of self-doubt. But, who I am—this body, this mind, this face, this soul—is all I have. I’m going to be ME until I leave this Earth, so I have no other option but to make the best of it!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I love nature and the environment that I live in. My favorite things to do include: looking over the city at South Mountain Park, enjoying the lake view at Cesar Chavez Park and Tempe Town Lake, taking hikes or walks on South Mountain, etc. I’m not really a party person or into the nightlife very much, so a lot of the places I would recommend would be places where you can just relax, unwind and not have a worry in the world. I’m also a kid at heart, so I’d probably take my friend to Main Event, Great Skate or Skateland on one of their Hip Hop/R&B nights (Hip Hop and R&B are my favorite genres of music). Food wise, I love Mexican food! So, I’d most likely take them to my favorite Mexican restaurant, Comedor Guadalajara. If I could, I would eat at that place almost everyday!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are no other people that come to mind besides my grandmothers and my mom. As a biracial woman, I was blessed to have grandmothers from both my African American race and my Mexican race. My African American grandmother instilled a seriousness within me. Whatever I decided to do, it was going to get done and I was going to be serious about it all the way through. There wasn’t much talking—just get it done. My Mexican grandmother instilled compassion, understanding, empathy and a constant desire to always help others. She was always so supportive and proud of whatever I accomplished or attempted to do. “You’re doing good Mija! You’ll get there! Well, at least try it out and see what happens!” Those were always words she would say to me and in my soul, I always knew she believed in me just as much as she believed in what she said. Even though they are not physically present with me anymore, they are big reasons why I am successful and why I constantly have the mental fight to keep going, even when I am hit with rejection or obstacles. My mom is literally the glue that keeps me together. The mold of who I am. She’s taught me that knowledge is my biggest power, work ethic is going above and beyond and being a strong individual is better than being a follower. She taught me how to gain respect and how to maintain self-respect. She made me aware that while it’s great to appreciate all of who you are on the outside, the depth and substance that I possess inside is what carries me. She is why I stand so tall today and why I can do it whether there’s 100 people behind me or none at all. All my life she has dedicated herself to being the epitome of a mother and a great woman and now, I want to show her all that I’ve learned.
Michael Dunn (@MJD Photography), TazzzDevol Photography (@tazzzdevol), Francesca Morrison (@fmphotosx), Marques Villa, Arantes Stephen (@arantesstephen), SydG Photography (@sydg_)