Las Vegas model has appetite for life after dropping 250 pounds

Sometimes in life, you have to lose something to find something better.

Rosie Mercado knows that all too well. She feels like she’s lost a whole person since her weight loss journey began. Mercado, 36, was 420 pounds when an airline employee told her that she needed to purchase a second seat.

This wasn’t a private conversation. The employee said it loudly in front of everyone.

The humiliating incident pushed the east valley resident to lose weight.

“I knew I had to change my life,” Mercado said. “That’s not to say that I want to be skinny. I know I’m a curvy woman, and I’m proud of it.”

Mercado moved to Las Vegas when she was 7 after her parents relocated their recycling and construction business from Los Angeles to North Las Vegas. She was among the few Latinos who graduated from Bishop Gorman High School.

“I’ve always felt different for being Hispanic and plus size,” Mercado said. “Nobody really knew me by my name. I was always known as ‘the fat girl with the pretty face.’ ”

In spite of her struggles, Mercado focused on her passion: radio and entertainment. She worked overnight at a Spanish radio station and began learning the art of makeup. She soon was getting requests from friends to do their makeup before dances and dates.

Mercado got pregnant at 19 (her daughter is now 16). After her first divorce, she had two sons, now 8 and 10, and then married again.

Her second marriage turned verbally and physically abusive, causing her to lose dignity and self-respect, she said.

“After that, everything hit rock bottom for me, and I realized that I had to find my passion,” Mercado said. “I felt like a failure in every aspect of my life. I had three children to take care of, just got divorced a second time and was extremely overweight.”

On top of everything, Mercado’s oldest son was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy, and doctors found she had a cyst in her brain, which affected how she walks.

“I made a bad decision — these things happen and you move on,” Mercado said. “Oprah (Winfrey) says sometimes you think that your life is falling apart when it’s just redirecting you to better things.”

Mercado heard the word “no” too many times to count. When modeling agencies saw her face, they wanted to talk to her, but when she sent them full-body photos, they went silent or laughed.

“One agency who wanted to represent me saw my photo and thought it was photoshopped,” she said. “He was laughing on the phone and said, ‘There’s no way that face goes with that body.’ I learned to focus my energy on something positive instead of sitting around and letting these things affect me.”

Then the National Geographic Channel featured her on its “Taboo” series, and she was picked to star on NuvoTV’s television show “Curvy Girls.” She also won the runway competition of the Miss Plus Size America and Miss Nevada Plus America pageants.

Despite her rising success, her 75-inch hips caused her to miss events with her children: She couldn’t go to the movie theater and she had to hire a nanny to take them on amusement park rides.

Through diet and exercise, Mercado lost more than 100 pounds. She lost 140 more with the help of a gastric sleeve operation, which cut out 80 percent of her stomach. She learned to discipline her hunger cues by opting to eat soups, green smoothies and cutting carbohydrates. She also banned fast foods and sodas.

Mercado also found she enjoys Zumba.

“I lost my appetite for food and gained my appetite for life,” she said.

Although her family criticized her initially, Mercado inspired her mother and sister on their own weight-loss journeys, and her brother chose to have the surgery as well.

“My sister had a lot of health risks before, and now I see that she’s much healthier and happier,” said Mercado’s sister, Priscilla Monroy, 30. “She’s really motivated our whole family to eat better and exercise more.

“Before, I remember there was a lot of discrimination about her size. When I would go out with her, people would say really offensive things. People don’t understand why others struggle — they just judge. It was really hurtful.”

Since losing the weight, Mercado has opted to do a tummy tuck surgery in Mexico by celebrity cosmetic surgeon Dr. Carlos Buenrostro to remove 20 pounds of excess skin.

However, not everyone is happy about her weight lose success. Mercado said she has received many negative comments from the plus-size community — including death threats.

“One person told me to just kill myself and jump off a bridge,” she said. “I never strived to be skinny, although there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m a curvy woman, and I feel comfortable like this. There’s nothing wrong with being happy.”

Mercado said her journey has also inspired her daughter to create lifestyle changes and caused her children to become more physically active.

For the first time, she said, she is also in a healthy relationship filled with date nights and adventures.

Mercado is working as a freelance correspondent with Univision and Telemundo and models for Slink Jeans, Igigi and Pinup Girl Clothing.She now weighs 170 pounds and has 44-inch hips.

Mercado has plans to start her own makeup line next year.

“You have to live the life that you want,” she said. “Find what makes you happy and don’t listen to negative comments. You create your own life story.”

Visit rosiemercado.com.

To reach North View reporter Sandy Lopez, email slopez@viewnews.com or call 702-383-4686. Find her on Twitter: @JournalismSandy

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