How Nyle DiMarco Has Become One of the Most Influential Deaf Activists of 2016
By Brielle Sparacino
If you haven’t heard of Nyle DiMarco yet, you’ve probably been living under a rock.
The totally swoon-worthy winner of America’s Next Top Model was the first ever Deaf male contestant on the show, as well as the first ever Deaf male to be on Dancing With the Stars (DWTS) this season.
He and his partner on DWTS, Peta Murgatroyd, are taking the 22nd season of the show by storm; captivating the judges and the audience week after week with their performances. DiMarco even makes vlogs after every performance, which helps his fans to get to know him on a more personal level.
You may be asking, how can a Deaf man dance? In an e-mail interview with Parade, DiMarco responds to the question “I am a visual person, given that I am Deaf. There is research proving that Deaf people have increased visual abilities. Basically, I have a superpower, ha! I see a lot of things and everything in little detail. Whatever Peta shows me, I’m able to imitate.”
His good looks, incredible dance moves, and non-verbal charm win the hearts of millions on a weekly basis, its the awareness and attention he brings to Deaf culture and community that really shines through.
DiMarco is a native New Yorker born into a Deaf family. Both of his parents, his brothers, and even his grandparents are all Deaf. After studying mathematics at Gallaudet University and graduating in 2013, he went on to break ground in the TV and movie industry.
DiMarco starred in an independent film “In the Can,” as well as playing Garrett Banducci on Freeform network’s show “Switched at Birth.”
After doing some freelance modeling, he was discovered and contacted by the producers of America’s Next Top Model through Instagram.
The producers did not realize he was Deaf when they scouted him, but it didn’t stop DiMarco from appearing on the show and winning.
In an article written by Andrew Greenman for Gallaudet University, DiMarco said “My goal is to gain a contract with a major worldwide agency, break more barriers, and see more deaf people join me in the acting and modeling industries. I want to embrace the world in order to embrace my deafness, which is something I want to see other deaf people do.”
In the last year, the 26-year-old has signed a contract with Wilhelmina Models and become the co-creator of The ASL App, which has aided in helping speaking individuals to learn American Sign Language. DiMarco is also an advocate against bullying.
His advocacy goal is to make the public understand that being Deaf or hard-of-hearing is not a disability; it is a way of life.
“He shows that Deaf people can do anything,” said Katina White, a Deaf ASL professor at CSI. “All you can do is try and do your best.”
According to White, CSI’s Deaf community is absolutely thrilled to see so much cultural awareness being enforced.
She goes on to say that the entire Deaf community thinks of him as an inspiration and supports the goals he’s achieved so far in his career.
“[He brings] more awareness to the hearing world that there is a Deaf Community and we can do it [anything],” she said.
While there are numerous Deaf events on our school’s campus, as well as an extremely successful ASL Club, the general Deaf community is still largely regarded as a minority.
DiMarco, White and the rest of the Deaf community hope to reach a point in the future where Deaf culture is fully embraced by all.
Professor White’s message to those engaged with the Deaf community is “Don’t ignore us. Keep us involved in things and learn the language.”