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Sign of the Day - MOON

America’s Next Top Model Winner “Just Happens To Be Deaf”

Deaf Culture   |  Tuesday, December 8, 2015

By Jillian Winn

There are multiple reasons why 26-year-old Nyle DiMarco’s crown as the winner of American’s Next Top Model (ANTM) is significant (besides his good looks!) - he is the last winner of ANTM because this was the last season, he is only the second male winner out of 22 cycles, and he is Deaf.

Initially Nyle thought being Deaf would be an advantage in the modeling competition because American Sign Language (ASL) uses movement and facial expressions to convey meaning, which could help him to naturally be more expressive with his body when modeling. However, Nyle called the competition “tough fun” and said it took resilience to make it through the season and succeed. He said he felt isolated, experienced “language deprivation” during his two months competing on ANTM, and that the biggest challenge was not being able to use ASL, his native language. It was hard for him to communicate with the other models in the house and to keep up on what was going on. He said fellow model Lacey was almost the only person in the house that learned ASL (there were 14 contestants).

He especially felt at a disadvantage during a night shoot when they were camping. The shoot was in the woods in the complete dark and while the other models could hear cues, Nyle was unable to hear or see cues. Although it was a tough challenge for him, he survived elimination and went on to win the ANTM title.

Nyles is proud his ANTM journey is proof deaf people can do anything. One of his deaf friends was upset at the beginning of an episode where the contestants had to make a music video, “What the hell! That's not fair. The show is setting Nyle as a deaf contestant to fail!” But as the episode played out, he corrected himself, “Whoa! Nyle killed the music video! He proved them wrong!" Nyle’s reaction was: “Yeah! Deaf people can sing!”

Nyle hopes his exposure on ANTM will educate people on deafness, “Being deaf is not a disability, but a culture.” He explained that deaf people don’t need to be fixed. “We do have a culture. We have a beautiful language. We are achieving so much and society keeps missing these achievements and keeps thinking we still need to be fixed. This needs to stop and they need to shift their energy to something else.” He hopes the world will see his ANTM win and take notice - “deaf people are talented and capable of anything.”

As Tyra Banks said at the end of the show, “Nyle won America's Next Top Model and he just happens to be deaf.”

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