Photography by Eric Pietragolare
Nyle DiMarco became the early stand-out on what would be announced as the final season of the long-running hit, America’s Next Top Model. But it wasn’t just his good looks that got him noticed. It wasn’t even the fact that he’s deaf. It was his determination that made fans rally behind him and continue to root for him week after week.
You’re the first deaf model on Top Model and you’ve proved through photo and video shoots that you’re not only capable of being good, but can also be the best. We also saw you struggle with feeling isolated from the other contestants. What are you hoping will come from your story being told on TV each week?
I hope people realize that I’m not the only one who experienced the isolation during the show. There are a lot of deaf people in mainstreamed schools and/or deaf kids from deaf schools meeting and hanging out with hearing people, who are left out in their own circle of hearing friends.
I hope this will open their eyes and people will start learning American Sign Language and start being inclusive. American Sign Language is not hard to learn and in fact, it is beautiful. Perhaps they don’t know where to start and how to learn. I’m in the process of creating ASL video tutorial and will hopefully publish in November.
What has being a part of the show done for your confidence?
On the show, I proved that I could model, act, and sing. Because of that, ANTM boosted my confidence and made me realize of my endless potential. I now also know that being deaf is a great marketing tool because “different” is the new marketing. The future is bright and I hope to go even bigger and at the same time, change the perspective on the deaf.
What part of the Top Model experience surprised you the most?
I am surprised by how much my fans are rooting for me. I was worried that there were be a bunch of basement creatures and/or people behind phone and computer screens, insulting or discrediting about me being on the show just because of me being deaf. Actually, the show found me on social media and later realized I was deaf.
What is it that you love about the fashion industry and keeps you motivated to work hard to be a part of it?
I love that the fashion industry is endless. I’m constantly seeing new things that inspire me every day. The fashion industry is a prime example of ‘change is the only constant’ and I love it. Change is good, change is healthy.
Change makes you feel unsure of your career but at the same time, it makes you strive to be better than your best.
What’s next for you?
I am still going to pursue modeling. I hope to get signed to agencies and I am also going to continue acting. I hope to break more barriers in this industry and prevent hearing actors stealing deaf roles in TV shows and movies. While I understand that it is the whole point of “acting,” how do you know if a hearing actor is portraying the deaf character correctly? I will say 99.9% of them fail badly and because of that, we’re constantly looked down on. We’ve had enough. Look up #DeafTalent on Twitter and you’ll see countless talented deaf people.
Nathan Ayon – Stylist
Lauren Winn – Assistant
Anika Kai – Make-up