Behind the Model: Nyle DiMarco and his Advocacy in the Deaf Community

Model, actor, and activist Nyle DiMarco entered popular culture in 2015 when he appeared on the American television series America’s Next Top Model and Dancing with the Stars in 2016 to become the first Deaf contestant and winner of both competitions.

 

His Instagram and Twitter accounts, which have more than twomillion followers combined, further skyrocketed the model’s visibility into the mainstream. 

 

As a result, DiMarco has become one of the most renowned figures in the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community. However, his activism for the community doesn’t stop at media representation in television.

 

When not in front of the camera, DiMarco continues to advocate for the Deaf community through his non-profit organization, the Nyle DiMarco Foundation, which “exists as a national philanthropic resource for all organizations, institutions, and individuals working to improve the lives of every Deaf person in the world,” according to the website.

 

Last Tuesday before his speech in the Chapel, The Redlands Bulldog had the opportunity to interview DiMarco about his foundation and future plans for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community.

 

“I just started a production company called Amplify,” DiMarco states, where he plans to “build a team of actors, producers, and directors” in which “30% of the crew will be Deaf.”

 

DiMarco goes on to state that the production company had recently “partnered with Netflix on a show called ‘You’ to source deaf cast members.” From this, Amplify presented a list of deaf actors as well as an American Sign Language (ASL) master coach for the cast and crew of the show to use.

 

Amplify Entertainment defines a master coach as “an acting coach who helps an actor design the sign of a character for TV, film, commercial theater, etc.” They compose research on the dialects and sign patterns of characters, as well as provide feedback about accuracy and clarity of the actor’s sign language performance.

 

In terms of the Nyle DiMarco Foundation, it aims “for [Deaf] children to meet the brain acquisition language gap,” DiMarco said.

 

The language acquisition gap is the window in which children need to learn language skills before they experience developmental delays, such as language deprivation or even brain damage.

 

On the Nyle DiMarco Foundation’s website, it is stated that “2% of the world’s Deaf population has access to education in sign language,” and that only “25% of parents use sign language to communicate with their Deaf child.”

 

Therefore, the foundation emphasizes making language more accessible for children to learn a language between the ages of 0-5.

 

By collaborating with the organization Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids (LEAD-K) on their Model Bill, the Nyle DiMarco Foundations has made gains in making a bilingual education in ASL and education more attainable for Deaf students.

 

“[The Model Bill] has passed in eight states throughout the last 3-4 years,” DiMarco said. “California was the first state, Kansas was the second.” Indiana have also passed legislation like the bill.

 

In terms of impact, DiMarco tells The Bulldog that the LEAD-K bill assists in keeping data sets on Deaf children and monitoring their progress in learning language.

 

DiMarco continues to act in various television series such as “Station 19” and “This Close.” All the while, he extends his platform to build a production company and foundation to advance awareness and further advocate for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community.


Photograph by Kyle Eaton.




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