On May 24, 2016, Nyle DiMarco celebrated his victory as Season 22 Champion of “Dancing with the Stars.” This man is a force to reckoned with, seeing as he won Cycle 22 of “America’s Next Top Model” in 2015. He has the looks, the stamina, and the skill – and he manages to live successfully without being able to hear. With the help of an interpreter, he told People Magazine, “I’m ready to take the world by storm and have them look at me and say, ‘Deaf people can dance.’” I think it's safe to say that DiMarco has defied all the odds stacked against him in recent years.
Having danced all my life, “Dancing with the Stars” has let me live vicariously through celebrities and professionals. However, after eleven years of watching this show, Season 22 was special; watching and supporting Nyle dance over a time period of ten short weeks had me forming a personal connection to him. I have studied American Sign Language since my ninth grade year, starting in 2010. Satisfying my foreign language credit and my desire to break out my comfort zone, I went to ASL class every other day for all four years of high school, immersing myself in the communication and culture of millions of individuals with little to no hearing. I had the privilege of studying under a Deaf woman who turned out to be one of my favorite instructors and a great friend.
For almost six years I have watched Deaf people (yes, the word “Deaf” is capitalized) be ridiculed, abused, belittled, patronized, misunderstood, underestimated and plainly hated. This is a problem similar to the harassment faced by millions of other individuals with disabilities; people who are able-bodied or able-minded can’t possibly understand the struggles of those around them who are without. The principle of the matter is that the inability to hear does not define what a person can or cannot do.
DiMarco, in my opinion, had an incredibly difficult task at hand. On "DWTS," celebrity participants are to spend an entire week in a dance studio with a professional dancer and learn a routine involving moves and steps the common person has not heard of. DiMarco had the added task of watching an interpreter while watching his footwork in the mirror. The routine that tugged on my heartstrings was the night that he was blindfolded. Having lost two of his five senses in that moment, DiMarco had to rely solely on his partner, Peta Murgatroyd, and know that she will be with him literally ever step of the way. He needed to know throughout his journey in "DWTS" that he could trust those who could hear; Murgatroyd had solid integrity to lead him as bravely and beautifully as she did. Watching her and the judges learn how to sign made me understand that not all hearing people are monsters; they wanted to see Nyle succeed, not for his lack of hearing, but for the trouble and insecurities he would suffer without proper support.
The Deaf world is made up of artists, actors, engineers, teachers, parents, Olympians, musicians, scientists, doctors and beauty pageant winners. DiMarco’s recent success clearly proves that the Deaf world is also made up of dancers and models. Deaf people are beautiful, inside and out. Deaf people are agile. Deaf people are award winners. Deaf people are successful, and DiMarco is no exception.