Nyle DiMarco, a Deaf activist proves why fear is only a state of mind

by Francisco Velazquez, Fashion Staff Writer
questions by Francisco Velazquez and Maryam Muhammad

Self-assurance stumbles but never fails. For Nyle DiMarco, the journey began long before he found new ways of building himself anew. Whether his time on America’s Next Top Model or Dancing With The Stars, Nyle consistently proves that fear is only a state of mind. Some would say the support lies outside of the camera. Or the frame around it. For this mere moment, the smiles leaving Memorial Union carry the future so closely.

An audience of 200, mostly deaf students, get some one-on-one with Nyle. As some of them approach the exit lobby, the light reflects the blue of their shirts. It is difficult to not think of forever. How long it must feel to be permanently free. To think about where the feeling comes and goes. Or the ability to know the limits don’t settle against the horizon.

We begin a bit anxious. Unsure of where we can lend a new narrative to a story recounted numerous times. Instead, we begin somewhere new, hoping to uncover the misplaced parts of sheer honesty without the commercial breaks. Without limits, we’d never where to set the bar. “For me, nothing is impossible. Thankfully, that I am no longer teaching math. Knowing the path I follow makes me capable,” DiMarco states. “What motivates me is making a change. Seeing possibilities where I can effect change.”

As a deaf model, actor, and activist DiMarco states, “For any of those that are deaf and pursuing a education I would the best thing you can do is embrace your identity. I believe that with confidence, and being your true self, you can do anything well.” As a creative collaborator of the American Sign Language (ASL) app and advocate for the Deaf community around the world, DiMarco remains close to his favorite forms of self-care when life gets a bit overwhelming. “Exercise. Keeping my body healthy. Spending time doing what I love. Volleyball and spending time with Foxy. I can’t imagine doing anything but trying to keep myself sane as well.”

In close reflection, we seek mentors for guidance. For DiMarco and the 70 million deaf people in the world, the entertainment industry tends to forget those it cannot immediately benefit from. “I had never known of anyone that was a deaf model before me. I’m not even sure if there was.” He continues, “Being on America’s Next Top Model was difficult because of communication. I would use sign language everyday and for three months no one was willing to learn or talk with me. Imagine living somewhere where no one knows your language. It felt very isolating and really mentally draining. But I made it through the whole thing.

Success strikes twice. As a winner on DWTS, a physical toll takes load of the body. DiMarco states, “On a scale of one to ten, I’d say it’s a 10. We danced everyday.” With a growing fanbase and The Nyle DiMarco Foundation aimed at providing “love and language,” to every Deaf child today, a support system relays heavy on DiMarco. “I feel a sense of responsibility. It’s like a burden actually. But it’s a burden that I’m happy to carry because I am aware of what to do and I think that I can satisfy the Deaf community.”

The tangible forms of belief are shared in communion. For Nyle, the belief in his community has given him multiple directions of company and fellowship. “If I had the opportunity to shoot with any model I think I would choose Bella Hadid. As for a designer, my favorite designer is Armani. I would love to walk their show. To do something big for them in a campaign would be great. May be in the near future. I hope the opportunity will present itself.”

“My biggest fear is growing old,” DiMarco states. “No really! There’s a lot of things I want to keep doing before I get old. I want to direct films and hopefully bring something new and honest to Hollywood. I think the entertainment industry needs more Deaf people in films. It’s hard for a hearing person to play a Deaf person. It isn’t honest. I think that needs to change.” He continues on to say, “I think the entertainment industry is very good and very dangerous.” The rise of success requires lesions. “There’s a lot of competition out there but get yourself out there. Meet people. Network and go to events. Do it until it’s exhausting and that’s how you survive.”

Valentine’s Day just got 100 times better. “Right now there is a T.V. show about to be released it’s called ‘This Close,’ it’s about best friends and it’s coming out February 14th and I am part of the show. It’s written and produced by two Deaf writers and it is the first Hollywood show in history done by Deaf people.” The ability to establish new forms of history slowly remind us and more importantly the Deaf community, “Pursuing the difficulties of life while being Deaf remind me that seeing change is necessary and must happen now. As I’ve been involved in Hollywood and the modeling industry, I’ve seen so much change. While this isn’t every field imaginable, it’s a beginning. It makes me wonder about the next 30 years and the impacts I can make.”

“With the Nyle DiMarco Foundation I hope that all Deaf people have equivalent access to the world. This means having the same privileges and opportunities of hearing people. The world may look at us differently, but I hope that I can inspire the Deaf community to embrace and love the differences we share. Because we are capable. We are capable.”

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  1. Did anything ever seem unattainable? (Being model, a dancer, a student, or simply just human?)
  2. What motivates you in the morning?
  3. What forms of self-care have helped you face the difficulties in life?
  4. Did you ever see people that resembled you, before or even when you discovered modeling?
  5. You’ve been on ANTM…..how was your experience in the house? Did your time there affect the goals you had after you won ANTM?
  6. On scale 1-10 how physically excruciating was being on Dancing With The Stars?
  7. Do you feel a sense of responsibility being a prominent leader in the deaf community?
  8. If you could shoot with any model or photographer, who would it be?
  9. How would you describe your sense of style?
  10. What is your biggest fear?
  11. What advice would you give to those that are deaf and pursuing the a career in the entertainment industry?
  12. There are 50 deaf students on the UW-Madison campus. What options are available for deaf students who pursue college education? What can colleges like UW do to accommodate the needs of deaf students?
  13. Are there any projects that you are working on or that we can expect in the future?


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