More Than a Model and Just Getting Started

Photo of Nyle Dimarco

by Jojo Faircloth

He’s one of the most talked about celebrities and he has won not one but two reality TV shows, literally making history in the process. The Deaf community is blowing up about Nyle DiMarco on Facebook, Twitter, and everywhere else. As mentioned in the previous article, the A.G. Bell Assoc. for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing wrote an article about their concern that DiMarco’s activism, which promotes the use of ASL for young Deaf children, might undermine their cause. Indeed, pro-ASL supporters and pro-Listening and Spoken Language supporters seem to have drastically different opinions on Nyle DiMarco.

DiMarco has made history twice as being the first Deaf person to win on America’s Next Top Model and Dancing With the Stars. In addition, Nyle has appeared on Switched At Birth as Garret and will star in the independent film, The Can. Soon, he will also appear in the Hulu original comedy, Difficult People. He sees his newfound fame as an opportunity to bring awareness to the Deaf community, and he is using his publicity to help bring attention to the importance of ASL for Deaf children. DiMarco is the spokesperson for the LEAD-K (Language, Equality, Acquisition for Deaf children- Kindergarten ready) organization, whose goal is to ensure ASL education for Deaf babies and children up to age 5 in order to prepare them to enter school. Recently, California passed Bill SB-210 in October and Nyle is working with LEAD-K to continue this mission. He has also started the Nyle DiMarco Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization designed to provide more access to resources for Deaf children and families.

Nyle DiMarco was born Nyle Thompson in Queens, NYC in May 8th 1989. He grew up in Frederick, Maryland and attended the Maryland School for the Deaf. When he was older, he and his mom changed their last name to his mom’s maiden name, DiMarco and he has kept that name since. He graduated from Gallaudet University with a degree in teaching mathematics in 2013. Nyle also stands out in a crowd, being 6’2” and having striking blue eyes.

DiMarco has always valued Deaf culture and ASL, which is his native language. His upbringing influences his values as a person today. He considers sign language to be crucial to early age development for Deaf children, saying that “Sign language is a human right. It guarantees Deaf children full access to language and learning”. He also explains that he never said speech is bad for Deaf children, he just feel that it never worked for him.

Nyle also believes that he is not disabled or held back by Deafness. He actually feels that his Deafness provided him an advantage in modeling since as a Deaf person he is used to conveying messages without speaking and using body language, as well as facial expressions. Another issue Nyle believes in is that Deaf roles in movies and TV shows should be played by Deaf actors. DiMarco is also passionate about improving literacy in the Deaf community, as well as anti-bullying campaigns for the Deaf.

Nyle has given back to the Deaf community in several ways already, and one of those ways is creating an interesting way to learn sign language. New signers or people who are interested in learning ASL can use DiMarco’s app, The ASL App, which he is a creative collaborator of. As an ambassador for the Deaf community, Nyle knows that his actions reflect how the hearing world sees Deaf people. Thus far, he has been a positive role model and is working hard to achieve his goals. It’s apparent that Nyle DiMarco cares deeply about his culture and he sees the value of sign language for the Deaf community.

This article is an excerpt from our Deaf Newsletter.  If you’d like to receive this newsletter in the mail, fill out the following form.