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Deaf Advocate winning more than Competitions

Deaf Advocate winning more than Competitions

Former America’s Next Top Model winner uses his platform to be a mentor for the deaf community. (Photo Courtesy Anthony Ferretti/WZND)

NORMAL – The Student Access and Accommodation Services hosted Nyle DiMarco Thursday evening as part of the Presidential Speaker Series in the Brown Ballroom.

Best known for his appearances on America’s Next Top Model (ANTM) and Dancing with the Stars where he won their respective competitions, DiMarco also had to compete with something that competitors thought would hold him back: being deaf.

DiMarco, along with his two brothers, are among the fourth generation in the family to be born with this disability. He mentioned in his speech that even though it might appear to be a quiet household, he thinks they were the loudest in the neighborhood because of all the clanging dishes they washed.

While attending High School in Texas, DiMarco was interested in attending a class where the students were not deaf, thinking it would be beneficial, but a week into class, he realized he was wrong. He was known as the ‘Deaf Kid’ and was treated as such in after school activities. He was an excellent athlete, but was never given the chance to show his talent despite his differences.

After sitting on the bench for so long, DiMarco got up and transferred back to studying at a school for the deaf. This is where he found his community because everyone was treated the same. He was given the chance to become involved and be a leader.

After studying at Gallaudet University, the only school for the deaf community, DiMarco applied for the PR position at the university where he aspired to recruit deaf kids and change their lives. During the application process, he received a message from ANTM about auditioning for their show and a request to star in Switched at Birth. After a tough decision, DiMarco appeared in ANTM without any modeling experience.

In the middle of the season, it was becoming difficult for him to communicate with the other models, so he brought in an interpreter to teach them some signs, hoping they would respect him, but once the cameras turned off, they forgot it all. DiMarco was faced with the decision of leaving the show or embracing the conflict and staying. After staying on the show, things payed off as he was named the winner.

While competing on Dancing with the Stars, DiMarco and his partner Peta put on multiple unforgettable performances. In the beginning, Peta had no idea DiMarco was deaf, so when she found out she lost hope in winning. However, DiMarco embraced his differences and told Peta he’ll work twice as hard to win this competition.

The first three weeks, the pair danced their way to expectation shattering performances, capturing the audiences hearts. In order to demonstrate being a deaf dancer, the couple cut the music for 20 seconds in the song where DiMarco just danced and kept the tempo. It impressed the audience and the judges as it has never been done before.

Their hard work and countless hours in the ballroom paid off as they reached the finale and claimed the Mirror Ball Trophy. After being on such a large platform, DiMarco wanted to pursue something meaningful. He created the Nyle DiMarco Foundation, which helps the deaf community, who use sign language, get a meaningful education.

Currently, 360 million people are diagnosed with this disability worldwide. DiMarco’s hope is that together we can put an end to language deprivation.

“Bringing everyone together is a big piece of it,” says Abby Weber, who was one of the event coordinators along with Zach McDowell. “There are individuals in the crowd tonight that may or may not have disabilities…we are happy to see everyone come together over this topic.”

The presentation concluded with DiMarco teaching the audience how to say “Embrace Yourself,” in sign language.

Anthony Ferretti Contributed to this story

Anthony Ferretti

March 30th, 2018

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