A Blind Eye to People Who Are Deaf: Nyle DiMarco

Nyle DiMarco is the latest winner of Tyra Bank’s popular modeling and reality show America’s Next Top Model (ANTM). The show gains rating by not only portraying beautiful models, but also by narrating how many of the contestants had overcome adversity in their lives. In the countless seasons or cycles the audience has witness how contestants, mostly women, have struggled with the pressure of being a model. However, in its closing season, ANTM showed us how diverse struggling could be. ANTM did it by having contestant Nyle DiMarco, its first contestant that is deaf. Nyle came to the show with the typical good looks of a male model and a humble personality that prohibited the audience from ignoring the fact that he was deaf. Nyle is proud of who he is and he forced us to watch, to learn, to listen. Nyle taught us that we do not need to pretend to be blind in front of those who are deaf just because we do not know how to react or communicate with them. And so, episode by episode, we started to learn.

The world of modeling is already a strange dimension to anyone outside of it. The eccentricities of the industry could be alienating to those who do not indulge in fashion. Moreover, the business of modeling has been a safe haven to those who wouldn’t otherwise fit the norm. Take gay men as an example. Many male models are gay and in many occasions their identity is embraced by their colleagues and bosses. However, Nyle opened the eyes of his colleagues by showing how diverse diversity could be. At the same time, he fostered our empathy every time we found ourselves frustrated with him when he could not communicate with his peers and staff and when he felt isolated, misunderstood, and disrespected. Hence, a list of things you should know about people who are deaf in case you would like to continue the journey of understanding, acceptance, and empathy:

  • According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD):
    • About 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears;
    • More than 90 percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents;
    • Approximately 15% of American adults (37.5 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing;
    • One in eight people in the United States (13 percent, or 30 million) aged 12 years or older has hearing loss in both ears, based on standard hearing examinations;
    • Men are more likely than women to report having hearing loss.
  • Being deaf does not mean that you cannot “talk”.
  • Most people who are deaf do not want to be a “hearing” individual.
  • For many people, being deaf is who they are and they do not want to change their identity.
  • Those who are deaf consider themselves a community regardless of geographical location.
  • People who are deaf are not “dumb” or “less intelligent”.
  • Being deaf shapes a person’s worldview; however, they are much more than the way they communicate.
  • Many community centers teach ASL at no-cost or low-cost.
  • New technology has expanded the way in which people who are deaf connect with the world.
  • The term “deaf” could be interpreted to include individuals who are hard of hearing, late deafened, and deaf-blind.

Learn more about Nyle: https://youtu.be/7IlU06_bM4I

More on ASL: http://www.handspeak.com/word/


  1. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)- http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/statistics/Pages/quick.aspx
  2. National Association of the Deaf- http://nad.org/

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