The Signal

Serving the College since 1885

Monday May 20th

Nyle DiMarco talks to students about family, fame and finding your purpose

<p><em>“Your identity is what allows you to lead and oftentimes will drive you to a place where you will be most successful,” said DiMarco (Photo by Brooke Zevon). </em></p>

“Your identity is what allows you to lead and oftentimes will drive you to a place where you will be most successful,” said DiMarco (Photo by Brooke Zevon).

By Madison Anidjar 
Staff Writer

Nyle DiMarco spoke to students about growing up in a four-generation deaf family, his Hollywood career and his college years on Thursday night in Brower Student Center. DiMarco won both “America’s Next Top Model” and “Dancing with the Stars.” He has since made a career as an actor, producer and advocate for the deaf.

The event was organized by the College Union Board and sponsored by the College’s Deaf Hearing Connection and PRISM, the College’s gender and sexuality alliance. 

CUB Live Event Coordinator and junior communication studies major Destinie Nodarse collaborated with leaders of the Deaf Hearing Connection to make the event accessible to both deaf and hearing individuals. DiMarco signed his speech to the crowd while an interpreter translated his words to spoken English. A camera also projected DiMarco onto a large screen to help make his signing visible to all of the audience members.

“This year, CUB has been really focused on improving our diversity and inclusion,” said Nodarse. “I think that is something that we really hit the nail on this year, just trying to do that for our students and have more meaningful co-sponsorships and events that really say something to the student body.”

DiMarco told the audience that after graduating from Gallaudet, the world’s only liberal arts university for the deaf and hard of hearing, he first planned to be a math teacher for deaf children, then a recruiter for his alma mater. After some freelance modeling landed him offers from “America’s Next Top Model” and ABC drama “Switched at Birth,” he saw an opportunity to bring more deaf representation to television. 

Even after winning two reality shows, DiMarco struggled to find a place for himself in Hollywood. 

“I saw that there was a gap in the industry,” said DiMarco. “We were really lacking support and representation. There were zero deaf writers, zero deaf producers and zero deaf directors.” 

This led DiMarco to create his own production company, Clerc Studio, to empower those living with deafness and disability. Two of DiMarco’s Clerc projects include “DeafU,” a reality show about a group of friends at Gallaudet University, and “Audible,” a documentary following a deaf high school football player.

DiMarco offered some advice to students who are unsure of their plans after college. 

“Your identity is what allows you to lead and oftentimes will drive you to a place where you will be most successful,” said DiMarco. “Are there a lot of detours on the journey? Yeah, no one’s journey is straight, but in loving who you are, that's how you’re most successful.”

When DiMarco took audience questions, hearing students were able to experience what it is like to need an accommodation to communicate. 

After multiple signing students asked DiMarco questions, one audience member, Jenna Hart, a senior sociology and Spanish double major, said she felt “anxiety asking a question as a hearing individual,” knowing that DiMarco couldn’t hear her. Once Hart raised her hand, though, interpreters at the front of the room quickly jumped in to relay her question to DiMarco and the deaf and hard of hearing audience members.

“I think that as a hearing individual it was really important for me to be in a space that is not centered around my experience,” said Hart. “Seeing the prioritization of things like signing and having to use an interpreter was something that felt very crucial to me that I didn’t expect coming into this but was really appreciative of leaving.” 

The Deaf Hearing Connection partnered with the Marie H. Katzenbach School for the Deaf to bring local members of the deaf community to the event. 

The Deaf Hearing Connection’s Treasurer, Alyssa Genao, a junior Deaf and Hard of Hearing education and iSTEM education double major, said that her group brought in 30 students aged 12 to 20.

“We really pushed to have as much of the deaf community as we could come to this event,” said Genao. “We think it’s a great opportunity for young deaf students to have this experience and meet Nyle DiMarco, who is such a big mentor in the community.”

Whether he is talking to students or producing films about the deaf community, DiMarco still sees himself as the teacher he planned to become back in college.

“The folks who tune into Netflix, those are my students,” said DiMarco. “The world has learned more about our community because we have that platform to be able to teach about the language, the community and the culture.”




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