Deaf model/actor Nyle DiMarco is reality TV’s latest pioneer on “America’s Next Top Model.”
By Erica Moody
America’s favorite modeling competition returns on Wednesday with an exciting new finalist in the mix. Washington area native Nyle DiMarco, 25, is making waves as the first Deaf contestant on “America’s Next Top Model,” now in its 22nd cycle. We chatted with the Gallaudet grad about his emerging career and what he hopes to achieve from the show.
Washington Life: You are an actor as well as a model. Which came first- acting or modeling and how did you first get started in your career? What inspired you to pursue these passions?
Nyle DiMarco: Acting came first before modeling. Awhile back, Mark Wood, an executive producer and now a friend, contacted me and asked me if I would like to be one of two main characters in his upcoming film “In The Can.” At that time I had no acting experience and I was very nervous when I told him yes. During the production, Mark expressed his intuition that I would be very successful if I were to pursue acting and modeling. He gave me great feedback on my acting skills and told me I should get into modeling because I have a good look. After the production, I started modeling and eventually landed on a national TV show, “Switched at Birth.”
WL: Why America’s Next Top Model? What encouraged you to apply?
ND: The show found me through my accounts on social media and models.com, which is where I showcase my work. Honestly, ANTM wasn’t something that I had ever really thought about doing before but when I spoke with casting, I thought, “why not!” The rest is history.
WL: You’ve said that being Deaf is an advantage to your acting and modeling talents. Can you tell us more about that?
ND: I strongly believe that being Deaf gives me a huge advantage because of my native language, American Sign Language (ASL). American Sign Language requires the use of facial expressions and body language expressions. With the rules of ASL immersed into my soul, it helps to bring out stories when modeling for a photo and makes for an interesting character when acting.
WL: Do you use your success to inspire other people who are Deaf or to raise awareness, and how so?
ND: I use my success both to inspire other people who are Deaf and to raise awareness. There are many beautiful Deaf people out there but the agencies and photographers think we’re not able to model, let alone collaborate. I am here to raise awareness and change that perspective and prove that Deaf people can model and collaborate to create something beautiful.
WL: Were you a fan of the show before applying? Who’s your favorite Top Model contestant from seasons past?
ND: I have watched several seasons and Shei Phan from Cycle 21 was my favorite. She’s real, fun and beautiful!
WL: Besides the shows you’re on, what are your favorite shows to watch? If you could act in one show with one actor, what and whom would it be and why?
ND: Besides the show I’m on, I love watching “Orange Is The New Black!” The show’s filled with so many great and talented actresses, especially Pennsatucky and Crazy Eyes! If I could act in one TV show with one actor, it would be “House of Cards” with Kevin Spacey. There are Deaf politicians and I feel that “House of Cards” should have least have one Deaf character to make the show really realistic. Also, to act with the very talented Kevin Spacey would be huge for me. I’m sure I’d learn a lot of acting tricks from him!
WL: As someone from the D.C. area, do you have any thoughts on the acting and modeling scene in Washington? Any advice for aspiring creatives who live in Washington?
ND: I just moved to New York City from Washington, D.C. There is not much going on with the acting and modeling scenes in Washington; However I’ve always thought that aspiring creatives should at least make a trip or move to NYC/LA to build up their career and perhaps eventually move back to D.C. and make the city into an entertainment/modeling industry! That would be awesome.
WL: “America’s Next Top Model” could be a huge boost to your career and will really get your name out there. What do you hope to achieve with the show, and what is your ultimate career ambition?
ND: I hope to get signed to several agencies all over the world so I can travel for work! My ultimate career ambition is to get into commercials because I know that my Deafness is going to attract customers!
Catch the season premiere of “America’s Next Top Model” on Wednesday, August 5 at 8/7c on The CW.