Source: James Imrie

Embracing your difference. Viewing your faults as an asset. Never desire to be “normal”. These were just some of the themes shared by Nyle DiMarco last Wednesday at Bryant University who arrived on campus with a positive light on his upbringing. The America’s Next Top Model and Dancing With The Stars winner began his session with the students with a story of how he was once asked a question that pertained to a thought he had never had. With over 25 members of his family being deaf including himself and his fraternal twin brother who works as a DJs, DiMarco explained how he was once asked if he has ever wished to be able to hear. In this moment, he began his ever so positive story of how he has learned the importance of never viewing his deafness as a fault but rather an asset. “I have never wished to be normal”, DiMarco stated. “This would mean that I would automatically have a negative perspective on myself if I constantly wished for something I have never had.”

Nyle DiMarco grew up in Frederick, Maryland and attended Maryland School for the Deaf. Later, he attended Gallaudet University, a university located in Washington D.C. for the education of the deaf community and hard of hearing. Here, he received a degree in Mathematics and Education and planned to utilize his degree to become a Math teacher. DiMarco described the challenges he had as a deaf student as he transferred around schools, specifically when he made the decision to try attending public school and told Bryant students how it was difficult for him to find his sense of community. In these schools, he felt as though it was hard for him to find a strong sense of communication and even explained how, at times, he felt his American sign language skills were advanced beyond those who could communicate with him. Eventually, DiMarco transitioned back to schools for the deaf where it was easier for him to thrive and succeed. He didn’t enjoy suffering in public schools where that sense of community he spoke of wasn’t felt for him.

After DiMarco took a year off after college to travel and learn more about his communication skills, he returned to the US where, one day, he received a message via Instagram from someone with America’s Next Top Model. After contemplating whether or not this was a career path he wanted to take and simultaneously receiving an offer with the ABC show Switched at Birth, DiMarco was cast onto Cycle 22 of America’s Next Top Model where he eventually won the entire thing. He described the process as draining and hard and even told us how some of the contestants in the house didn’t get along with him as they didn’t understand how to communicate with him. DiMarco even considered quitting the show but looked at it from two viewpoints of either complaining about the other contestants, or embracing his difference and ignoring what others said. Doing the latter, DiMarco walked away from the winner.

Soon after, Nyle DiMarco began his journey on Dancing With The Stars where he was partnered with professional dancer Peta Murgatroyd. Another challenging experience for him, DiMarco underestimated his potential and went on to win this competition as well. Though the competition ended with a trophy, the process wasn’t all glamorous with his first rehearsal being canceled, communication problems with the dancers, and not wanting to be treated differently because of his disability. Yet, DiMarco reached out to Peta reassuring her that he would work twice as hard as the other contestants, which paid off in the long run. DiMarco shared a meaningful performance of his with the Bryant audience where the sound was cut in one section of the final routine so viewers and others would be able to see how difficult the process was for him and what it was like to learn in his position.

Besides his successes on television and in the media, DiMarco has also set up the Nyle DiMarco Foundation which sets out to help the 70 million deaf people worldwide attain resources to help them reach their dreams and make the world an overall better place for them. According to the Foundation’s webpage, “The Foundation aims to improve access to accurate, research-based information about early language acquisition–specifically, the bilingual education approach.” To learn more about how you can donate and help the foundation grow, visit https://nyledimarcofoundation.com/.

Nyle ended his presentation to Bryant with assuring the audience that throughout his journey, his motives have never changed. While at college, he wanted to eventually make an impact with the deaf community and teach people, which he has done so successfully with his foundation and his experiences on Dancing with The Stars and America’s Next Top Model. DiMarco successfully impacted the audience at Bryant last Wednesday, and those who attended walked away with a positive thought on embracing difference and finding your sense of community.

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