Welcome to the eighth installment of our Pride Month series! Each day in the month of June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQ+ community who we think is a great example of representation and dynamic characterization. We will focus on fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — the positive voices within the LGBTQ+ community and in mainstream media.
Today’s spotlight is on Nyle DiMarco, the talented multi-hyphenate star who first made a name for himself by winning America’s Next Top Model back in 2015, following up that win with another on Dancing with the Stars a year later. Both of those victories marked the first time a Deaf person had won either show, and his dance to “Sound of Silence” on the latter show went viral. He’s also well known for his work as an actor, with a major arc on seasons 3 and 4 of Switched at Birth as well as seasons 1 and 2 of This Close.
But it’s DiMarco’s work off the screen as an activist that makes him a LGBTQ+ icon. DiMarco identifies as sexually fluid and also as a member of the Deaf community. He is a passionate advocate for the rights of deaf children everywhere. One major passion of his is expanding language education for deaf children so they learn ASL from an early age, making sure they do not experience language deprivation. His charity The Nyle DiMarco Foundation “aims to improve access to accurate, research-based information about early language acquisition–specifically, the bilingual education approach. Through the early intervention process, the child’s language and literacy development should be the focal point.” As part of the foundation’s work, DiMarco also created a series of videos designed for hearing parents of deaf children, since 90% of deaf children have hearing parents.
Aside from his advocacy on behalf of the Deaf community, DiMarco is also an outspoken LGBTQ+ activist. He sees his Deafness and his queer identity as being linked, as he expanded on in an interview with them:
My own disability has helped push me to explore other views of identity. I knew I needed to find my own community in the LGBT world. That was when I got involved, I met a lot of people from the community and started to live and breathe it. I then realized that I identify as queer and I love who I am. I think it’s all about finding your own community.
DiMarco participated in the Human Rights Campaign’s advocacy for the Equality Act, which is a piece of legislation that would update civil rights law in the US to include sexual orientation and gender identity federally. The Equality Act was passed in the House in 2019, but has yet to pass in the Senate.
DiMarco often discusses the difficulties he has experienced being a member of two communities that face discrimination. In one interview with Mashable, he noted
Oftentimes when I am invited to LGBTQ events, they are unable to provide interpreters. It is a conflicting feeling when I realize LGBTQ is my community where I can finally be myself, but yet still get discriminated against at events. How am I — or 466 million people with hearing loss — going to be actively involved in my own community as well as ending the stigma if we do not have direct access to information in our own language? I want to remind my own community to be the best of the best in being inclusive of others. That way we will move faster towards equality.
DiMarco’s style of activism effortlessly blends humor with education, and he is active on social media. His Twitter account is full of hilarious pop culture commentary as well as his more serious advocacy work. In a skit that has become even more relevant in light of current events, DiMarco teamed up with Samantha Bee of Full Frontal to discuss how police should interact with the Deaf community.
Followers of his accounts not only gain more knowledge about the Deaf community and LGBTQ+ issues but also find themselves laughing at DiMarco’s sense of humor (or enjoying those shirtless selfies. I mean, the man is America’s Next Top Model after all!) For all of his work in expanding rights for the Deaf and LGBTQ+ communities as well as his talent as an actor and model, Nyle DiMarco is a great addition to our Pride series. Be sure to check back here every day this month for more of our Pride spotlights!