If you didn’t watch the final season of America’s Next Top Model, you probably never heard of Nyle DiMarco until Monday on Dancing with the Stars. Here are five things to know about DiMarco, who communicated with EW through an interpreter about how he barely got to finish celebrating his season 22 win on ANTM before he joined DWTS.
1. DiMarco, a graduate of Gallaudet University, didn’t originally start off wanting a career in front of the camera.
“I got my mathematics degree because I wanted to teach Deaf children math,” he tells EW. “I was doing a little modeling on the side. Then ANTM found me on social media, and it pretty much flipped my life around, all for the better. My goals are the same. Now I’m using my stardom to educate the world and invest in Deaf children. Seventy percent of parents who have Deaf children don’t know how to sign. Still. It’s one of the reasons I want to do Dancing with the Stars, it’s a platform to educate.”
2. Winning ANTM gave him a voice.
“I was definitely an amateur at the beginning and I didn’t know what I was doing. I thought it was going to be simple but there was so much more to it. Fans really listened to me. They could see the struggles that I faced on that show, and they became my allies. It was difficult to live in that house with all hearing people. The language deprivation for two months was a different experience for me since I’m from a Deaf family. A lot of the [models] were very self-centered. It’s a competition, I get that, but it’s also an opportunity to get to know each other. I don’t think they took that opportunity with me, which is fine because I ended up winning.
3. His DWTS partner, Peta Murgatroyd, had to change her teaching technique when she met DiMarco.
“She started speaking to me, but I wasn’t responding. I was trying to tell her my name on my hand, but she didn’t know how to finger spell. She thought there was something wrong until she was told I couldn’t hear. She was dumbfounded and confused. We were supposed to have rehearsal that day, but it was canceled, possibly because she had to change her teaching methodology. It’s more of watching Peta’s pace. When Peta tells me how long I have to hold a movement, I memorize it. I never danced my entire life until that first day with Peta. I was quite nervous, but it ended up being a great day. I think Peta realized being Deaf didn’t make much of a difference.
4. Marlee Matlin was one of the first to reach out to DiMarco, who is the first Deaf man to compete on the show.
“She congratulated me and I definitely thanked her for it.”
Chmerkovskiy hasn’t said “don’t stand next to me because you make me look bad”… yet.
“Maybe he’s thinking that but not saying it!”
DWTS airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.