The Deaf model was so good on Monday that Bruno Tonioli asked if he was 'for real'

By Lynette Rice
Updated March 22, 2016 at 07:47 PM EDT
Credit: ABC

When it comes to a guy like Nyle DiMarco, Dancing With the Stars knew to leave the best for (almost) last on premiere night.

The Deaf winner of America’s Next Top Model wowed the judges during Monday’s season 22 opener — and not just because he tore open his shirt to reveal his very cut abs.

“Are you for real?” asked Judge Bruno Tonioli, who together with Len Goodman and Carrie Ann Inaba, gave DiMarco a 23 out of a possible 30 for his performance with Peta Murgatroyd.

Afterwards, Murgatroyd told EW that she uses a series of cues to direct DiMarco on the dance floor.

“The cues are pretty hidden so no one can see,” she explains. “There were a few turning of waists, a little bit of tapping going on, and eye contact. That’s a great thing to really focus on … that’s a huge part of dancing and communication. I feel like we are winning in that area because of Nyle being deaf.”

It also helps that DiMarco isn’t distracted by the crowd noise — perhaps a good thing, since the house roared when he completed his inaugural number.

“That’s the number one thing that happens [for celebrities] during week one,” explains Murgatroyd. “They get freaked out by the clapping. Actually today, I didn’t hear the start of the dance. We were late walking in! We had a camera angle to hit.”

“So I guess we were both deaf at the beginning,” responded DiMarco through an interpreter.

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