As Tyra Banks closes the book on “America’s Next Top Model,” a television program that spawned over 40 spinoffs in countries around the world, eyes are focused on the original show’s last winner, Nyle DiMarco. The 22nd holder of the “ANTM” title, DiMarco holds the distinction of being the first (and last) Deaf contestant to compete.
In this day-and-age, it’s hard to believe that people still think that the Deaf aren’t completely capable of doing all the things hearing people can. But time and time again over the 22nd season of “ANTM,” other contestants would bring up DiMarco’s identity as a Deaf person as a reason he couldn’t possibly win — when in actuality being part of the Deaf community seemed to give the 26-year-old a unique perspective in challenges and goings-on in the Top Model house.
DiMarco, who grew up in Maryland before graduating from Galludet University in Washington DC, was already getting booked for gigs while the season aired, walking in a show for 2Xist and being photographed by Tony Veloz with fellow DC Metro-area contestants Justin Kim and runner-up Mame Adjei.
MTV News had the opportunity to find out from DiMarco himself what’s next, what he’s working on and if he is (or isn’t) single.
MTV: First things first: how does it feel to be the final winner of America’s Next Top Model?
Nyle DiMarco: It’s still surreal. I’m on cloud nine all over again after watching the finale episode! I’m truly honored to be the last winner and … and a winner who happens to be Deaf. I saw a lot of social media posts from my Deaf community cheering me on, being shocked I won the entire thing and saying a lot of positive things about how I represented them well. That really touched me and that really mattered more than winning.
MTV: Could you tell anyone before the show aired that you won?
ND: Aside from my mother, I didn’t tell anyone. The Deaf community is small and if I slip one little thing, the world would know the next day. I kept my win secret… It was tough, though!
MTV: What have you been doing since your win? Any upcoming shoots or campaigns you’re able to tell us about?
ND: It has been seven months [since I won.] I moved from DC to NYC right after the show. I’ve been doing a lot of photoshoots, have traveled to a lot of Deaf schools giving an inspirational presentation to Deaf students, and also being a spokesperson for LEAD-K, a visual civil right movement to end the nationwide epidemic of language deprivation by promoting language equality, American Sign Language (ASL) and English, as a basic human right for all Deaf babies, leading to a new generation of Deaf children who are Kindergarten-ready.
MTV: How do you hope your win will help bring awareness to Deaf issues?
ND: I hope my win helped shatter misconceptions about Deaf people. I hope my win will make people realize that we’re as normal as can be. I also hope my win will inspire Deaf people to do whatever they want to do in life! The possibilities are endless.
MTV: Still on the subject of your platform, during your presentation on this last episode, you said you were going to develop an app to teach American Sign Language. Any updates?
MTV: You and the other contestants seem to have a lot of business acumen — did Tyra give you any tips on entrepreneurship, considering she’s quite the media mogul herself?
ND: The entire “ANTM” show was business-themed, in my own perspective. You had to brand yourself, had a chance to pitch a business idea and had to give a presentation outlining your future plans. I think the theme really made us realize that “ANTM” will not make things happen for us, and that it is only up to us to take advantage of “ANTM” and the platform as a boost for our career.
MTV: You mentioned that you’d be moving to LA if you won. Have you made that plunge yet, or have you made other plans?
ND: Actually, I moved to NYC and realized that I made the right decision. NYC is so much better for me. It’s where the modeling and fashion industries are. However, I may move to LA if I land a huge acting gig!
(Ed. Note: Cast Nyle in things, Hollywood. Look at that face.)
MTV: During filming, some of your fellow contestants made (what looked like) less than an effort trying to communicate with you, but it looked like Lacey and Dustin made the effort. Was there anyone else? Cast, crew or judges, for instance?
ND: Some of the cameramen actually learned sign language! The judges and crew also picked up several signs as well.
MTV: And the most important question of all, clearly: are you dating anyone?
ND: I’m single!
MTV: Thanks so much for talking with us, Nyle!