The name Nyle DiMarco is very well-known to the Deaf community.
After attending the Maryland School for the Deaf, Nyle went on to graduate from Gallaudet University with a degree in mathematics in 2013. However, it’s not his math skills that he’s best known for.
In 2015, Nyle made headlines when he came the first Deaf winner and second male winner of season 22 of The CW reality TV series “America’s Next Top Model.” The following year, he and dance partner Peta Murgatroyd won season 2 of ABC’s dance competition “Dancing with the Stars.” From 2014 to 2015, he had a recurring role as Garrett Banducci on Freeform’s “Switching at Birth.”
The Deaf model and actor, now 32, recently sat down with PEOPLE to talk about overcoming abuse as a child and why he became a Deaf activist.
Nyle DiMarco Shares His Childhood Struggles With The World
Although he attended the Maryland School for the Deaf, Nyle grew up in Queens with his mother, Donna, his father, Neal, and two brothers, who are also Deaf. When he was a young child, he began to notice that his father was struggling with both alcohol and drug addiction.
Nyle told PEOPLE that his father could become “unpredictable and violent” and would sometimes appear for days at a time. Nyle told the outlet, “I didn’t want to be alone in a room with him.” Once he told his mother that his father had been physically abusive to him, she divorced him and moved to Maryland for a fresh start.
He says the move “gave me a real sense of comfort.”
Although he has since cut his father out of his life, as he got older, he explained how he began to gain more insight into his father, who had grown up with hearing parents and had limited access to American Sign Language (ASL). DiMarco reflected on the impact that this could have on other deaf individuals.
Nyle DiMarco Says That People Without Proper Education Or Language Can Become ‘Angry And Bitter’
DiMarco said that he has met other people “who didn’t have access to a proper education or language, and those barriers left them angry and bitter.” He explained that he “started to see a pattern in our community that I recognized from my own father.”
To combat this, Nyle started his own production company in 2020 to help break down the barriers around the Deaf community. One of his first major projects was “Deaf U,” a Netflix reality series that followed the lives of Deaf and hard-of-hearing students at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., where he graduated. His documentary short, “Audible,” Was also nominated for an Oscar at the 94th annual Academy Awards.
Nyle is also sharing more of his life story in his memoir, “Deaf Utopia: A Memoir – and a Love Letter to a Way of Life” which is due to hit bookshelves on April 19, 2022.
Nyle told the outlet, “Growing up, I rarely saw anyone like me on TV. My goal is to share untold stories about Deaf culture, community, and language.”
With the success of “CODA” taking home Best Picture, with Troy Kotsur becoming the second Deaf actor and first Deaf male actor to win an Oscar, and even “The Simpsons” featuring a Deaf actor and ASL in a history-making episode, it seems that 2022 might be a great year for the Deaf community.