Reality television has never been averse to one of the longest standing and often tiredest tropes in the realm of media – “The Inspirationally Disadvantaged”. When someone has come from poverty, misfortune, a minority group, a physical disability, a mental disability, and are then cast on a reality show, their stories are often milked for all they are worth because nothing sells better than an underdog story in Western media. Sometimes contestants will play into it, milking their stories for sympathy. Others never make a deal of it and are subsequently ignored by their show. Others use their position in the spotlight to help raise awareness for certain issues. But in 2015, on the final season of America’s Next Top Model, someone came along and married several parts of these concepts to create one of the best winner stories of the year and easily the best contestant of the year – Nyle DiMarco.
You see Nyle was born deaf, but thankfully for the purposes of the show he was also born smoking hot, so he was cast on what ended up being the last season of the show. While America’s Next Top Model is known for casting its “sob stories”, Nyle went in a completely different direction. Most would moan and whine about the difficulties they’ve faced for, say, having divorced parents or family in prison , but Nyle never treated his situation in the same way at all. His approach to the show 90% of the time was a mixture of “I’m deaf, so what?” and “I’m deaf, watch me kill the competition” and it’s refreshing to see such an approach in a realm of television has become so attuned and jaded to its approach to anyone outside the norm. He did mention difficulty faced throughout life due to his condition but he never milked it or used it as an excuse, even when there were perfectly valid times and reasons for him to do so.
Best of all, on a show known for thriving on its drama, Nyle was perhaps the most genuinely nice and outwardly altruistic person on the season. He comforted Courtney in the throes of her breakdowns regardless of how she was causing drama. He was the only friend to returnee Dustin whom everyone else in the show had marked for death. Even when others were less than kind to him, he was nothing but kind back. It’s so rare to see someone treat others well in a reality show at this point when the natural approach seems to be to condone reprehensible ‘entertainment’ regardless of the ramifications of it all.
So here’s to Nyle. He came, he saw, he posed, he conquered. He’s by far one of the most popular contestants to have come out of the show and if hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of deaf (or even just sexually fluid) people across the world see him and are inspired by him to achieve their dreams no matter how bleak it may seem, then it’s all the better. Nyle has been given a wonderful platform to use and he’s been using it to the best of his abilities. The fame may be fleeting, but he’s using all fifteen of those minutes.