Wednesday, January 13, 2016


I’m more than just a little bit in love with Nyles DiMarco’s interpreter. Of course it helps that Nyles himself is a wonderful piece of work. But I just love his interpreter’s voice.

For those of you not caught up with reality TV and pop culture, Nyles DiMarco won cycle 22 of America’s Next Top Model, which I’ve never been a fan of. I mean I might catch an episode here and there, but I was not a follower. Until this season. Until I saw a video of Nyles signing and thought—this guy is going to win it.

And he did. He was only the show’s second male winner and the first deaf winner. He is a graduate of Gallaudet University, the only university for the deaf. So how does someone with a language not easily understood by the hearing world communicate on a reality TV show? They hire an ASL interpreter who signs for Nyles and then becomes his voice. I’m not sure if Ramon Norrod was assigned to the contestant or how the match was made, but I cannot look at pictures of Nyles without hearing Ramon’s voice.

In writing a novel or short story I’m always considering voice: how does this character sound. Even if the story is told mostly through narrative—there is a way that story is told, and that is voice. Ramon reflected an upbeat tone, indefatigable, not easily thrown off. Since the non-ASL audience could only read Nyles facial expressions, we needed Ramon to tell us what was going on inside Nyles’ head.

I’d like to adopt that same voice for inside my head when I’m struggling with writing or downward spiraling emotionally. Even if it’s just an encouraging word, like “You can do this!”

I’m pretty sure Ramon nailed Nyles or else he would have been fired, if he was not doing a very good job of expressing the nuances as well as the meaning. Of course we have heard of some very bad interpreters (see Nelson Mandela’s funeral for instance). So it takes work coming up with just the right voice and refining it for the piece you are working on.

A distinct voice can make all the difference between winning and losing.

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