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Before actor, model and activist Nyle DiMarco created his new Netflix docusoap, Deaf U, he competed on both America’s Next Top Model and Dancing with the Stars. But even though he won both shows, the experience was not entirely positive for DiMarco; in both projects, he notes, “I was just ‘The Deaf Guy.’”
“No one really took the time to really get to know me and who I really was—things I liked, my interests,” DiMarco told The Daily Beast during a recent interview. “There were no real layers that were explored. I just, you know, was kind of one-dimensional in that regard.”
DiMarco remembered that experience as he began to put together his own series, which follows several deaf college students as they navigate all the usual struggles of that age: chaotic romances, social circles that shift like tectonic plates on ecstasy, and above all, figuring out who the hell they want to be as adults.
Deaf U is set in Washington, D.C.’s Gallaudet University, where students are all deaf and hard of hearing. And as its subjects make clear, deafness is far from a monolithic experience. Race, upbringing, sexuality, and more all shape how deafness fits in with the students’ identities.