One last time to smize! America's Next Top Model named its Cycle 22 winner on Friday, Dec. 4, wrapping up the final season of The CW's Tyra Banks-hosted competition series.
Two men, Mikey Heverly and Nyle DiMarco, and two women, Lacey Rogers and Mamé Adjei, remained in the competition heading into the finale. By the end of the episode, DiMarco was crowned the last model standing.
DiMarco, 26, who is ANTM's first Deaf contestant, tells Us Weekly that his time on the modeling competition was "easily one of the best experiences in my life," although he admits to feeling left out when the others didn't make an effort to involve him in their conversations.
"It truly did take a toll on me mentally," DiMarco says. "I even cringe when I watch myself on ANTM being all alone and sometimes brainwashed from 'only talking to myself.'"
"The only positive thing out of it is that I wasn't able to hear all the drama!" he adds, pointing out that he used early-morning workouts to alleviate stress. "I'm relieved. Also, with the lack of communication, It has helped me to stay focused and think about how I can improve myself as a model."
The winner of NEXT Model Management and Zappos contracts has nothing but high praise for Banks, whom he calls "a wonderful woman."
"When I first met her, I could feel her energy, [and] I knew we were connected somehow," DiMarco says. "One of my favorite things about her is that I'm able to read her lips without needing an interpreter. She speaks so clearly, and I think [her] knowing several languages helps."
DiMarco, who was born into a multi-generational Deaf family, attended Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., the only university aimed specifically at students who are hard of hearing. He says that being Deaf "still seems normal to me."
"I do not feel like I'm Deaf but a human, different from another human, and in fact, I feel like being Deaf is a gift and not a loss," he says.
In addition to appearing on the show, DiMarco has been busy working runways in New York City and doing freelance modeling for clothing companies. He looks forward to landing even more gigs and hopes to continue breaking into Hollywood, which he admits is still a challenging task for a Deaf person.
"Often the Deaf roles [in films] are being taken by hearing actors, and 99.9 percent of the time, they portray us badly," he says. He believes that things in the industry could change dramatically if a Deaf person were to become a prominent film director and remain open to casting Deaf actors.
Tell Us: Did the right person win the final cycle of ANTM?
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