What it's like to be a deaf model on international runways and shoots


Chella Man has been inspiring thousands all over the world since he created his YouTube channel in May 2017. He uses the platform to open up about his struggles, from being deaf to coping with body dysphoria. He even shared his transition story with his thousands of followers. 

Chella exists within the intersection of being Chinese, genderqueer and deaf. He has consistently used his platform to speak about real issues that affect the youth and their futures and recently his bravery caught the eye of the of IMG Models who have just signed Chella as one of their freshest new faces.

IMG Models currently manages models such as Gigi and Bella Hadid, Alek Wek, Hailey Baldwin, Karlie Kloss and Joan Smalls. They're a big deal

His signing to the massive company is a definite win for inclusivity in the fashion industry; however, one cannot help but wonder what being a deaf model on a big international shoot is truly like. 

Chella is not the first model with a hearing disability to be signed to a major modelling agency. However, he is one of few and it has sparked conversation once again around how inclusive and compassionate the fashion industry is towards models with hearing disabilities. 

READ MORE: Meet the first black, trans and disabled teen signed to one of the most famous model agencies in the world

Carola Insolera, arguably the most well known deaf model, has walked runways for numerous designers and has frequently graced the glossy pages of Vogue. Born deaf (her immediate family members are also deaf), Carola had to learn how to communicate both visually and physically, as she describes it. 

Carola has said before that she does not view her deafness as a disability as it forces her to make use of the visual communication in her daily life. Speaking to Corriere della Sera, an Italion newspapershe revealed, "the deafness is an opportunity, an asset I would say. It enables me to reinforce my sight and my visual communication. I've always used it as a force element, kind of an advantage."

As for the challenge of big photo shoots, Carola does not make use of an interpreter. She prefers to communicate visually, "It forces me to look [at] people for a visual and emotional connection, differently from other models. I have to get in touch with the photographer and understand what he/she wants from me without the help of words but only through his/her facial expressions and my energy."

Carola Insolera wears a Moschino jacket and Kenneth Cole boots during Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2016/17.

Last year, Italian fashion photographer Stefano Guindani revealed that it was an extraordinary experience for him working with Carola, "her sensitivity, her ability to express herself with the body and move in front of the camera is unique, as unique is her personal story. The fact that she can only use the body to express herself makes it unique and perfect for this job as well as being an example for all" 

Of course, Carola has experienced discrimination on shoots as well. A casting director once told her that he wished she could hear. When asked how this made her feel she said she only smiled and said nothing, "Who knows why the casting director wished I could hear?"

READ MORE: Meet the 10 year old girl who just opened for a show at NYFW and is taking over runways around the world

Former America's Next Top Model winner, Nyle DiMarco was also born deaf and has dedicated his life to breaking down barriers for those with hearing disabilities. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook and Nyle DiMarco pose for a photo as they tour the California School for the Deaf. Tim and Nyle visited students at the school on Global Accessibility Awareness Day to kick off the Everyone Can Code program that Apple is bringing to the California School for the Deaf and other schools for deaf and blind/low-vision students.

He became ANTM's first ever and only deaf contestant and the second man to win. Shortly after winning the competition, Nyle was signed to prominent agency, Wilhelmina Models in New York City.

He has walked for big names and events such as Giorgio Armani and Milan Fashion Week but it's not been an easy road. 

His time on ANTM was not as enjoyable as his fellow contestants might have found it. While his fellow models lived their best lives on the show, Nyle would often be stuck on the sidelines because of his communication difficulties and unfortunately, most of his housemates made no effort to try to learn how to effectively speak with him. 

Speaking on his experience with E! News he had this to say, "It was definitely difficult just because of my language deprivation that was there for two months, I felt isolated," he revealed. "I tried my best. You just have to be resilient and have that resilience. When I won, all that weight was lifted."

We're so excited to watch these phenomenal people continue on their journeys and we hope to see many more inspiring stories like these take place in the fashion industry.  

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