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'America's Next Top Model' crowns first-ever deaf contestant Nyle DiMarco its winner

By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/04/2015 

America's Next Top Model crowned its first-ever deaf contestant, Nyle DiMarco, champion during Friday night's finale broadcast of the series' 22nd season.

Nyle, a 25-year-old 6'0 1/2" model from Washington, DC, defeated Mame Adjei, a 23-year-old 5'7 1/2" model from Silver Spring, MD, after the Final 2 competed in a final runway show and had their entire bodies of work throughout the season critiqued by Top Model judges Tyra Banks, Kelly Cutrone, Miss J. Alexander and -- for the final panel only -- the contestants' creative consultant Yu Tsai.

"I won! I won! I don't think anything will ever compare to this moment -- ever. Winning right now, it's a really big deal. When I came into this competition, I had little experience and I remember in the beginning I didn't really use my sexiness, but I feel I've become an amazing model. My winning America's Next Top Model was actually a huge step to changing the world's perspective on the deaf community," Nyle said after Tyra announced his victory.

"This proves to me that being deaf doesn't matter. There are so many opportunities out there for the deaf community. Winning this, I can't even describe what it means to me. I feel like this 200,000-pound weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I can't even believe this has happened, but I'm 'America's Next Top Model!'"

Tyra told Nyle he won ANTM because he "kicked ass" and he "just so happens to be deaf." She made it clear that his disability did not define Nyle on this show.

For winning Top Model, Nyle walked away with $100,000 from Zappos Couture as well as being the face of their national luxury brand re-launch in 2016, a fashion feature in Nylon, and a modeling contract with Next Management.

In the finale broadcast, Mame and Nyle competed in the final runway show, rocking clothes by fashion designer Rocky Gathercole at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

"I was so close. I was so close," Mame said in tears after discovering she had finished as the runner-up. "This competition has definitely taught me a lot about myself and a lot about how I deal with things not having my parents and not having that support. The fact that my mother was even here to see this moment, I think she finally understands. It's a beautiful thing to have learned to deal with my emotions and let it all come out and just face it."

Less than an hour before the season's final runway show commenced, two other competitors were still in the running for the title: Michael "Mikey" Heverly, a 25-year-old 6'1" model from Hollywood, FL, and Lacey Rogers, an 18-year-old 5'7" model from El Dorado, AR.

Forty minutes before walking the runway, Tyra first judged Mame and Lacey's campaigns for Zappos Couture as well as their presentations on why they deserved to become "America's Next Top Model" and represent the franchise. Ten minutes later, the guys' photos and presentations were also critiqued by the judges.

Tyra then handed out only two photos -- one for a male and one for a female -- to represent the models who would be facing off in the finale. Nyle became a finalist followed by Mame.

"I'm good. I'm happy for Nyle," Mikey said in tears following his ouster. "If I can lose to anybody here, it would be to Nyle. He's a good guy. I'm not hurt about losing. I'm just hurt because I could've changed my family's life, which I'm still going to do -- but I'm tired of waiting. I just wanted it to happen."

"It sucks. It's a crappy feeling. I thought I gave it my all and I had a good plan for after America's Next Top Model. Although it's crappy right now and I'm crying, I've learned that I am beautiful. I don't have to be the winner of America's Next Top Model. I'm a winner to me," Lacey explained.

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