At this year’s Superbowl, ASL interpreter Justina Miles stole the show.
At 20 years old, she became the first deaf woman in history to perform at the pregame and halftime shows, winning praise for her spirited ASL performance accompanying Rihanna on the live TV coverage and racking up online views in the weeks since.
During Rihanna’s 13 minute set, Miles signed lyrics for hard of hearing TV viewers and also signed during actress Sheryl Lee Ralph’s performance of the Black National Anthem, ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’.
At a press conference Miles explained the significance of performing the Black National Anthem, “It’s not only for me to share this experience with the whole world, but to really bring that empowerment to millions and millions of Black deaf people all over the country, who’ve never really seen that before,” she said. “And so they should feel inspired, and that’s the same way I feel. I feel like that is truly lifting every voice, even my voice.”
Other than her work in ASL, Miles is a nursing student and a cheerleader at Bowie State University in Maryland. The NFL credits her as a former valedictorian at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf in Washington, DC.
Along with two other deaf performers—Oscar-winning CODA actor Troy Kotsur, and deaf Navajo scholar Colin Denny—Miles’ performance has set historic standards for Superbowl inclusivity.
The full YouTube video of Miles’ halftime performance is no longer accessible, however clips of her performing a selection of Rihanna’s hits such as “B— Better Have My Money,” “Pour It Up,” “Rude Boy,” and “Work” in ASL have gone viral on several social media platforms, bringing awareness to the deaf community and inclusivity standards in broadcasting.
After his appearance at the Superbowl, Troy Kotsur traveled to London to present a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress. Joined on stage by an ASL to British sign Language (BSL) interpreter, Troy – the first deaf actor to win a BAFTA for his role in Coda, presented the award to Kerry Condon for her role in ‘he Banshees of Inisherin.
The BAFTA Awards have been outwardly praised for having a BSL sign language interpreter on stage, particularly from sign language users.
Emma Samms MBE, founder of the Starlight Children’s Foundation wrote on Twitter “Watching #BAFTA2023 and loving that they have #ASL AND #BSL for all to see,” while another user excitedly tweeted “ASL being translated into BSL. What a joy to see this on live prime time TV.”