Deaf model and disability activist Nyle DiMarco has lambasted actor Jamie Foxx for pretending to use sign language on a recent promotional clip for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
Tweeting to Foxx that, “It is straight up disrespectful to make up sign language” and pointing out that the actor had signed “gibberish,” DiMarco also directed ire toward the late-night talk show and its host. “@jimmyfallon @FallonTonight how was this allowed? Where’s the cultural sensitivity. Not comedy when you make fun of others.”
DiMarco, 28 — whose namesake foundation works to help the hearing-impaired, particularly with access to sign-language education — also posted a graphical-text tweet saying in part, “We simply do not make fun at the expense of other cultures, especially those with a history of being marginalized. When we do this, progress takes a step backward. Sign Language is important to me because it’s the bedrock of Deaf culture.”
Academy Award-winner Foxx, 49, who was promoting the game show “Beat Shazam” that he hosts, had gestured the faux sign-language during a 10-second promo NBC ran for Thursday’s episode of “Tonight.” Entertainment Weekly reported that the network said it had aired the clip sparingly and had reached out to DiMarco after the activist made his concerns public.
Neither Foxx nor Fallon has responded on social media.
In December 2015, DiMarco became the first deaf contestant to win “America’s Next Top Model.” The following May, despite being unable to hear the music, he became the first deaf contestant to win “Dancing With the Stars.”
At the time, he praised “DWTS” judge Carrie Ann Inaba, who used sign language to speak with him on the season finale. “It was really very touching,” DiMarco told “Good Morning America,” “and, you know, she actually took the time to learn sign language and we don’t really see that often in this world, so that really meant a lot to me and it really touched me and it really hit me right at the heart.”