Sign language performer Justina Miles goes viral during Rihanna's Super Bowl halftime performance
Rihanna took the field for the Super Bowl LVII halftime show, but another performer standing nearby gained widespread attention as well — Deaf performer Justina Miles. Fans were wowed by Miles' energetic performance of Rihanna's lyrics into American Sign Language, and she quickly went viral online.
Miles, who is hard of hearing, has gone viral on TikTok for performing other popular songs into ASL. Originally from Philadelphia, she was valedictorian at Model Secondary School for the Deaf in Washington D.C. and now studies nursing at Bowie State University, a HBCU in Maryland, according to the National Association of the Deaf.
She was also on Team USA at the Deaflympics, a sports competition for Deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes, winning silver as part of the 4X100 women's track relay team during the 2021-2022 games.
Miles is no stranger to doing ASL performances during live performances and has performed at various concerts. She not only performed during the halftime show at the Super Bowl, but she also performed during "Lift Every Voice and Sing," also known as the Black National Anthem, performed by Sheryl Lee Ralph during the pregame.
Other ASL performers, chosen by NAD, also took the field. Troy Kotsur, who won an Oscar for best supporting actor for "CODA" in 2022, performed the National Anthem.
Kotsur, who is from Mesa, Arizona, said he wasn't sure about performing at the Super Bowl when the National Association of the Deaf asked him to do the National Anthem, which was sung by Chris Stapleton. An Arizona Cardinals fan, Kotsur told Variety he stopped following the NFL season when the team wasn't doing too well and he got busy.
"I was on the fence for about two weeks and then I learned that it was my hometown that was hosting the Super Bowl, so I said, 'Hell yes, I'm in,'" Kotsur told Variety. "It's really a big deal for me. I feel extremely honored to be here in my hometown. How could I turn it down?"
Kotsur became the second Deaf person and first Deaf man ever to win an Oscar. The title, "CODA," is an acronym for Child of Deaf Adults. Kotsur and Marlee Matlin, the first Deaf person to ever win an Oscar in 1987, play the parents of a hearing teenager, who is her Deaf family's link to the hearing world.
Another Arizona native, Colin Denny, performed as Babyface sang "America the Beautiful," during the pregame. Denny, a Deaf Native American from Navajo Nation in Arizona, used a blend of ASL and North American Indian Sign Language, according to NAD. He is currently a research assistant studying North American Indian Sign Language at the University of Arizona.
All of the ASL performers were live-streamed by Fox on YouTube during the Super Bowl, according to NAD.
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