Earlier this year, Bowie State University student, Justina Miles made headlines for her passionate American Sign Language (ASL) performance to Rihanna’s 13-minute Super Bowl halftime show.
She is now reflecting on that viral moment in the newest issue of British Vogue, of which she graces the cover.
“Dynamic, Daring, & Disabled. It is time the world knows, understands, and embraces us- people of all colors, shapes, and abilities,” Miles said in an Instagram caption of a post sharing the cover photo. “I’m honored to be on the cover of the @BritishVogue May 2023 issue. The opportunity to continue to raise awareness of the Deaf community is incredible and one I don’t take lightly” Miles continued.
Miles is the first deaf woman to perform ASL at the Super Bowl pre-game and halftime shows.
In addition to her impressive ASL halftime performance, Miles also also signed during actress Sheryl Lee Ralph’s rendition of the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” before the Super Bowl.
The Philadelphia native is not new to ASL performing, she has has performed ASL renditions of concerts across the country, according to the National Association of the Deaf.
“When I had some free time at school in Maryland, I asked an agency I knew if they needed any help with signing at festivals. They got me to do Rolling Loud and Austin City Limits, and I then went viral at shows featuring artists like Nicki Minaj, Lil Nas X, and more. The National Association of the Deaf saw a clip and said they had to have me for Rihanna. I sent a tape signing to the National Anthem and “What’s My Name?” and they booked me for the Super Bowl” Miles told Vogue.
Miles is a nursing student and a cheerleader at Bowie State University.
She’s studying to be a travel registered nurse so she can help deaf people she said in her Vogue interview. “My long-term goal is to open my own nursing practice at Gallaudet University, a specialist school for the deaf and hard of hearing, so that there can be more Deaf nurses.”
When the public hears Deaf they think “incapable”. The questions they ask can be so ridiculous: “How do you read? How do you drive?” My hope was to pop off hard enough for people to see, “Okay, Deaf people are literally just like us!” Growing up, the Deaf people I saw on screen would always be white, and me, being my authentic Black girl self on screen, needs to be normalised.– Justina Miles, May 2023 issue of British Vogue
Miles has been partially deaf since she was two years old and says that she is proud to be the representation she wished she had growing up.
“Representation would have definitely meant the world to a younger me. You’re told a lot that “you can’t do this type of job because you’re Deaf”, so many of us take the easy routes. If I had seen somebody like me at the Super Bowl, I would have decided to be a performer and set bigger dreams for myself at an earlier age. It was such an incredible opportunity. I have so many ideas for myself now.”
The May issue “celebrates a new vanguard of Disabled talent,” British Vogue said. Other cover stars include little person Sinead Burke and Ellie G, a model who has down syndrome.
The May 2023 issue of British Vogue featuring Justina Miles is on newsstands now.