Signing at Super Bowl LVII

by | Feb 15, 2023 | News

Did you catch the big game on Sunday? While audiences watched Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts face-off on the field and Rihanna perform a showstopping halftime show, there was one other person who unexpectedly took the internet by storm during the 57th Super Bowl: Justina Miles.

Meet Justina Miles

Miles, a deaf 20-year-old from Philadelphia, made history in Glendale, Arizona by becoming the first female deaf performer for the Super Bowl’s halftime show. Last year’s game saw the NFL’s first deaf performers ever during the halftime show, but both performers – Sean Forbes and Warren “WaWa” Snipe – were men. Knowing the importance of her history-defining performance, Miles did not take the role lightly. She said, “I value the opportunity to make it possible for all deaf people to enjoy these songs, and not have them miss out on the full Super Bowl experience.” As Rihanna sang her hit songs, in a 13-minute performance that included songs such as “Rude Boy,” “Run This Town,” and “Diamonds,” Miles signed with high-octane energy and was posted on TikTok, where she was seen and shared over 11 million times. This was not the first time that she went viral on TikTok, however, as her 2020 ASL interpretation of Lil Kim’s “Crush on You” had similar views and response.

Miles was seen at the beginning of the evening as well, becoming the first deaf performer to sign “Lift Every Voice and Sing” while Emmy-Award-Winner Sheryl Lee Ralph sang the rendition. This marks the first time that the song, considered to be the Black National Anthem, was performed at the Super Bowl. Miles said that she knew she had a duty to “to really bring that empowerment to millions and millions of Black deaf people all over the country who’ve never really seen that before. I feel that is truly lifting every voice, even my voice.”

Justina is currently a nursing student at Bowie State University in Maryland and was valedictorian at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf in Washington D.C. She was raised by a deaf mother in Philadelphia, and it is noted that her other family members “have different levels of hearing abilities.” In the 2021-2022 Deaflympics, hosted in Brazil, Miles competed on the USA team for the 4×100 women’s track relay team, where she won a silver medal.

Other Performers at Super Bowl LVII

Prior to the face-off between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles, performances of “America the Beautiful” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” were performed simultaneously with singers and ASL performers. “America The Beautiful,” performed by singer Baby Face was signed by Colin Denny from Arizona’s Navajo Nation. Denny’s signing blending American Sign Language (ASL) with North American Indian Sign Language. While Chris Stapleton crooned and played guitar for the National Anthem, Arizona-Native and Oscar-Winner Troy Kotsur performed it in ASL. Kotsur won his Oscar last year for the movie “CODA,” and became the second ever deaf actor to win for their performance. All three ASL performances can be viewed via YouTube.

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