Nyle DiMarco on ‘Dancing’ Debut Mistake, Honor of Representing Deaf Community

PHOTO: Nyle Dimarco and Peta Murgatroyd appear on "Dancing With the Stars," March 21, 2016.PlayABC
WATCH Nyle DiMarco on Making His 'Dancing With the Stars' Debut

Nyle DiMarco’s sizzling cha-cha on the season premiere of "Dancing With the Stars" brought the house down –- landing him in a tie for first place.

DiMarco, the winner of the final season of "America's Next Top Model," said he surprised even himself.

"I was like, 'wow, I can actually do this,'" he said.

DiMarco, 26, is deaf. Speaking through interpreter Ramon Norrod, DiMarco revealed that he made a mistake in his first performance.

He and his pro partner, Peta Murgatroyd, communicate via a series of signals and cues to keep them in sync. For example, she'll squeeze his hand to get him to turn around during a routine.

"As soon as I lift my head ... that's his cue to come in," Murgatroyd said, adding: "We do it hundreds and hundreds of times ... so he gets to feel how long to hold something, how quickly to move through something."

But it doesn't always work. On the season's March 21 premiere, DiMarco says he misinterpreted a signal from Murgatroyd when she gestured for him to come toward her.

In sign language, that gesture means "hurry up."

In his vlog, DiMarco told fans: "I thought I was late. So I went over there, ran to her and hurried, then we had to hold our frame for a little while before we started ... But we still killed it, regardless."

He might have messed up, but to viewers, DiMarco appeared to glide through his performance with ease and confidence.

Murgatroyd believes that her partner has a secret advantage over his competitors.

"They get freaked out by all the noise," she said. "There's hundreds of people in the ballroom. So Nyle can't hear any of that. He's in his own world with me. And it's kind of perfect."

Deafness goes back four generations in DiMarco’s family, and he has become an inspiration to the deaf community.

"I do have this platform ... and to actually represent them is an honor for me," he said.

On Saturday he hosted an event in Austin, Texas, for Convo -- a company that provides video relay services for hearing impaired.

Murgatroyd and DiMarco spent the week in Austin so he could rehearse for "Dancing" while preparing to host the Convo event.

She described her partnership with DiMarco as having been "such a beautiful experience so far," and added: "He is showing America that anyone can dance, no matter what. And I’m so proud of him. What could be more inspirational than that?"