I was born to two wonderful hearing parents who learned sign as soon as they found out I was Deaf. They happened to already have had some exposure to the deaf community beforehand, so learning sign was only the next logical step to them. I grew up in Washington state, going to a day deaf school in Seattle, then transferred to a mainstream school with a DHH (Deaf/Hard of Hearing) program in fourth grade all the way through to high school. I attended RIT for four years and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in leadership. After that, I went studying abroad in Denmark for a year at an amazing international deaf youth leadership program called Frontrunners. You can clearly see I have a passion for leadership!
Why did you decide to find out about Deaf Youtubers? Did you feel a need to connect more with other Youtubers that were deaf/hard of hearing and find out about their work?
I decided to create that list of Deaf YouTubers because when I started making videos a little over two years ago, I could find only a couple that regularly posted – such as Rikki Poynter – and that frustrated me. At this point in time, I am aware of more people, and was also aware of many people saying that they were frustrated that there weren’t any Deaf YouTubers. So I wanted to make that video to show that we DO exist and there ARE more out there, you just have to look for them. I did want to connect with them so we could build a network and support each other, regardless of what content we make.
Can you describe a time when your work was criticized?
I have received some comments on various videos or direct messages that go something like this: “You don’t sign ASL!” “Why do you move your mouth so much? You’re not really signing ASL.” As far as I’m aware, there is no one way to sign ASL and we all have our own personal style of signing this beautiful language. When people talk like this, it makes me sad because it is exactly why people are so afraid to learn ASL or go to events where ASL is the primary language. This putting down of people who “don’t sign ASL” has got to stop, and needs to become more uplifting, supportive of those who are learning or still figuring out their personal style.
Your biggest hit on YouTube was your video called: A Deaf Perspective: ASL Signs and Slang with Ren Putz. Why do you think that was such a huge hit? Plus, what was it like working with Ren?
I think that video was such a big hit because it talks about and explains the one topic that is rarely talked about in classes – slang. Many of the people who commented or watched that video were interpreting majors, or people who were learning ASL and were struggling with understanding ASL slang. Often, when people learn of these terms, they’re not given comparisons to somewhat-English equivalents. I think the method Ren and I chose was a big help to many people. It was very enjoyable working with Ren! We happened to be going to university together at the time, and I asked her if she’d like to help me out with this video. So we made this!
What was the most difficult period in your life and how did you deal with it?
I certainly had a lot of ups and downs while I was studying abroad in Denmark. During that period, I also went to Australia for two months. It was tough for many reasons – being away from my home country for a solid nine months, not being able to use my native languages (ASL and English) and fully express myself in the way I wanted to, a lot of new people and cultural differences. I admit, I may not have dealt with it the best I could have, but in situations like this, the key thing is to have support from friends and family. Be honest with them about how you feel, and let them help you if they can. But it was a fantastic experience for sure, and one I would definitely do again in a heartbeat.
What are you looking for in terms of career development?
I hope to eventually work in the field of Student Affairs, and/or do advocacy work. For the advocacy work, I would not mind doing it either domestically in the US or internationally. Hence my studying leadership for five years! My main goal is to work with deaf youth and encourage their involvement with leadership, organizations, and the community. The advocacy work I’m interested in doing is partly with deaf youth, but also with language rights, human rights for equality and equity.
What is your goal with your YouTube channel?
My goal with my channel is essentially to create a place where people of any background can come and learn. Right now, it’s a mix of education about the Deaf community, teaching about it, and a place for Deaf people to see someone they can identify with, topics that are relevant to them such as ASL linguistics, Deaf YouTubers, and so on. I don’t want to limit myself to one goal or theme as of now. There’s plenty I want to do!
How do you want to improve yourself in the next year?
Get better at YouTube videos! In all seriousness, I’d like to be more fluent in the languages I am currently learning, to the point I can use them like a native, and learn more sign languages! I currently know ASL, English, International Sign (not a true language, and I can still improve this), and Auslan (basic conversational level). I’m learning French, Spanish, Danish, and Italian on an app, and would love to actually learn more sign languages.
How would you describe your work style?
I’m a complicated one! I think my work style depends on what needs to be done. I very much like doing work on my own, such as YouTube work, and am more productive that way. However, I also enjoy working in teams a lot, because I can learn from others and what they know. Plus it’s always helpful having someone you can bounce ideas off of!
Tell me about your proudest achievement.
I have quite a few achievements to be proud of, but none in particular… I’m still young, so I still have a lot to do!
What do you like to do?
I love to read, go traveling, take photos and videos, have long conversations about anything and everything, and watch waaaaaay too much Netflix and YouTube for my own good!
What are your lifelong dreams?
Visit all 50 states, and as many countries as I can! I’m already at 25 states and 8 countries! And maybe someday, set up my own business (what that would be, I don’t know yet).
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
Somewhere in southern Europe! France, Italy, Greece, and Turkey are all places I’d love to visit.
What would you do if you won the lottery?
Pay off my student loans, donate a good portion of it to charity, maybe use it to set up my own organization focused on advocacy.
If you could choose one superhero power, what would it be and why?
Teleportation for sure! No dealing with the hassle of security lines at airports, tiny seats on the planes, and the ridiculous prices of domestic US flights. I would be able to go to as many places as I please, and not worry too much about how much it’ll cost!
Completely Silly Random Questions:
If you could be any character in fiction, whom would you be?
Newt Scamander. Traveling all over the world, learning about fantastic beasts? Sign me up!
If you had only six months left to live, what would you do with the time?
Travel as much as I can, go see my friends that I haven’t seen in a long time, visit the friends I have around the world, live life to the fullest.
You have the choice to live with a gorilla who knows sign language or a dog who sings lullabies, which do you choose?
The dog, I love dogs and they’re fun to play with!
If you were a car, what kind would you be?
To be honest, I don’t know much about cars so I couldn’t really pick a specific one. But I would say it’d be a very reliable one and not flashy at all.
The ten questions Lipton asks are:
What is your favorite word? Meraki (Greek, a verb, to do something with passion, to put a bit of your soul into something, done with all your heart)
What is your least favorite word? Phlegm
What turns you on? Someone who has brains, has passion for what they do, and isn’t afraid to show it.
What turns you off? Being ignorant and close-minded, refusing to see from another perspective.
What sound or noise do you love? I’m too deaf to really have any sounds I enjoy!
What sound or noise do you hate? Anything jarring that makes it hurt to have my hearing aid in.
What is your favorite curse word? My inner voice becomes distinctly British when I swear (I probably watch too much BBC), so bollocks or bloody hell!
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? I think it’d be fun to run a bar/bookstore! How that’d work, I have no idea, but it sounds cool!
What profession would you not like to do? Retail, please keep me away from retail! And anything that I wouldn’t feel like I’m making a difference or impact on people.
If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? You’ve lived a good life, it’s time to kick back and relax!
*Links to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are in the “About” section of my YouTube channel.