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The 10-year-old Deaf model who is breaking down stigmas

10-year-old deaf model Gabby Banda

photo by Jennifer Ilene, courtesy Teresa Banda

Gabriella was born Deaf*, but that hasn’t stopped her from following her dreams of becoming a model. 

Luckily, she’s had some recent role models to look up to – including America’s Next Top Model winner Nyle DiMarco and current Ms. San Antonio, Emma Faye Rudkin – but at just 10-years-old, she’s already seeing some of the challenges that those with #deaftalent have to overcome. 

“Gabriella has a pronounced Deaf accent, so she doesn’t get many auditions,” says her mother, Teresa Banda. “It’s been difficult the last few years – she wants to work and casting agents have not been kind, or open to working with a Deaf child. Up until earlier this year she had not booked a single paying job in two years.”

Still, Gabriella perseveres, like her idols, with her next goal of walking in New York Fashion week.

Recently the deaf community has made it a goal to stand up against cultural appropriation of deafness in movies, TV, music and other public performances, with the #deaftalent and other campaigns on social media. 

“With so many talented deaf/HoH performers working to catch their big break in Hollywood, it is inexcusable that hearing actors and actresses continue being cast for these roles,” says Lydia L. Callis in an article on the Huffington Post. “Deaf parts belong to deaf performers — people who understand the experience of hearing loss and can accurately portray deaf characters.”

So, with big brown eyes, long brown hair and two hearing aids behind her ears, Gabriella is ready to show the world all the deaf talent that she’s got.

10-year-old deaf model Gabby Banda

photo by Jennifer Ilene, courtesy Teresa Banda

“We are very excited for Gabby to walk in New York Fashion week because we know that this will give her more exposure and help her get more working opportunities – and become a more confident little person,”  Teresa says. 

“…we know that this will give her more exposure and help her get more working opportunities – and become a more confident little person.”

Teresa says she also hopes her daughter’s actions will continue to raise awareness for deaf talent. The mother-daughter duo are currently raising money with T-shirt sales to help pay for expenses during Gabriella’s trip to New York City, with 10% of the profit going toward Aid the Silent 98%, a non-profit in San Antonio, Texas, founded by Rudkin, which helps to bring awareness and help to the Deaf and hard of hearing. They also hope her experience in New York will lead to opportunities to raise money for her college fund and future hearing technology. 

“Gabriella doesn’t have Medicaid, and our insurance does not help to pay for hearing aids so we have to save to buy them,” Teresa says. 

But Teresa, who also lost her hearing in her early 20’s, is sure her daughter will continue to pave the way for other deaf people in the industry and in her community. 

“Gabriella strives to be an inspiration to all Deaf just like Emma and Nyle DiMarco,” she says. “We are very proud of all she has accomplished.”

Follow Gabriella’s story on Facebook or Twitter

*Gabriella has profound deaf hearing loss and wears hearing aids, but identifies with the “D” Deaf community. She has been signing English Sign and ASL since she was 3 years old, is being educated in a public school setting with both Deaf and hearing children. All references of Deaf/deaf are upon request by the Banda family.

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Author Details
Jill von Bueren is the editor-in-chief of HearingLikeMe.com.Originally from the U.S., she now resides in Zurich, Switzerland. She has a background in journalism and is currently working on her second novel.
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Jill von Bueren is the editor-in-chief of HearingLikeMe.com.Originally from the U.S., she now resides in Zurich, Switzerland. She has a background in journalism and is currently working on her second novel.
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