Deaf Life20th November 2013
SL First looks at the success of a deaf American fashion expert and how his deafness has helped him to achieve his goals.
At SLFirst we like to celebrate the success of deaf people and the things they achieve everyday. This story is definitely one of dedication and self belief that results in great accomplishment!
Justin LeBlanc, an American fashion expert, is deaf and he might be using that his advantage. It seems that the increased visual awareness that a lot of deaf people possess might be one of the factors that make him such a hit! Not only is LeBlanc a success within the fashion world, he has also proved to be an academic achiever. First, he studied at North Carolina state and has earned degrees in both architecture and in art and design. He then went on to earn a master of design degree in fashion, body and garment from the Art Institute of Chicago.
LeBlanc's recent triumph is "Project Runway" Season 12. A TV series where contestants are given different challenges to overcome each week to prove themself as "the next great American designer." LeBlanc battled through the weeks to come in 3rd place out of the 15 who reached the final stages!
The final challenge of the compeition was to create a collection for Fashion Week, which is where LeBlanc really fell into his own category and blew the competition away. He chose garments that represented the moment that he was first able to hear via a cochlear implant at the age of 18. LeBlanc felt that this task allowed his to visualise the story of him being a deaf man, hearing for the first time and adjusting to a life that includes sound. He described the process as very emotional and personal to him, and that he hoped to portray this to others.
We are aware of stories that highlight the discrimination of deaf people, but in LeBlanc's experience this has not been the case. He feels that he hasn't been discriminated in any way, however a challenge that he faces is getting people to feel comfortable when communicating with him. He says that people are sometimes unsure about what they should do.
Mirroring the experiences of many deaf people, LeBlanc finds that people don't know whether to talk to him or to his interpreter. Whether they should speak slowly or loudly, or to just avoid the situation and not to talk to him at all to avoid any awkward moments. LeBlanc believes that being on "Project Runway" has made an exceptional difference in this area, raising awarness.
Another misconception people may have is that being deaf is a negative. LeBlanc feels that this is highly inaccurate and believes that deafness is not a handicap, but a way of life. He feels that deaf people should be proud of who they are and the culture they are part of. He also highlights the importance of hearing people respecting the deaf culture and for them to learn a little sign language.
A huge pressure faced by some deaf people or parents is whether they or their child should have a cochlear implant. LeBlanc himself has a cochlear implant and has been asked whether he would give any advice to parents, or deaf people considering an implant that they wouldn't gain from doctors or further research. LeBlanc's response is to say whether they have the implant or not, don't deny the fact that they are deaf. He says that he is proud to be a successful deaf person and although he has a cochlear implant, he is still a deaf person!
It is fair to say that Justin LeBlanc is a talented individual with a positive attitude to life. He is certainly inspiration to deaf youngsters with an interest in fashion and design and we wish him continued success.
Article by Charlotte Lawrence
posted in Community / Deaf Life
20th November 2013