American Sign Language performer Justina Miles made history ― and totally slayed while doing it ― at Sunday’s Super Bowl.
The 20-year-old Philadelphia native performed twice, providing the first-ever ASL interpretation of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” at the Super Bowl, followed by an extremely fun, energetic rendition of Rihanna’s halftime show.
She was the first woman to sign a Super Bowl halftime show; last year, deaf rappers Sean Forbes and Warren “WaWa” Snipe became the first sign language performers to be included at halftime. She was also the first deaf Black woman to perform at the Super Bowl, according to NFL on CBS.
Miles signed alongside “Abbott Elementary” star Sheryl Lee Ralph for “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a historic performance in itself of the song often referred to as the Black national anthem. Ralph delivered her rendition on the 123rd anniversary of the first time the song was performed in public, by children at a segregated school in Florida. It was the third time the song has been delivered at the Super Bowl.
According to the National Association of the Deaf, Miles is a nursing student and cheerleader at Bowie State University in Maryland. She was valedictorian of the Model Secondary School for the Deaf in Washington, D.C.
Miles was also on Team USA at the 2021-2022 Deaflympics, a sports competition for deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes, and won silver as part of the 4×100 women’s track relay team.
She previously went viral on TikTok for her interpretations of other popular songs, including Lil’ Kim’s “Crush on You.”
Miles joined Troy Kotsur and Colin Denny as interpreters for the pregame performances. Kotsur, who won an Oscar for his role in “CODA,” signed the national anthem alongside country music star Chris Stapleton, while Denny, from Navajo Nation in Arizona, performed “America the Beautiful” through a blend of ASL and North American Indian Sign Language to accompany R&B legend Babyface.
See some of the reactions to the performances below, including from Academy Award-winning actor Marlee Matlin, who said she got “chills” watching the pregame interpretations.
“They showed the world the beauty of sign language. I applaud them all. Justina, Colin and Troy. They’re are superstars. Let them shine,” Matlin signed, according to a translation. “Give them your support, their brilliant work, as they showed the world that we can perform in sign.”