American sign language artist Justina Miles made history at Sunday’s Super Bowl — and totally killed it.
The 20-year-old Philadelphia native performed twice, delivering the first-ever ASL rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” at the Super Bowl, followed by a hilarious, high-energy 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 were the first signers to be enrolled at halftime. She was also the first deaf black woman to perform at the Super Bowl NFL on CBS.
Miles signed alongside Abbott Elementary star Sheryl Lee Ralph for “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a historic performance of the song often referred to as the black national anthem. Ralph gave her performance on the 123rd anniversary of the song’s first public performance by children at a segregated school in Florida. It was the third time the song had 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 top of her class at Model Secondary School for the Deaf in Washington, DC
Miles was also on Team USA at the 2021-2022 Deaflympics, a sports competition for deaf and hard of hearing athletes, winning silver as part of the women’s 4×100 track relay team.
She previously went viral on TikTok for her renditions of other popular songs, including Lil’ Kim’s “Crush on You.”
Miles joined Troy Kotsur and Colin Denny as interpreters for the pre-game performances. Kotsur, who won an Academy Award for his role in “CODA,” signed the national anthem alongside country music star Chris Stapleton, while Denny, from Arizona’s Navajo Nation, performed “America the Beautiful,” using a mix of ASL and North American Native American language to the Accompanying R&B legend Babyface.
Check out some of the reactions to the performances below, including that of Oscar winner Marlee Matlin, who said she “got goose bumps” watching the pre-game performances.
“You have shown the world the beauty of sign language. I salute you all. Justina, Colin and Troy. They are superstars. Let them shine,” Matlin captioned, according to one translation. “Give them your support, their brilliant work as they have shown the world that we can make a mark.”