It's Time To Talk About The Glorious Evolution Of Sign Language

In honor of Rihanna and Justina Miles lighting up the Super Bowl, here are six other sign language performances that absolutely gagged us.
Justina Miles performs "Lift Every Voice and Sing" in American Sign Language prior to the Super Bowl at State Farm Stadium on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona.
Justina Miles performs "Lift Every Voice and Sing" in American Sign Language prior to the Super Bowl at State Farm Stadium on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona.
Rob Carr via Getty Images

Now that we鈥檝e had a week to gain perspective on Feb. 12鈥瞫 Rihanna Bowl, there鈥檚 been a lot of conversation about how the singer soared through the air with the greatest of ease despite an entire human incubating inside of her. But it was cool to see another, less expected star get her shine at Arizona鈥檚 Super Bowl as well: Rihanna鈥檚 American Sign Language interpreter, who absolutely ate the house down.

Twitter exploded with positive reactions to the now-famous halftime show performer, Justina Miles. 鈥淩ihanna鈥檚 interpreter is the real #Superbowl MVP,鈥 one account wrote. 鈥淛ustina Miles phenomenally absorbed all of the Rihanna energy,鈥 said another. It was incredible to see how much joy we all found in Miles鈥 interpretations of Rihanna鈥檚 greatest hits.

But beyond that, Miles also helped many of us gain an appreciation for ASL as a complex and evolving language, with its own culture and even a set of creative expressions intended specifically for music. There鈥檚 still a huge stigma surrounding ASL; many reduce it to a 鈥渓esser鈥 form of language, and some see ASL users as unable to express themselves authentically.

The Super Bowl proved that nothing could be further from the truth. To celebrate the flourishing interest in sign language, HuffPost compiled six other iconic performances in recent years that gagged us and deserve some love.

The interpreter who didn鈥檛 hold back when translating 鈥榃AP鈥 by Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B.

This interpreter, Kelly Kurdi, didn鈥檛 just choke us with her spirited 2021 performance at Lollapalooza in Chicago; she did it to herself, too.

The interpreter who was so good that Waka Flocka thought she was just dancing.

Another heavy hitter, interpreter Holly Maniatty was serving so hard that she nearly stole the show in Delaware in 2017. Waka Flocka Flame had no choice but to join her.

Justina Miles in her interpretation of 鈥楲ift Every Voice and Sing.鈥

Her interpretation of RiRi鈥檚 songs took center stage last week, but we can鈥檛 gloss over the historic significance of Miles鈥 pre-show performance of 鈥淟ift Every Voice and Sing,鈥 also known as the Black national anthem, alongside Sheryl Lee Ralph. The combination of a Black ASL interpreter and a Black musician on the biggest stage on American TV was a historic moment, and Miles nailed the emotional gravity of it.

Twista鈥檚 sign language interpreter whose hands defied the laws of gravity.

Twista is known as the fastest rapper of all time, which means that his interpreter Amber Galloway Gallego needed hands that travel faster than light for this 2019 show in North Carolina. Galloway Gallego is so good at speedy ASL that she鈥檚 beloved in the hip-hop community, even working with celebrities like Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar.

The interpreter who had zero fucks to give at an AC/DC music festival.

You can see the passion in this 2020 performance by Australian Sign Language interpreter Mike Webb in Perth, Australia. But more importantly, you can feel the zero fucks given. It鈥檚 so good I almost took it personally.

The interpreter who bodied Beyonc茅鈥榮 鈥楪et Me Bodied.鈥

David Cowan had been appearing at Georgia鈥檚 Atlanta Pride for years, and he finally got his due when a video of him interpreting Beyonc茅鈥檚 鈥淕et Me Bodied鈥 went viral in 2019. In an interview with local outlet Atlanta News First, Cowan said it鈥檚 difficult for people to look at both an interpreter and the main performer at the same time, so he filled in the gaps with his own dance moves.

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