Exclusive Interview with Stephanie Nogueras
Stephanie Nogueras is an actress, model, and activist who currently appears on ABC Family's hit show, 'Switched at Birth'. Stephanie Nogueras is, strength, passion, and pride, personified, and with these traits, she tries to create a positive and accepting world, one that everyone would hope to be a part of. Being a deaf and petite model, she has encountered, and still encounters a lot of hardships in the modelling world, but she did not let that stop her, she strived to be who she has always hoped to be, and to create the life she has always dreamed of having. Having very few petite and deaf models to look up to growing up, she aspired to, and successfully became her own role model, and subsequently a role model for the world. She is an activists for the deaf community, and her activism is also filtered through the role that she plays on 'Switched at Birth'. Through Stephanie's story, we learn how far persistence, courage, and acceptance can take us. Please, make sure to check her out on Facebook, and Twitter.
1) What got you interested in modeling in the first place? Later on, you went on to start acting on the hit show, ‘Switched At Birth’, on ABC Family, how did that come about? When did you realize that you were interested in acting as well?
I discovered modeling when I was around 9 years old. My teacher Robin used to be my tutor during the summer. One day, she came by my house with her camera because she loves photography. Robin was taking pictures of me outside, at the front of my house. A couple days later, she showed me the pictures and I was just fascinated and interested in analyzing the details of all the pictures. Like most teenagers, I loved taking several pictures of myself in different settings, poses and clothes. I explored modeling on my own. You can imagine that I was playing around with outfits, make-up, hair and poses using the self-timer on the camera. It was a Kodak digital camera, nothing fancy. I spent a lot of time studying and researching the profession of modeling on my own through the Internet and by watching television shows such as America’s Next Top Model. I found that something was missing: petite models. There was no one to look up to as a role model for me – nobody who looked like me. Because of this at the time, I did not have the confidence and I thought it was impossible for me to have a chance in the profession. That was when I tried to find a way to be inspirational for the deaf community and myself.
A few years later, I entered college (Rochester Institute of Technology/National Institute of Technology) and fell in love with that beautiful campus. It gave me a sense of freedom and at the same time I was inspired by seeing student photographers creatively express themselves and their art. It boosted my self-esteem. Others believed that I could try modeling at the college’s modeling contest, which encouraged me. So I went for it. I won 1st place and decided modeling was possible for me after all. I looked for more opportunities to expand my future career, and lucked upon “Deafinit Models” in Los Angeles to help me further my modeling ambitions. Soon after, I landed on the cover of two Magazines “Life In Sight” and “I.D.E.A.L. Mag.” After graduation, I took a leap of faith and moved to Los Angeles, California to pursue my dreams. The support I received from my family and friends about my decision was amazing. Within six months, Deafinit Models sent me on an audition for a Principal role on “Switched at Birth” and I booked the role of Natalie Pierce without any acting experience. A few told me that I could act and encouraged me to try that, but I found that hard to believe. It certainly was a big eye-opener for me. I definitely enjoy acting now. I give special thanks to Deafinit Models, Casting director Dee Dee Bradley, and ABC Family & Producers of Switched at Birth for giving me this wonderful opportunity!
2) Your character, Natalie, on switched at birth is very passionate and strong willed, how much do you relate to your character on the show?
Natalie and I are similar in some ways. For instance, we are truly passionate and proud of ourselves as Deaf individuals. We grew up in the Deaf community. Natalie and I are protective of our people. We are truly proud of our language and culture. We are not afraid of sharing our feelings and speaking our minds.
3) I read cursorily somewhere that you encountered some hardships when you started modelling particularly due to the fact that you are deaf and your petite; can you emphasize more on what those hardships were/are?
Yes, you know many petite models easily give up on their dreams because of the limited opportunities available for them. The modeling industry’s height requirement is primarily 5’9 and above with few exceptions at 5’8 . Petite Models face a lot of rejection from mainstream modeling agencies and sometimes cruel comments from fashion photographers. In the beginning, I was reluctant to let a photographer know that I am Deaf and use American Sign Language. That is why I was open to working with Deafinit Models to help challenge those barriers. Now, I am not afraid anymore because that is who I am. I am already used to rejections. They are just like stones on the road and I have, overtime, learnt to leap over them. I am not going to give up yet, not now, not ever. I do believe there will be more opportunities for petite models in the future.
4) How has your transitioning from modelling to acting been? What, for you, are the pros and cons of acting?
I have had a smooth transition; I believe acting is natural for me and I am even surprised at myself. I never knew that I had it in me. There are many pros to acting. First of all it is fun work to do and I love learning ways to improve my craft everyday such as developing my character, showing emotions, and of course I enjoy working with the entire cast of actors/actresses. The set of Switched at Birth is an absolutely fun place to work because there is such a positive vibe around and everybody is incredibly and warm and so inviting. The cast and crew always smiles and greets you when they pass you by no matter how long the day has been or how busy. However, there are some cons to acting on a set as a Deaf actor. There is a lot of eye work to pay attention to on the set and watch the interpreters for “action!” “Cut!” and cue.” There are a lot of people all over – very scattered and sometimes it’s hard to find your interpreter when you need to. It’s really not that bad though – it just takes some time to get used to it.
5) You are an active fundraiser for a school for the deaf in Puerto Rico, can you briefly state the work you do for the school?
This school is Evangelical School for the Deaf in Luquillo, Puerto Rico. My volunteers and I will be visiting this school and meeting the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. The school needs to update almost all their infrastructures (technology, supplies, furniture, educational system, etc). Most important of all, is to raise Deaf awareness for hearing families of Deaf children. We would love to inspire Deaf and hard of hearing students and Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities and, to instill hopes and dreams in each of them. We hope for a better future for every Deaf child in Puerto Rico. My volunteers and I are really excited about this venture, and are looking forward to making this happen. You can find more details on the website.
6) You are definitely a huge role model, both for deaf and hearing people alike, because of your drive and passion, how does that make you feel?
I am truly honored and humbled to be a role model; both for Deaf and hearing people. I love the feeling of knowing that I have inspired others, which, to me, is sweet. In the years ahead, I plan to continue looking for more opportunities to prove that deafness is not a barrier to achieving success!
7) In an episode on switched at birth, it was mentioned that being deaf provides you with perspective, identity, community, and as such it should be referred to as ‘deaf gain’ and not ‘hearing loss’, how does it feel to be part of something as uniquely construed as this?
I am pleased to have been a part of the groundbreaking all ASL episode “The Uprising” on Switched at Birth. I personally could relate to the thoughtful storyline examining the cultural chasm between the deaf and hearing students in school. That episode showed who we are as people, a Deaf Community, with a great sense of pride for knowing who we are and, having our own identity, culture and language. It does help to be confident, fearless, and self-assured, to take on the many challenges of a hearing world. For me personally, it is not a hearing loss because I was born Deaf, therefore I have nothing to lose. I grew up with tremendous love and support surrounded by family and friends. I learn new things everyday and strive to live my life to the fullest. It is such an adventure
8) What advice do you have for youths out there, filled with your bursting passion and trying to follow their dreams?
You have to have the courage to believe in yourself. If you truly want to follow your dream and make it come true. Go for it because you live only once, so make the experiences a good and memorable one. Cherish it and capture every opportunity, as much you can.