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Local ‘America’s Next Top Model’ contestant got his start at &pizza

Nyle DiMarco, center, with some of his friends at &pizza on H Street NE in 2012. (Courtesy of &pizza)
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Nyle DiMarco, the 26-year-old Gallaudet University grad who’s currently “bringing it” on cycle infinity of “America’s Next Top Model,” has always been the loudest guy in the room — at least that’s how one of his biggest fans, local business owner Michael Lastoria, sees it.

Lastoria, who opened his first &pizza on H Street near Gallaudet, a private university for the education of the deaf, first met DiMarco at the store’s 2012 opening when the frat guy-turned-actor-turned ANTM contestant showed up with a group of his Kappa Gamma bros.

[RELATED: “His modeling photos got him noticed, but didn’t show one thing: He’s deaf]

“Nyle was the leader of the pack. He was the first guy to order a pizza ever,” said Lastoria who would eventually use DiMarco and his friends in a neighborhood ad campaign that featured “local heroes,” unwittingly jump-starting DiMarco’s career.

On Wednesday night’s episode of the competition, currently in its 22 iteration, DiMarco, who’d been labeled “boring and bland” by the judges, eventually triumphed as the top scorer. Through a translator he confessed at the beginning of the show: “I have the talent. I just need to bring it.”

One competitor, a surfer guy named Mikey, called “being deaf” an obvious “disadvantage in this industry.” But Tyra Banks, the supermodel mogul who either crushes dreams or paints them in technicolor by handing out head shots at the end of each photo shoot, had a different take on DiMarco’s chances in the business.

“This picture,” said Banks of DiMarco’s interpretation of a possessed model, “is like the Sistine Chapel ceiling of fashion model-ness.” Needless to say, the Gallaudet grad is still in the running toward  becoming America’s Next Top Model. And his pals at &pizza are already planning a sexy photo shoot, which may or may not involve artfully placed pepperoni.

“That’s exactly what we’re going to do,”  Lastoria said.

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