Nyle DiMarco saw the grumpy side of Len Goodman this week on Dancing With the Stars. DiMarco, the self-described DWTS frontrunner, was full of confidence as he set out to perform a perfect quickstep with partner Peta Murgatroyd, but Goodman took issue with the deaf model’s proclamation that his biggest competition in the celebrity dancing competition is pro dancer Val Chmerkovskiy.
Before the dance, Nyle said he didn’t really look at the other celebrities, which include NFL stars Von Miller and Antonio Brown, as any type of competition. Instead, DiMarco said he was eyeing onetime mirrorball champ Val as the man to beat.
“I think my competition right now is Val. Val himself. He has to be my main competition. It’s not the celebrities, I’m looking at Val. Because I don’t necessarily see them being better than me. I’m just feeling confident.”
“I’m fearless here,” DiMarco said ahead of the routine. “The dance itself feels like I’ve got it down, it’s like beating a dead horse.”
With a green prosthetic on his face (the dance was based on the Jim Carrey movie The Mask), Nyle even joked that since you couldn’t tell who he was with the mask on, maybe the judges would think it was a pro dancer under there. Unfortunately, after Nyle and Peta’s quickstep, judge Len Goodman let the cocky contender have it.
“You’re a good dancer, but don’t start saying, ‘I’m as good as Val, because you’re just annoying people,” Goodman said. “That’s ridiculous.”
After the slam, DiMarco said he accepted the criticism and he even called it “fair.” The DWTS frontrunner earned 25 out of 30 points for the dance, putting him smack in the middle of the pack on the judges’ leaderboard for this week.
While many DWTS fans thought Len’s criticism of Nyle was harsh, the America’s Next Top Model winner later took to Twitter to explain why he compared himself to Val Chmerkovskiy and to acknowledge the other celebrities in the competition.
“Like playing a sport as a newbie, you would study Professionals as if they’re ‘to beat’… Only to push yourself. This is why I study Val.”
Val Chmerkovskiy later posted that he took Nyle’s comments as a compliment.
It seems that Nyle DiMarco’s confidence was confused as cockiness, and it could have even been taken out of context, as so often happens with the DWTS intro packages. In fact, in an interview with Time, Nyle was far from cocky as he admitted he was nervous about competing on Dancing With the Stars because he didn’t want to misrepresent the deaf community.
“When I signed up for Dancing with the Stars I was nervous,” DiMarco said. “If I threw everything off, there are 10-15 million people watching and that would be a negative viewpoint of Deaf people and I didn’t want that. I didn’t want to screw it up.”
While Nyle also gave himself props for being the first DWTS competitor this season to earn a 9 and then a 10, he admitted that even he was surprised by how well he was doing on the show.
“It’s not often times that the same person gets that opportunity,” he said. “It definitely shows that I am working twice as hard to actually earn this…I surprise myself every day.”
Nyle DiMarco did seem to take Len Goodman’s comments in stride, and after their dance, both Nyle and Peta tweeted about how much fun they had recreating the iconic dance from The Mask.
Take a look at the video below to see Nyle DiMarco and Peta Murgatroyd’s quickstep and Len’s comments.
[Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images]