In case you missed it, the Internet has been raving about an American Sign Language interpreter's performance of Beyonce's "Get Me Bodied" at Atlanta Pride 2019 last weekend. Talented interpreter David Cowan was totally feeling the vibes and slaying his interpretation. In doing so, he provided an exceptional experience not only for the deaf community, but for everyone there.
The video of David Cowan dancing and interpreting Beyonce's hit song Get Me Bodied went viral because of his radiating confidence and impressive moves. Narcity reached out to David to talk about his role in the deaf community and his thoughts about the video.
Upon discussing the video going viral, David made a really good point: the original video posted did not have audio. We can't be sure if the video was meant to have the audio cut, but David believes that the lack of sound is what caused the video to gain so much attention. "I think the reason it went viral is because there was no sound on it. It forced hearing people to watch my hands and watch my body language," says Cowan. "Hearing people started to guess what the song was."
It seems like hearing people tend to focus so much on sound that it's easy to lose sight of the visual performance that complements it. "I think the first time people have to watch something and not listen to it, they realize they are enjoying watching the performance," states Cowan.
Many hearing people may not realize that American Sign Language and English are two totally different languages. "I want the deaf audience to get equal enjoyment and a lot of that work for me is translating from English to ASL," informs Cowan. "It's not the same as English."
For instance, a lyric in "Get Me Bodied" uses the word "booty" which isn't a common word used in the deaf community, so David had to improvise. "I had to use my experience and realize that the deaf community isn't going to get that language and [I had to] use my body language to interpret what that means," Cowan told Narcity.
Perhaps the most impressive part of all this is that David did not even prepare for his amazing performance. He says it's pretty typical for him to find out last minute what songs he will interpret, leaving him little to no time to prep. This "cold interpreting" lets David do his thing on the spot and he totally killed it!
"What helps us most is watching the performer. We watch how they are moving their body," says Cowan. "I try to pull from the performer and incorporate that in my interpretation."
Although David says he hasn't met any celebrities through his work, he told Narcity that Beyonce's mom, Ms. Tina Knowles Lawson reached out to ask him to interpret Bey's music at Pride!
David is super appreciative of the media attention he's been receiving. "It's nice to be recognized for my work," he told Narcity. "As an interpreter, I have realized there is not a lot of information on deaf interpreters." So let's give it up for David on his amazing impact on the deaf community and his entertaining interpretations. We hope to see more from him soon.