An Unusual Example of Great Body Language

In media training, we often talk about the importance of body language. Your words are important in interviews — but if your body language and your words don’t jive, your audience will tend to believe your body language over your message.

So imagine having only your body language to convey your words. And imagine those words were actually rap songs.

That’s what Holly Maniatty does. Ms. Maniatty is an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter. And she recently found herself performing at a Wu Tang Clan show, which instantly turned her into an Internet sensation.

Warning! Some of the language in the Wu Tang Clan video below may not be appropriate for workplace listening.

Her performance was so energetic (some bloggers said she “put her back into it”) and so widely shared on social media that Jimmy Kimmel played the clip on his show. Her performance also brought attention to an emerging trend of having ASL interpreters at concerts.

I heard an interview with Ms. Maniatty on a radio show called The Story. She was so compelling that, though this isn’t typically the kind of body language we discuss on the blog, I had to share it.

Ms. Maniatty takes the body language aspect of her job seriously. Her energy is not just a result of enjoying the music. She studies her subjects’ movements (she told The Story she prepared for the Wu Tang Clan show for about 50 hours), memorizes the songs they’ll most likely perform, and even takes into account the regional dialect of the band and the places they’re performing.

Beyond that, Ms. Maniatty certainly succeeded in some big ways in her interview.

  1. She had a message. It wasn’t enough just to be incredibly cool having performed with acts such as the Wu Tang Clan and Bruce Springsteen. Ms. Maniatty also talked about how much the hearing impaired community has embraced these performances. Before this interview, it never occurred to me that this was an important service for hearing-impaired people. Now I know.
  2. She illustrated tough concepts well. From now on, when I’m training somebody and they tell me their topic is just too complicated to explain simply, I’m going to bring up the example of Ms. Maniatty. She was able to clearly and simply illustrate sign language actions (did you know there’s actually a sign for Wu Tang Clan?!) on the radio. Impressive.
  3. It was about more than just her. I really got the sense from the interview that she cares a great deal about the deaf community, has great respect for her colleagues, and really wants to make ASL translation the standard at major concerts. She was outwardly focused in a situation in which it would be easy to make it all about her.

 Want to talk more about body language? Join me on Twitter @PMRChristina!