The 31st season Dancing With The Stars made it’s big debut on Disney+ Monday night and the lineup of celebs vying for the coveted mirror ball trophy is as diverse as ever – and this includes CODA star Daniel Durant.
Daniel’s moms Lori Durant and Mary Engels were at the premiere of Dancing with the Stars to support their son and recognize this moment for not only him, but for them as well.
Lori told GLAAD’s Anthony Allen Ramos, “He has never ever seen himself as being anything other than capable and he’s got courage like nobody I know. We’re very, very proud.”
“I think the world likes to put all of us in boxes,” Engels added.“Whether you’re gay, deaf, or look physically different – what [Daniel] does is transcend those boxes.. he just blows them away.”
“It’s not a challenge because I’m deaf… everyone has their own challenges,” Daniel told Ramos. “We are showing that we’re here and that we can work together, have fun and be beautiful. It’s my goal to be competitive and respect the other competitors.”
The actor is partnered with pro Britt Stewart and the pair took the stage on Monday night to dance the tango. They scored a 28 which was enough for them to advance to next week show.
“It’s such an honor that I was partnered with Daniel,” said Stewart. “I feel like the show really trusts me to bring his story forward and that I will be able to highlight deaf culture and community so it feels really good.”
Daniel’s participation in DWTS marks the third deaf celeb to compete, further bolstering. His CODA co-star Marlee Matlin competed on the show in 2008 while model and actor Nyle DiMarco took home the top prize in the 22nd season.
Lori Durant told Ramos, that she remembered Daniel being asked if he was going to be paired with a man or a woman and he said “It doesn’t matter to me.”
“I knew he was inclusive, but just to have him share that and be sincere about it was cool,” said Lori. “He looked really good dancing with a guy too and it would not be a problem. I just love that.”
The inclusive season also features the first drag queen, Shangela, to perform on the stage in competition. “I think it’s a beautiful thing,” said Daniel about the RuPaul’s Drag Race alum being on DWTS. “When I saw Shangela here, I was like ‘Yes!’ Thank you to Hollywood, thank you to Disney for opening the door for more diversity. We need to be here because everyone needs to see this.”
Engels also appreciates Shangela on the show. “We all had important people pave the way for us and so that’s what they’re doing: paving the way for others and I can hardly wait for the day that it’s not an issue.”
Watch Daniel’s debut DWTS peformance performance below.