“The deaf community deserved it”

Just days after three consecutive sold-out shows at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico José Miguel Agrelo, Bad Bunny is feeling recharged to kick off their 2022 World’s Hottest Tour in Orlando on Friday, August 5.

“The energy of a whole country enjoying and having fun, without problems, without incidents, all Puerto Rico united in a single joy!” the artist wrote on Instagram. “Everything was so spontaneous and natural, so many beautiful moments that were unrehearsed, like every word that came from my heart at that time, and everything was amazing!”

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During the concert, Bad Bunny not only performed songs from his A Verano Sin Ti album but was also joined on stage by his actual crew and had a wave of special guests including Jowell y Randy, Chencho Corleone, Bomba Estereo, The Marias and Villano Antillano, to name a few.

But perhaps the real stars of the evening were three ASL performers, who quickly went viral on social media.

While the Puerto Rican artist had a whole crowd standing, Celimar Rivera Cosme, Alexssa Hernández de Jesús and Evelyn Fuentes Rodríguez performed the concert in sign language for a designated VIP section of approximately 30 people from the deaf community.

Although it is increasingly common in concerts and venues around the world, Hernandez assures Billboard that in his 15-year career as a sign language interpreter, this is the “first time [happened] in an urban concert in El Choli.

She explains that Celimar, who is partially deaf and part of the community, took the initiative and posted a video on social media asking the Puerto Rican artist to invite them to the concert. A week before the July 28 broadcast, she received an email from Bunny’s label, Rimas Entertainment, asking her how to better serve the community. Celimar contacted her friends Alexssa and Evelyn, and the rest is history.

“Since the Bad Bunny concerts, we’ve been thinking about opening an agency,” notes Rivera. “We are going to do it because it is necessary during concerts in Puerto Rico.”

Below read Billboard Q&A with Celimar and Alexssa:

When did you get the opportunity to be a sign language interpreter at the Bad Bunny concert?

Celimar: On July 8, I posted a video with my friend Roberto who is profoundly deaf, letting Bad Bunny know that our community wanted to enjoy his concert too. The video went viral on social media and a week before the concert, Rimas contacted me to be a performer at the show. I was really excited, but couldn’t do it myself – so I called my good friends Alessa and Evelyn. It was a difficult process, with a lot of stress and sleepless nights, but very necessary.

One week notice? Wow! How did you prepare for the concert? Did you receive the set list in advance?

Celimar: No, we haven’t received it, but the good thing is that our generation likes to listen to Bad Bunny and old-school reggaetón. Alexssa and Evelyn also love music. Personally, I can’t memorize the lyrics that fast, because I’m partially deaf — so I have to put on headphones, listen to the song, and read the lyrics. However, I was already aware of Bad Bunny’s A Verano Sin Ti album because the songs are very popular right now. I have to thank Alexssa for saving the day with all the other songs that were performed on the show – those from special guests like Jowell and Randy, Tony Dize, Arcangel, Rainao.

Alexssa, I see in your videos that have gone viral on social media that you interpret more than the lyrics, you communicate the songs with your body language.

Alexssa: To correct. That’s very important, because that’s what sign language is for. The audience can feel the vibrations and know if I’m moving according to the rhythm of the song. It’s not easy, because in sign language, you have to conceptualize the words. There is a specific order — you have to consider the moment, then think about the objects, instead… there is a certain grammar. Facial expressions and body language are an integral part of it.

What do you think this initiative means for the deaf community?

Celimar: Many of us love music, and there’s a misconception that people who are deaf or hard of hearing don’t listen to music, and that’s not true. I have friends who crank the volume up because even though they can’t hear it, they like to feel it. A lot of people who attended the concert had a blast – and for me, that’s amazing, because we were able to give them a concert experience.

Alexssa: Seeing how my colleagues and I worked together was incredible teamwork and a moment to remember. I hope other events will take this initiative into consideration, as there will always be a deaf person in the crowd who will appreciate having an interpreter. I saw it with my own eyes at the Bad Bunny concert. They were brilliant and had an amazing time. The deaf community deserved it, they deserve accessibility and respect.

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