By Tristan Kong
When new bride, Nicole Cortez uploaded the video of her father using American Sign Language to sign the Heartland song ‘I Loved Her First’ in 2012 during her wedding, she could not have guessed more than 20 million people around the world would watch it.
As an ASL interpreter, Nicole was amazed when her father, John, learned how to sign this song. It took him the entire year, and it brought Nicole to tears during the father-daughter song at her wedding.
You can watch her video here:
Becoming an interpreter was not an easy journey initially, with Nicole nervous she would never find what she was truly meant to do.
That is until her mother suggested she take a sign language class. Her first day, she fell in love with the language, the culture and the people.
“Then I found out that I could make this a career,” said Nicole.
She went all the way into the interpreter-training program and started working right away after graduation.
As a result of Nicole's enthusiasm for the language, her father, John, became inspired to take a couple classes himself, which turned into three semesters.
She even brought him to a couple of deaf events.
“I realized that when you think about language, you only think of talking, but deaf people have their own language. And it surprised me that you can communicate as long as you are in eyeshot of each other,” explained John.
John suggests anyone needing to take foreign language in school, or wanting to learn another language need look no further.
“Sign language is a very good language to learn,” he said.
When Nicole became engaged to her fiance James Figg, John decided to sign the song for her wedding. It took intense months of practice three or four times a week and help from Nicole’s best friend and interpreter, Rebecca.
In addition, he had to keep the entire endeavour a complete secret from everyone – including Nicole’s mother.
Always under the impression her father was going to make a speech, Nicole was moved beyond tears on the big day when she saw her father begin to sign.
“I never would have thought he would do that, and it took me by complete surprise. He took something that was important to me and made a flawless performance out of it. He made my wedding that much more memorable and special,” said Nicole.
When her video was uploaded on YouTube, it quickly gained popularity, beyond just her family and friends helping to share it.
Nicole could not believe her eyes when it hit 20 million views.
“I screamed, and called my dad to tell him the news. I was so excited!” said Nicole.
Nicole and her husband have since received recognition and interest from both the media including a radio station and locally at the school she works at.
“My students came up to me and asked, 'Ms. Nicole, do you have a YouTube video of your wedding?'”
Celebrating four happy years of marriage this May, Nicole and her husband James have spent some of their free time together travelling and enjoying their family and friends.
With a dream of one day signing at the Super Bowl, Nicole also has another wish, mentioning they will “hopefully be adding to the Figg family.”
Today, Nicole is still touched by all the comments she receives, and wants to thank all the fans who shared their video, along with a special message:
“For those girls that left comments about how they do not have a father to walk them down the aisle, you are in my prayers and wish nothing but the best for you.”
Follow her on Instagram at Nicolef45
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