Lydia Callis, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s official sign-language interpreter, has become an unlikely star of Superstorm Sandy. During Bloomberg’s televised press conferences on the storm — delivered in his standard business-like fashion — Callis translated his words with enthusiasm and passion. In fact, her presence at press conferences have provided New Yorkers with what New York magazine described as “a legitimate reason to smile.”
There haven’t been a lot of famous sign-language interpreters before this; Jack Jason became a familiar face as the signer for Academy Award–winning actress Marlee Matlin during her appearances on The Celebrity Apprentice and Dancing with the Stars. However, there may be a niche market out there for Callis. She not only was able to translate the important words of the mayor to anxious viewers across the country but also provided clear, coherent and animated explanations to millions of deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans.
Of course, in the world of social media it was only a matter of seconds before a Tumblr page had surfaced recreating Callis’ energized and purposeful facial expressions, while a newfound fan base on Twitter sang her praises.