Behind The Scenes with Wawa before Super Bowl LV

[Transcript available at the end of this page]

Phenomenal ASL Performer Wawa sits down with Howard and shares his experience performing at Super Bowl LV this year. #BehindTheScenes


Video begins with Wawa (left) and Howard (right) walking outside next to several trailers, they stop in front of Wawa’s trailer. There’s a sign with text, “Wawa Snipe” above “Eric Church”.

Video cuts to Wawa (left) and Howard (right) sitting next to each other, facing the camera. Both are wearing a face mask with NAD logo on it. They take the NAD mask off to reveal a black KN95 mask underneath indicating they had worn two masks.

Wawa: I was wearing two masks?!

Howard: Yes, two! 

Video cuts to Wawa signing, both are seated the same with no masks on. 

Wawa: I took the COVID-19 test, but I didn’t just take one or two — I took three tests!

Howard: Yes, three!

Wawa: There’s an interesting machine that takes your temperature to make sure you don’t have a fever. It scans your arm and lets you know whether or not you’re okay. And if you have a fever, you’re out of here. They also gave me something to attach to my clothes. I also had to go through security detectors throughout the facilities.  

Wawa: They’re very strict this year.

Howard: Right, and you have to exit with the thing that’s attached to you. We use a different attachment to enter. 

Wawa: But hey, I get it. No complaints.

Howard: And every person here has to wear the KN95 mask at all times when we’re outside the trailer. We don’t need to wear it inside but we are required to leave it on once we leave the trailer.

Wawa: If you have both masks on, you can stay six feet away from other people. If you only have one mask on, you have to stay eight feet away from other people. That’s the policy here.

Howard: We’ve gone through each and every requirement the NFL gave us, to be here. It’s an interesting experience this year. 

Wawa: Definitely — but it’s safe here. People here are really looking after each other. Everyone’s checking in on people and making sure we’re okay. It’s nice that the NFL has implemented strict policies to keep everyone safe.

Howard: That’s right, and most importantly — you stay safe and healthy so you can do an amazing performance! 

Wawa: I’m ready. I’m excited. Just… wow!

Video transitions to the next clip with teal bar effect. Howard (left) and Wawa (right) are seated outside the trailer, next to each other, facing the camera.

Howard: The National Anthem is always the same but you’ve mentioned there could be slight modifications, tell us about what kinds of changes there are this year for both the America, The Beautiful and the National Anthem? Why is it different this year and how did you prepare for it? 

Wawa: Well, first, for America, The Beautiful

Howard: Who is singing that?

Wawa: H.E.R. Yeah, she’s singing that and she does it beautifully. It’s not your typical kind of song. She sings some of the lyrics before doing a guitar ballad and then wraps it up with a few more lyrics. She extends the duration of the song. To me, it’s like the opera. But yeah, it’s beautiful and strong.

Howard: Tell us more about how you translated her version.

Wawa: Well, like I said — H.E.R.’s version reminds me of the opera so it’s very slow, I envision what she is singing. This process is really fun because I get to play with it during the guitar ballad. I did something different, and I think everyone will enjoy it! It’s fun! I went through a lot of modifications – for both songs, really. I’ve modified my translations at least 50 times!

Howard: Wow!

Wawa: Yeah, I like that. It was a good challenge. That’s part of the artistic way of making sure I convey the best of the best that I can give.

Howard: You said you modified it 50 times. How? And did they give you an audio clip to practice with?

Wawa: Actually, I read the lyrics and made some translations from there. I decided to stretch it out. I didn’t limit myself to using only ASL but decided to add in some International Sign Language and other gestures. I wanted to give universal access too. I think it’s fun! 

Video transitions to the next clip with teal bar effect.

Wawa: So, the National Anthem is very different this year. I’m not sure but I think that this is the first time it will be done as a duet. Eric Church, who is right next to us right now, and Jazmine Sullivan. Jazmine is an R&B singer and Eric is a Country singer. So, R&B and Country in one song as a duet!? I would have never thought of that! But, when I first heard the song, it was incredible! It’s not your typical National Anthem! For example, most of the time while performing the National Anthem, it starts off strong like “O’ say can you see” with a flourish. This duet does it differently. It starts with a Country genre, like telling a story and it’s much slower. They really played with it and I enjoyed that a lot! I hope everyone enjoys it just as much as I did too!

Howard: So you have to figure out between the duet, who sings what? And with Country and R&B, does that affect your rhythm?

Wawa: Yes, my rhythm does change. Instead of showing changes with who is singing what with my posture, I become both of the singers. So you will see hints of character movements with the storytelling. It’s very different, everyone is in for a treat with something new! Seeing how two different genres blend together, that alone creates room to play with and if that works – anything can work!

Howard: And with ASL – you can blend it all together! 

Wawa: Yes! I love it! I’m so excited.

Howard: One last question, you say you can hear the music. Is it clear enough to listen to? How do you listen to practice?

Wawa: Oh, I must have the lyrics in front of me when I practice.

Howard: To read along?

Wawa: Yes, to read along. That’ll help me work on translating the lyrics first before listening to the music. Then, when I listen to the music, I can hop back and forth between the lyrics and the music.

Howard: Do you use headphones?

Wawa: Yes, I use big headphones!

Howard: And the volume turned all the way up?

Wawa: Yes, that’s a must! There’s no way I can do that on a low volume! But, for America the Beautiful – during H.E.R’s guitar ballad, I thought she was singing – but she wasn’t! I couldn’t catch on what was being sung at the end of the song. So, I actually asked my daughter to help! She let me know it was just still the ballad and then oh – lyrics! After that, it was much easier.

Howard: Once you know.

Wawa: Yes.

Howard: We have to give credit to your daughter too!

Wawa: Oh definitely! She’s thirteen!

Howard: Are you ready for the Super Bowl!? 

Wawa: Oh YES! 

Howard: I’m looking forward to watching you and I know you will do us proud!

Wawa: Oh, it’s a dream come true. I have to give my all!

Video ends with Howard giving a thumbs up before both face the camera, smiling.

Video cuts to a gray background. Many small red and blue balls appear and swirl towards the center of the video before revealing the NAD logo in red, blue, and white with a water ripple effect. The copyright text appears in white underneath, “National Association of the Deaf, Copyright 2021, All Rights Reserved.”]