In our MECCA M-Powered interview series, fearless people from around the globe share their incredible stories – from overcoming adversity to following their passions and inspiring a future generation of changemakers.
At just 23, writer Hannah Diviney – who was born with cerebral palsy – is one of the most exciting and impressive new voices in media. As a disability advocate, she successfully campaigned for both Lizzo and Beyoncé to change ableist lyrics in their hit songs, as well as led a Change.org petition encouraging Disney to create a Disney Princess with a disability, scoring 62,000 signatures and praise from the company itself: “We love Hannah’s passion and hear her important voice on why inclusive and representative storytelling matters.”
Next, she is set to make her acting debut in December 2022, as the lead in SBS’s Latecomers – and if that wasn’t enough, she’s also the editor-in-chief of global grassroots youth newsroom Missing Perspectives, which is dedicated to platforming the lived experience of girls and young women around the world.
Here, she tells us about why representation matters, speaking truth to power and changing the future.
Growing up, you didn’t necessarily see yourself represented in mainstream pop culture. Who were the aspirational figures who inspired you?
The way we speak to and about girls, as a society, has shifted – and hopefully for the better. Do you remember what you dreamed of doing or being when you were a little girl?
You’ve made your mark – and international headlines – recently with your campaigns to remove ableist lyrics from the songs of stars like Beyoncé and Lizzo, as well as your disney petition. have you always been so unafraid to use your voice? and if not, what helped you find it?
When you’ve used your voice, you’ve also been trolled and attacked online. How do you deal with this and continue to be such a strong advocate?
You’re the editor-in-chief of missing perspectives. Why are organisations like missing perspectives so important for our future?
Tell us a bit about your role, and what you look for in the stories you cover…
HD: “I am the editor-in-chief and creative officer here at Missing Perspectives. Because we’re such a tiny team (there’s only really two of us!) no day looks the same but always starts with text threads and FaceTime calls between Phoebe [Saintilan, co-founder and CEO] and I. We go over our to-do lists for the day, which could be absolutely anything: answering emails, writing applications for grants, Zoom meetings with potential investors or project partners, scouring social media for young women or stories that we find interesting, keeping up to date with world news (which can be expansive and exhausting), writing newsletters, doing behind-the scenes business stuff or even recording interviews for our podcast.
“We just look for young women and girls who have interesting things to say, telling stories or breaking things open that traditional media won’t touch; or, if there’s a world event – like the war in Ukraine, for example – we’ll specifically go and find a young woman whose lived experience humanises that news for our readers, followers and listeners.”
Many young women deal with imposter syndrome – let alone women who also occupy other marginalised spaces. Have you ever struggled with this, and how do you combat it?
You’re only 23 and you’ve already achieved so much, including being nominated for young australian of the year and now writing a book. where does your drive come from?
HD: “I think it comes from the very early realisation I had as a kid, driven in part by my parents reconfirming it, that nothing would ever be handed to me – society would never just hand something to me or assume I was capable, because that would mean fundamentally changing the way we view people with disabilities. It was never going to happen – especially not while I was growing up. Now, representation has improved so much; we’re seeing people with disabilities in more and more public spaces, in regular public roles.
“But yeah, I think the idea that I have to work twice as hard for half as much is very much ingrained into me, even insofar as understanding that, for me to live the life I need and want, things are going to exponentially cost more because I need equipment and help.”
Let’s talk about burnout, because as much as grit and drive is so important, so too is self-care. How do you manage all of these projects and passions without spreading yourself too thin?
We’re celebrating International Day Of The Girl, and you’ve written about the way that girls are so often dismissed in society, saying, “there is an immediate devaluation of art or content made by young women, for young women, as soon as it becomes publicly available. Young women, whether they be creators or fans, are instantly dismissed as valid and legitimate culturemakers.'' Can you explain a little about this?
HD: “Wow, you guys have done your research! The context for that was this idea that when women create things, they’re immediately held to this unconsciously higher standard by audiences – whether that’s music, films, books or even advocacy and allyship statements. Women have to be constantly new to us as audiences, always put in more effort; they can never rest on their laurels or make the same thing twice.
“The second half of it is that something is immediately less important, less valuable or should be taken less seriously if its audience and fans are young girls. That’s been happening for decades. It’s also apparent in the things we’re taught to pick women apart for and let slide with men. For example, if a woman looked as rumpled and messy as former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson did every day, she’d be crucified. There’s no way anyone would take her seriously – and that’s exhausting.”