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Interview of Hannah Diviny by Freya Bennett

Hi Hannah, how are you?

Hi lovely readers of Ramona Mag! I’m good, very busy at the moment – juggling a lot of balls but that’s exactly the way I like it (:

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

Well, I’m a writer, disability advocate, soon-to-be actress (!!!) and the Editor in Chief of Missing Perspectives, a media company dedicated to platforming the lived experience of young women and girls around the world. Beyond the many hats I wear career wise, I’m a massive reader, movie lover and music junkie. My love for Taylor Swift in particular is deep and well-documented hahaha.

What’s your favourite thing about being a writer?

Ooh, this is such a great question! Hmmm… I think the greatest thing is probably the fact that there’s so much freedom and the possibilities are endless plus how good it feels when the words are flowing well or when I’ve managed to capture a situation exactly as I wanted to. I also love seeing how other people react and connect to my writing, it’s so cool!

What do you find the hardest thing about being a writer?

The fact that there’s so much freedom and the possibilities are endless. When writing works, it works. But when it doesn’t oh my god, you want to bang your head against a wall, deeply resisting the urge to throw your laptop out the window. It can also be quite nerve-wracking to not necessarily know where your next byline is coming from, not to mention the vicious imposter syndrome and self-doubt I still struggle with.

Recently you made the world aware of an ableist slur that was being used in Lizzo’s new song ‘Grrrls’, how did it feel to have the world finally listen when disabled people speak up?

Honestly, it felt like a long time coming! Disabled people have been speaking out about the harm caused by ableist language and rhetoric, not to mention much larger, more pervasive structural inequalities for decades now.  Social media has given our community so much more space to be heard and intersectional ourselves because somewhat shockingly to society at large, there’s more than one disabled perspective we should be listening to because they exist alongside every other perspective you could imagine

After hearing about the controversy around the word she used in her song, Lizzo re-recorded the lyric, how did that feel?

I’ve said this so many times but the grace with which Lizzo handled that situation is to me, a masterclass in true allyship. She moved past all the usual stuff that celebrity apology gets mired in; denial/anger/frustration and straight into action, acceptance and gratitude for learning. So, it was honestly a euphoric moment, to know that we can be heard.

Moving forward, how can we as ally’s lessen the burden on disabled people when it comes to advocating for change?

I think it’s always important to remember that although conversations steeped in advocacy should always centre disabled voices, allies can always start them. You don’t even necessarily have to bring these things to our attention or make sure we’re engaging with the harmful content. In fact, it’s probably better if you don’t. Feel free to send us the outcome of your efforts though! Someone sent me a DM on Instagram recently, saying they’d been to see Hairspray the Musical and noticed that they’d used that same ableist slur as Lizzo. This didn’t sit right with them so they emailed the production and asked them to change it, even within the context of it being socially acceptable to use in the 1960’s. And they did!  Just use your allyship to gently point out when something isn’t right because the weight shouldn’t always be on our shoulders. It’s like those signs at the airport; if you see something, say something.

Astonishingly, just after Lizzo changed the lyric, Beyonce used the same word on her latest album. Was that a surprise to you?

Yeah, a huge surprise and a very demoralising one. I couldn’t work out how we’d found ourselves in this situation again so soon, especially after the splash the community made with Lizzo. Weren’t there people in Beyonce’s team whose very job it was to keep an eye on the pulse of the music industry? How had they missed this?

Did you feel exhausted having to fight for recognition again?

Absolutely, especially because I knew holding Beyonce accountable would come with criticism and hate that was levels above what I’d experienced with Lizzo and that had been pretty awful in the first place

Beyonce also decided to change the lyrics in her song, did you expect the same response as Lizzo?

Actually, no! Beyonce is just one of those artists who cultivates such an Enigmatic and unapproachable image, in the sense that she only ever does public-facing stuff entirely on her terms. I just didn’t think she would respond so that was quite surreal.

What would be your message to artists moving forward?

Find creative ways to express yourself and to capture the emotional colour of a situation without invoking language that causes harm or has connections to disabilities and medical conditions/terms. And if you’re not sure, ask your disabled fans because I promise you do have them.

You deserve a holiday after all this, have you got any self-care planned?

I’m really lucky to be surrounded by a wonderful group of people who care a lot about my wellbeing. Getting to be in their lives is so enriching for me and leaves my heart feeling very full and will always be self-care for me. I’ve also become a huge fan of the mute and block buttons as well plus I always try to fill my life with as much stuff that brings me joy/feeds my creative brain as I can. But you’re right, a holiday sounds lovely (:

Freya Bennett

Freya Bennett is the Co-Founder and Director of Ramona Magazine. She is a writer and editor from Dja Dja Wurrung Country who loves grey days, libraries and dandelion tea. You can follow her on Instagram @freya___bennett

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