Written by Hannah Diviney, author, activist and client of CPA.
It’s a chilly July day when my mum, sister and I drive into an industrial warehouse in Alexandria. Butterflies are swarming around my stomach, their wings beating hard against my ribcage. They beat a similar rhythm when I sat down for an interview around my kitchen table, a few weeks earlier. Watching as the words out of my mouth transformed into journalist shorthand and wondering how the writer sitting across from me would take what her Dictaphone recorded and use it to capture who I am as a person. It’s a magic, a fine art, one I am unsurprisingly fascinated by as a lover of words.
But back to the photoshoot for a second. There are people everywhere, setting up makeup brushes, pulling backdrops into place, rifling through racks of clothes. This is the chaos of a photo shoot, something I’ve weirdly gotten used to over the last year but this shoot feels different. This isn’t getting photographed in character or alongside a bunch of other beautiful people who manage to both have me smiling and feeling a little insecure at the same time. This is just me. A big bold announcement to the world that “I want you to look at me and know my name because I’m here to stay.”
Despite that announcement, I am actually a deeply introverted person who, contrary to what you might think after the last few months, doesn’t really enjoy being the centre of attention all that much. It’s probably why my hands are shaking so much and my heart is racing. Being profiled in the Australian Women’s Weekly, one of our country’s most iconic magazines is a big deal. Especially when people with disabilities are rarely, if ever, given that kind of visibility.
When I got the call from the Weekly a few months ago, in the middle of watching Bridgerton (that infamous bee sting scene) with my mum, asking if I’d be interested in being profiled in their September issue, I almost dropped my phone in excitement. See, I was the kid who grew up poring over the glossy pages of magazines. I’d spend school holidays designing my own and practicing what my Letters From The Editor might one day say. Always hungrily absorbing how journalists wrote profiles on interesting people because I knew I wanted to do that too. I never thought for a second there’d be a world where I was not the journalist behind the scenes but instead, the subject; the one in front of the camera.
But here I was. The little kid who looked in the mirror until her eyes watered, scared to blink in case she disappeared. Invisible. The teenager who never looked in the mirror, avoiding it at all costs so she wouldn’t have to confront the person she hated so much. Shattered. And yet, somehow both of those Hannah’s and all the versions I’ve been in between have become a young women dressed in designer gowns, living out this whimsical Disney Princess meets Taylor Swift meets Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries vision, trying to work out exactly how I got here and where I want to go next.
All I can say is if you’re coming along, get ready. The next stops are a book, the growth of a media company and a TV show and that’s just the ones I know about. It’s going to be a wild ride. I’d suggest strapping in.