Melissa Hawkins
A University of Plymouth graduate has launched a successful platform for women to tell their unfiltered, unedited stories. 
Inspired by her own experiences of misogyny, Melissa Hawkins, who studied English with Publishing, launched Disgraceful magazine as a way of empowering women to share their narratives, and act as a first foray into the world of writing.
The free platform, which started out life as a print publication before moving online due to the volume of content, contains everything from light-hearted film reviews to personal accounts of trauma.
With its name chosen to reflect the label often given to outspoken women, Disgraceful sees people submit article ideas, which Melissa and her team respond to, check for grammar and publish verbatim. Women of all ages, locations and career stages have submitted articles so far. 
Leaving an abusive relationship just before starting university in 2019, while also facing sexism in her part-time job, the idea was seeded after Melissa shared social media posts about her experiences and was struck by how much they resonated with so many people.
Then the idea of a magazine then came to her while in a supermarket queue, and Disgraceful has now grown into a community interest company with thousands of followers and contributors.
Melissa Hawkins holding a copy of Disgraceful magazine

I was literally in a queue for Tesco, and I thought, I'm going to make a magazine.

And I don't know how I'm going to do it, but it’ll be for any woman who has a story to tell. Then I started it, and it's completely has exploded from there.
The concept is to give women a voice on whatever topic they choose, and act as great experience for writing and publishing – an industry that can be difficult to crack, without having demonstrable experience. Women are less likely to come forward and share their stories via traditionally available outlets, so this provides a unique, unfiltered and unapologetic platform for them to do so.
We have such a different approach to journalism from the one that exists in the wider world, where everything’s about click through rates and page views. 

I don't look at the analysis – if 10 people read our stuff and really, really resonate with it, that's success for me.

We've had some amazing people on the covers, from big directors to Olympians and reality TV stars, and it's been very exciting. I've been able to go to movie premieres and walk red carpets and do crazy things that I never thought I would do.  
When I started university, having just left a difficult time in my life, I was terrified to go into my seminars and speak to people and make friends, as I felt like the least confident person in the world. But working with these women and doing what I do has completely transformed me as a person. And so being able to help other people do that too is really, really special.
Melissa Hawkins, English with Publishing graduate and founder of Disgraceful magazine 

Read Melissa's story as part of our trailblazer series.

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