Words by Roxanna Wright, staff writer
Over the last decade, not only has social media ‘influencing’ become a career, but it has also become a massive part of our cultural climate. There are, of course, a variety of opinions towards influencers, but amongst youth especially, there are elements of admiration and superiority. The glamorization and social pedestal influencers have gained over the past few years has been thought to be revolutionary in terms of marketing and branding, but it can be argued that it can lead to ignorance and negligence of the struggles of hierarchies present in the real world.
One example of influencers ignorance was a recent feature in the podcast ‘The Diary of a CEO’ hosted by Steven Bartlett. Social media influencer, ex Love Island finalist and now creative director at Pretty Little Thing, Molly-Mae Hague, sparked a lot of controversy online from the public. On the podcast, she stated that everyone has the “same 24 hours in a day” and “if you want something enough, you can achieve it.”
This isn’t arguing that 22-year-old Molly-Mae didn’t work for her current position. But for those who want to go down a similar path, they may have to work a whole lot harder and for a whole lot longer to even stand a chance.
An influential factor to take into consideration is financial positions. According to ThinkTank reports, since Covid, the wealth gap in the UK has increased alongside housing prices increasing by 8%. Molly Mae dwelled upon this in the podcast, talking about how it is becoming harder and harder to get onto the property ladder for those who are young or have lower incomes than herself. The increase in the wealth gap, statistically proven by ThinkTank and other economic analysts in the UK, demonstrate how during the pandemic, those in the higher earning brackets earned more, whereas they statistically state that those who are in the lower third financially, earned even less due to redundancies, working less hours or working for themselves.
Molly-Mae was born and raised by a middle-class family in the county of Hertfordshire, which is considered in the top 10 wealthiest counties in the UK. By being born into a family without financial difficulties, with both parents being police officers, responsibilities and restrictions are lesser than if she was born into poverty. For example, many children or young adults that were born into lower earning families may have responsibilities such as being relied on by family members to bring in income or having to look after siblings if parents had to work two jobs or work overtime to gain more money. Furthermore, by living in a nice area, there is no lack of opportunities as she attended a well-funded, good school and by living in a nice area, there are plenty of valuable contacts in business just through the social hierarchy of the UK. She did briefly touch upon this during the podcast saying that she has never lived in poverty, but a brief mention does not cover the extent of the differences between growing up in wealth and in poverty.
Many comments on the podcast with Molly-Mae mention the irony of her thoughts when she is the Creative Director of a brand which promotes fast fashion and exploitation of workers. It has been rated ‘Very Poor’ by website GoodonYou on its labour conditions. Pretty Little Thing provides no evidence it ensures payment of living wage. Also, it discloses zero to minimal information about its supplier policies or audits, and there is no information on forced labour, freedom of association and gender equality. One Tweet about the podcast says, “Molly Mae is right, it IS possible to get rich through hard work. If you work hard to sh*t on everyone around you, exploit them, underpay them, steal the value of their labour, and rip them off, you’ll make millions just like her.”
Furthermore, another extremely influential aspect to Molly-Mae’s success is due to the politics of attractiveness. When she was a teenager, Hague was crowned Miss Teen Hertfordshire in 2015 and World Teen Supermodel UK in 2016. Then from there, Molly-Mae was scouted by ITV2’s Love Island casting team, which she appeared on the show renowned for its lack of physical diversity in 2019. All three of these achievements are mainly down to appearance, and although you can shape your body in the gym, genetics have the most influence on how “attractive” you are perceived to be by Western audiences.
On the podcast, Molly-Mae stated that when contestants leave Love Island, they are on a “level playing field”. This isn’t an accurate statement either. There have been many complaints through Ofcom and the general public online due to racism on the show. In the 2021 series of Love Island, the first four women dumped from the villa were women of colour. Furthermore, year after year audiences see black women not getting picked by men on the first day and struggling to find men whose type isn’t white. This just shows the horrific reality of white privilege and the racism present in the UK.
Other examples of how Love Island reflects the discrimination woven into British society is its lack of diversity of religion, disability, and different body sizes. No wonder Molly-Mae’s podcast comments created such a reaction when she fits perfectly into what Love Island and what Britain’s dominant society idealise.
The reactions as mentioned include comments on the video of the podcast, Tweets, TikToks, memes on Instagram and newspaper articles. One comment on the podcast’s YouTube video states, “She’s got very carried away and has such an air of self-importance and entitlement.” Another says, “It’s very tone deaf to dismiss those who are living incredibly deprived lives and/or face significant obstacles with the ‘everyone has the same 24 hours’ attitude.”
Yes, her intentions may not have been to be harmful or insensitive; perhaps she was simply trying to inspire and encourage people to try and make the best of their time, work hard and dream big. However, her white, pretty, wealthy privilege demonstrates the naivety of influencers to real life struggles and over-glamorizing the work they had to put into to get where they are.