Molly-Mae Hague is the creative director of fashion brand PrettyLittleThing. She is a popular influencer and the owner of a successful fake-tan company. Three years ago, she came second place on the reality TV series Love Island with co-star Tommy Fury.
She is said to make roughly ten thousand pounds for every sponsored Instagram post.
Recently, she also caused controversy, and became the victim of furious backlash and trolling from the online community for a comment she made in an interview.
But what caused the controversy in the first place?
At the end of December, 2021, on the podcast Diary of a CEO, Molly-Mae made the controversial comment that we “all have the same 24 hours in a day.” She went on to vaguely elaborate that she understood that people came from different backgrounds and had different financial situations, but that according to her supposedly meritocratic life mantra, “if you want something enough you can achieve it.”
After its release, Molly-Mae suffered huge backlash from fans, many of whom claimed her comments were “tone deaf” and insensitive. The criticisms centred on Hague’s lack of acknowledgement of her privilege, and of how poverty, race, education, and other factors impact the amount of time a person is able to dedicate to their dreams.
Molly-Mae’s words made it appear as if anybody could be a millionaire, just that the rest of us weren’t working hard enough for it. Not only did she fail to acknowledge the deep-rooted factors that affect success in our society, she essentially turned these inequalities into negative character traits such as laziness, or a lack of commitment. Her utter blindness to her privilege makes her meritocracy turn sour.
Part of the reason the podcast backfired so much for Molly-Mae was due to the sense of disdain for working class life that she repeatedly expressed. She further offended people by claiming that the thought of having an ordinary life, income and job – like her parents had had – was “petrifying.”
During the podcast, Hague also said “I’ve worked my absolute arse off to get where I am,” resulting in a barrage of comments criticising how, by most people’s standards, participating in a reality TV show and then being handed several brand deals as a result, was not exactly hard work. Not to mention the glaringly obvious fact that as a conventionally beautiful, thin, white and wealthy young woman, Hague was already born several steps ahead than the majority of the population.
One fan tweeted:
“You can say we all have the same 24 hours in a day all you want, but the real question is – would #MollyMae be a creative director of a huge fashion brand had she not been on Love Island?” @lozzacurley12
Although literally true - we do all, technically, have the same 24 hours - her comment failed to hit the mark, and not long after Molly-Mae issued the below statement of apology:
“I wanted to come back online today as normal but I feel like before I do, I just wanted to say this…When I say or post anything online, it is never with malice or ill intent. I completely appreciate that things can affect different people in different ways, however I just want to stress that I would never intend to hurt or upset anyone by anything that I say or do.”
She continued: “I apologise to the people that have been affected negatively or misunderstood the meaning of what I said in the podcast, the intentions of the podcast were only to tell my story and inspire from my own experience. Love to you all, always x.”
Despite this, she continued to be mocked mercilessly on Twitter and Instagram, many of whom joked that she was now using her 24 hours to watch the internet “drag her.”
But what do you think? Was Molly-Mae’s apology enough, or do her tone-deaf comments discredit her online presence entirely?
The rise and toxicity of #girlbosses
Some of Molly-Mae’s comments may appear absurdly tone-deaf, but she is not the first to propel this meritocratic rhetoric from her privileged high chair. Unfortunately, these messages are propagated everywhere, and though motivational quotes such as “dreams don’t work unless you do,” are in themselves neutral, they often become insensitive when spoken by people who hardly seem to live in the real world.
Just one of many examples comes from earlier this March, when Kim Kardashian was compared to Molly-Mae for claiming “I have the best advice for women in business. Get your f–king ass up and work. It seems like nobody wants to work these days.”
These figures, most of whom are white, pretty and rich, champion this #girlboss propaganda that degrades the working class person as simply failing to work hard enough. Beside these millionaire influencers and “She-E-Os,” the average woman is considered a lazy failure. And all the while, intersectionality is brushed under the carpet.
Women like Molly-Mae should not be allowed to avoid challenging the system. Quite the contrary - with power and influence comes responsibility. Whilst unconsciously benefitting from the systems that otherwise hinder and disadvantage others, Molly-Mae and her cohort should be working harder to address their privilege, and do something about it.
Dream-chasers and productivity: discussing entrepreneurial privilege
Recently, I wrote an article for The Industry Leaders on making the most of one’s time, where I talked about maximising productivity. What I didn’t mention, however, was the conditions and privileges that need to be in place for someone to dedicate their time to taking risks and following their dreams.
And it’s true – everybody loves a successful rag to riches story, but often we don’t talk about the difficulties of entering the entrepreneurial space altogether, and how much privilege is already involved for somebody to be in the position to take that tentative leap forwards. For so many, systemic inequalities such as race, disability and class are not only capable of delaying a person’s journey to success. They can prevent it entirely.
We talk about the entrepreneurs who overcame challenges, championing them, but rarely of those who are incapable of overcoming their living conditions. Of how lucky so many of us already are to have the luxury of factoring dreams into our 24 hour days. For many, those 24 hours are spent simply keeping afloat, living paycheck to paycheck, and working just as hard as Molly-Mae, if not considerably more, without ever having a spare moment to consider aspirations.
In other words, how many opportunities can a single mother of three in a low-earning job, simply trying to keep her head above water and support her family, really have?
That is why Molly-Mae angered so many people. She has a right to feel proud of her hard work and achievements – so many try, and fail, to do what she has been successful in doing - but it requires sensitivity, awareness, and most of all, an ability to remain humble about the factors in life that enable someone like Molly-Mae to chase her entrepreneurial goals.
She is right in saying that working hard is an important factor to entrepreneurial success, but so many people around the world work very hard to support themselves and their families, and their efforts should not be degraded.
So, what can we do?
First and foremost, awareness is crucial, and employing a degree of sensitivity - one which Molly-Mae clearly does not possess - is a good starting point. If you are in a position to influence, because you are a leader, employer or have a large following, then you always have to remember that when you speak, you no longer do so just for yourself. Molly-Mae is doing a disservice to her many fans by attempting to turn her very unique experience into a universally achievable one. Equally, if you have people looking up to you, then it is your duty to remain humble about your privileges, working every day to improve and diversify the entrepreneurial space.
Spread useful information and resources to those in your network that could benefit from them. Be open to receiving criticism and be willing to learn about the struggles other entrepreneurs have and are going through.
If you are an up-and-coming small business that is struggling to launch, check out this resource for a list of grants you can apply for. If you are an employer, consider schemes that offer opportunities for those who might not have previously had them.
Lastly, consider making a donation. For instance, to the incredible charity, lendwithcare, that helps entrepreneurs work their way out of poverty with dignity.
Do you agree that Molly-Mae’s comment was tone-deaf? And what else do you think the entrepreneurial world should be doing to address their existence within a privileged space?
Caroline Winter is a current MA student in Creative Writing, based in London. She has experience working as an editor, translator, and writer on a series of different projects and topics.
She is excited to be collaborating alongside The Industry Leaders as a content creator, and can be found on LinkedIn.