Mae-b You're Not Working Hard Enough

Molly-Mae Hague has certainly kicked up a storm. The Love Island star and newly appointed Creative Director of PrettyLittleThing (PLT) found herself bearing the brunt of yet more backlash following her tone-deaf comments on wealth inequality and the ‘grindset’ mindset.

In 2019, Hague rose to fame after appearing on the fifth series of the reality TV show, becoming a runner-up with boyfriend Tommy Fury. The calculated “business move”, as Hague herself describes it, served only to bolster her established online presence as a YouTube personality and kickstart her career as a full-time beauty influencer. Her ‘hard-work’ no doubt came to fruition, having built an expansive Internet platform with 6.3 million Instagram followers and a whopping 1.63 million subscribers on YouTube.

While her determination and commitment to building such a platform is commendable, Hague’s stance on her incredible success reeks of nothing more than white privilege and a stark ignorance of wealth inequality. Speaking to Steven Bartlett on the YouTube podcast, The Diary of a CEO, Hague shares insight into her early years and her growth in the public arena, proudly championing the ‘grindset’ mindset that fuelled her meteoric rise:

‘I just think you’re given one life and it is down to you what you do with it. You can literally go in any direction.
If you want something enough you can achieve it, and it just depends on what lengths you want to go to get to where you want to be.
When I’ve spoken in the past I’ve been slammed a little bit with people saying: ‘It’s easy for you to say that, you’ve not grown up in poverty, you’ve not grown up with major money struggles. So for you to sit there and say we all have the same 24 hours in a day is not correct.”’

There is much to unpack here, and drones of social media users certainly had a lot to say. Perhaps what is initially most evident, even admirable, about Hague’s comments is the eagerness to succeed and a stubborn drive to strive for the best, and then some. Hague asserts consistently on the podcast that she is always on the hunt for more, never content with her incredible position, stating that “[she’ll] go to any length. I’ve worked my absolute ass off to get where I am now.”

Thus, from a cursory reading, she is the incredible role model for whom the adjective ‘impossible’ has no meaning. All of this makes sense if we ignore, as she does, the privileged position from which she lectures the working population and the gross classism that surround her views. She is indeed hell-bent on clarifying that she does not come from any extraordinary position, that she is, in fact, “normal” with a “normal” family and “a normal state education.” She claims that such a state of normalcy, of stability “petrified” her to want more, to do more, to be more. Why have the rest of us not figured out this secret to success? If one does not wish to be poor, one should just simply get more money. After all, we all have the same 24 hours, so the task is simply not difficult if we just all work hard. If it was really as easy as Hague suggests, why do we struggle with poverty at all? The irony of Hague’s comments is astounding, suggesting that it is as easy as hard work being rewarded to alleviate financial struggles and bring a sense of professional accomplishment.

What Hague fails to realise when she insists that we are in control of the direction our lives take is that, for most, this is simply an ill-founded statement. If this was true, as she so naively understands, 14.5 million people in the UK would not find themselves living on or below the poverty line (pre-coronavirus statistics). This equates to 1 in 5 people, with the prospect of work offering no guarantee of social progression. According to the Child Poverty Action Group, 75% of children growing up in poverty come from a household in which at least one person works. The situation, however, looks vastly different for children from Black and ethnic minority groups, with almost half (46%), compared to 26% of children white British families, living in poverty. Hague’s privilege seems to afford her little empathy to our “different backgrounds” that ultimately impede later progress and social mobility.

For most of these families, the option of stretching to any length is indeed a far-off dream. They do not have the luxury to “go in any direction”, devoid of family responsibilities and the adversities of race, age, sexual orientation, and disability. We, especially those that live pay check to pay check, all cannot afford the risk that encompasses quitting our low-paying, unfulfilling jobs to pursue a full-time career as an influencer and reality star. My family knows first-hand what it is to live without any kind of financial or job security. Both my parents spent the first 10 years of my life struggling to feed themselves, making do with what they had, because neither could work given my constant hospitalisations. They too, like many many others, “worked [their] asses off” to earn any kind of little income to support their families. Hague’s comments simply do not consider fully the advantageous conditions that enable her to achieve financial stability and the level of wealth that she has accumulated in a relatively short time.

Molly-Mae Hague serves as a reminder of the declining era of girl-boss feminism, a notion that pioneered and commercialised that attitude of ‘the young, ambitious woman who can have it all while lifting up other women on her path to success.’ At only 22, Hague has achieved a great feat as PLT’s newest Creative Director, a true example of the go-getting girl-boss that lets nothing stand in the way. I wonder if Hague would say to the sweatshop workers of the PLT factories, earning £3.50 per hour, that they too have the same 24 hours to progress and ameliorate their condition. It seems incredibly unlikely considering these workers form, in many ways, the backbone of her recent success, responsible for the production of the clothes she actively endorses.


Watch Molly-Mae's full interview here:

The Rise and Fall of Girl-Boss Culture:

Molly-Mae and Influencer Culture:

Child Poverty Action Group:

Joseph Rowntree Foundation:

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