Let me start my first blog of 2022, by wishing you all a Happy New Year – may all that you work so hard for come true.
Now, let me also say that I’m not into influencers. There are some who are obviously experts in their fields (check out @sashinspires on Instagram to learn everything you need to know about make-up). I’m also willing to acknowledge they’re some great content creators that can make you laugh, feel empowered and just feel good about life: even in these challenging times (again shout out to Sam Thompson and Adrian Bliss for the giggles). However, there are influencers who are just meh, but still seem to appeal to the masses. And, there are others who, well, chat s***. This week, the latter falls on the shoulders of Molly Mae Hague.
For those of you who don’t know, Hague is an English influencer who was a runner-up in the fifth series of Love Island. Prior to her appearance on the TV show, it should be acknowledged that Hague had a strong following on Instagram, but her time in the famous villa certainly helped to elevate her to even more success. This includes being named as the Creative Director for fashion brand Pretty Little Thing.
Such news was warmly received and it seemed that Hague could do no wrong. However, like many influencers before her, once exposed to a wider audience outside of their adoring young fans, they tend to say and do ‘dumb’ things. For Hague, her appearance on The Diary of a CEO podcast, during which she claimed that her level of fame and fortune came from true grit alone, has got a lot of people’s backs up. So much so that UK Twitter dragged her for three days and numerous articles were written piling on criticism – including this one.
During the interview, Hague admitted that she would receive backlash for claiming such a thing, as it wasn’t the first time she had been “slammed a little bit”. Nevertheless, Hague proceeded to explain that “we all have the same 24 hours in a day… if you want something enough you can achieve it, it just depends to what lengths you want to go to get to where you want to be in the future.” She then adds: “I will go to any length. I have worked my absolute arse off to get where I am now.”
Where do we start??? I have no doubt that Hague’s enthusiasm to be successful has certainly set her on a pathway to achieve her desired outcomes. However, to say that ‘hard work’ alone allows you to hustle your way out of poverty is at the very least short-sighted, at the most dangerous. It gives the impression that those of us who don’t achieve Hague’s success didn’t “work hard enough” or implies that we’re lazy, which for many simply isn’t true.
I’m as ambitious as the next person; I’ve written a book for goodness’ sake. However, there have been more times than I care to remember where my race and gender have caused gate keepers to firmly shut doors that would have helped to advance my ambitions. Unlike Hague, who by British and Western-European standards fits the conventional beauty type – blonde, White and middle-class – those who do not most certainly have a much more difficult time climbing to the top.
Yes, we all have 24 hours in a day. But how many of those are being spent figuring out how to navigate a system that pre-judges you on your race, gender, age and disability before you’ve had the chance to prove yourself? For Hague, all she had to do is walk a pathway that was already welcoming to her. For Black or minority-ethnic influencers, their passages to equal success are less straightforward.
For a start, a study by communications company MSL, undertaken in December 2021, found the pay gap between influencers who are White and those who are Black or a person of colour to range between 29% to 35%. Further results from the study showed that 49% of Black influencers felt their race played a part in being low-balled, while 59% also reported that posting about race negatively impacted them financially. Such stats are the nuances that Hague and others who think like her will never have to worry about.
Hague’s statements should rightfully question how much creditability is awarded to someone who has such limited life experiences. Or, to someone who already understands that their thought process can be disproved but still chooses to believe they’re right. Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinions, but when it comes to achieving social mobility or commenting on why some people are more successful than others, then the very least you can do is accept your privilege. To deny it is ineffective as everyone else can see it. And deservedly call you out on it. This does not mean that a person has not worked hard or not faced challenges, it just means you’re accepting that your starting place in life has been more advantageous than others. By not saying so, the public has every right to then further question if your failure to speak out means you fully understand that you have benefitted from an unequal system and that you’re comfortable with this.
I hope once the dust settles, we’ll start to look at influencers in a way that further examines their true beliefs and questions them about it. Instead of putting them on a platinum pedestal. Maybe then, society can worry about how to ensure 24 hours in a day are spent offering equal opportunities and access to all, and not raging at one influencer’s thoughtless comments.