Molly-Mae Hague Diary of a CEO interview backlash: Aja Barber on why influencers need to get better at addressing their privilege

Posted by Caroline Edwards in Comment

3 weeks ago

In the 2010s, you could often find the line “you have the same 24 hours in a day as Beyoncé” splattered across Pinterest to promote productivity and girlboss culture. It was problematic then, but years later it seems PrettyLittleThing’s creative director Molly-Mae Hague has taken the phrase to heart and unsurprisingly, it’s not been well received.

In December 2021, the influencer appeared on Steven Barlett’s Diary of a CEO podcast and a clip from the nearly two-hour interview is going viral this week.

In the video Molly-Mae says, “We all have the same 24 hours in the day, you’re given one life, and it’s down to you what you do with it. Like, you can literally go in any direction.” She admits she’s been criticised for saying this in the past, since she did not grow up in poverty or face major financial struggles but adds, “I think if you want something enough you can achieve it, it just depends to what lengths you want to go to get where you want to be in the future. And I’ll go to any length, I’ve worked my absolute arse off to get where I am now.” In the clip, she fails to fully address her own privilege in terms of class, genetics (AKA “pretty privilege”) and of course, exposure from being a runner-up on Love Island in 2019.

Writer Aja Barber, whose work focuses on sustainability and inclusivity, listened to the entire episode and wasn’t surprised by the influencer’s comments. She told CORQ over Zoom, “She is the creative director for a company that’s known to pay its garment workers £3.50 an hour, so it’s not really a massive surprise that she doesn’t understand how privilege and social mobility work.” This is one of the main criticisms surrounding Molly-Mae’s statement – she has a rumoured seven-figure deal with PrettyLittleThing who pay its garment workers reportedly less than minimum wage while working 12-hour shifts.

“I think the idea that individualism is something where you can accomplish anything, where you can climb out of poverty, even with the stakes being so high for some people and so low for others, that’s the problem,” Aja says.

People have been quick to point out Molly-Mae’s comments come from a capitalist perspective. As writer Chanté Joseph said in an Instagram Reel, “You cannot positively think your way out of poverty. These things are systematic. Poverty is a construction, it’s not something that is a character flaw because under capitalist system you’re gonna have people who are winners and people who are losers.” People can work hard but it doesn’t mean they have social mobility – its also a person’s access to resources and sometimes down to luck.

So how can influencers like Molly-Mae address their privilege? Aja says, “I think acknowledging it constantly and not in a pedantic trite way because when something like June 2020 happens, all of a sudden people start preferencing every post with, ‘Oh, I’m able-bodied and white and this and that.’ And that’s good, but it can kind of sound like a broken record. Instead, acknowledging honestly how you got the opportunities you got, that’s a good way to do it.”

Molly-Mae has a massive platform of 6.3 million Instagram followers and a major influence on one of the biggest fast-fashion brands in the country, and this is her chance to make a positive impact. How? Improving the wages of garment workers, addressing her privilege, access to opportunities and acknowledging the harmful environmental effects of the fast fashion industry. As Aja put it, “She’s got to get realistic about this stuff and it sounds like she has a lot of learning to do and she’s doing that in front of a big audience. I don’t really envy her positioning there, to be honest. But it’s time to get smarter about these things.”

By Caroline Edwards, staff writer at CORQ. Picture credit: Molly-Mae Hague via Instagram