We’re barely a week into 2022 and three influencers – Elle Darby and partner Connor Swift, and illustrator Polly Vadasz – have been called out for racist and homophobic tweets they wrote nearly a decade ago. In the fallout, Elle has lost almost 100,000 Instagram followers and influencers like Jamie Windust have released statements to separate themselves from Polly. But will the backlash last?
Elle and Connor’s tweets were posted in a Tattle Life thread on 30 and 31 December and on 2 January, a separate thread sharing Polly’s old tweets was created and an anonymous Twitter page named Polly Vadasz Exposed was set up the following day to share screenshots of said tweets. It’s bio states, it’s “exposing racist/homophobic/classist/ableist Polly Vadasz.” Yikes.
The trio’s combined followers have been quick to hold them accountable. In a Twitter thread, Polly Vadasz Exposed told CORQ, “I have just posted them here because I know a lot of people won’t go on gossip sites. However given Polly’s offensive posts were on Twitter it felt appropriate to use the same platform.” Following the backlash, Polly has set her Twitter and Instagram to private and Elle and Connor have deleted their Twitter accounts.
Gossip sites like Tattle Life are well documented for its toxic threads of users dissecting the lives of influencers. In the thread exposing Elle and Connor’s tweets, users encouraged each other to email media publications such as the Daily Mail (they have since covered the story) as one way to hold the couple accountable.
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Elle, Connor and Polly have all apologised following their scandals, but fans remain sceptical. Polly released a long apology on her Stories before making her Instagram account private. As the Polly Vadasz Exposed account noted, “Until Polly puts her apology on her business accounts I for one don’t believe she’s sorry. Polly is hiding behind a private account and clearly hoping her customers don’t see it. This is just damage control to her, it’s not genuine.” Meanwhile, Elle posted a Story and released a three-minute apology video – which fans say is insincere – and Connor released an official statement on Instagram but was criticised for not appearing alongside Elle in her video.
As an illustrator and small business owner, Polly said in her now concealed apology, she plans to dedicate a percentage of profits to charities such as Stop Hate UK and Stonewall, but this has not been mentioned on her business account, Sighh Studio. Is it enough? It seems unlikely, as Polly’s followers don’t want to be part of her success anymore. One Twitter user, Ellie Kempster, said she’s putting “all my sighh stationary in the bin” and another asked for similar brand recommendations after being “disgusted” by Polly’s tweets. Will this harm her career? In reality, probably not.
For now, people are actively distancing themselves from these influencers, but we’ve seen a similar pattern emerge with previous influencer scandals; old posts are discovered, outrage ensues, the influencer involved apologises, takes a break from posting, then a few months later, returns to social media. Molly-Mae Hague’s racist and homophobic tweets from 2016 were discovered in 2019, but she’s since been named creative director at PrettyLittleThing. Blogger Hannah Gale used racial slurs in a 2013 blog post and refused to delete it, later issuing an apology which was criticised by fellow influencers for being dismissive. She has swiftly returned to Instagram after a hiatus, with brand deals in tow. The list goes on.
Time heals most wounds, and that seems to include influencer controversies. Given the track record of how swiftly influencers are able to recover from their past actions, it likely Elle, Connor and Polly will return to social media over the coming year, and as we’ve seen before, go onto achieve greater success. So what now? Ultimately we can only hope they are truly apologetic and will actively give back to the communities they hurt and strive to learn from this.
By Caroline Edwards, staff writer at CORQ. Picture credit: Elle Darby via YouTube