Is Molly Mae Hague really the new Margaret Thatcher?
I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve been craving the cold horror of Thatcherism. You know, Britain’s first real girlboss. It’s high time we brought back individualism and made it acceptable to tell people that if they’re poor, it’s probably their fault. Thatcher girlbossed her way out of dad's grocery store, and spent years making sure British people couldn’t afford to shop in one.
She taught us the merits of hard work, the need to take responsibility for our own lives, the benefits of being totally selfish in achieving our income and the value in a string of pearls and a great handbag. And if you’d forgotten just how great all that was - refresh yourself by meeting the Iron Lady of Instagram.
I’m talking about Molly Mae Hague, and the interview that’s currently breaking the internet. The interview that’s got me thinking: wait, is Toryism…trendy?
For those of you unfamiliar with the former Love Island contestant, Molly Mae Hague has an astonishing six million Instagram followers and 1.5 million YouTube subscribers. Her personal brand was built alongside fast fashion outlet Pretty Little Thing (PLT), famous for its cheap clothing and even cheaper labour costs. Hague became the brand’s Creative Director last September, and has since given a now infamous interview explaining we could all have her lifestyle, if we bothered to get off our backsides.
“I do not know anyone who has got to the top without hard work. That is the recipe. It will not always get you to the top, but should get you pretty near” she said. WAIT - sorry that was Maggie Thatcher in 1986. Hague, speaking on the YouTube series, The Diary of a CEO, said: “You’re given one life, and it’s down to you what you do with it”. People can "literally go in any direction" with their lives if they “want it enough” and put in the work, she added. Can anyone hear, Tory?
“I’ve worked my absolute arse off,” said Hague “We all have the same 24 hours in a day”.
live laugh stop being poor pic.twitter.com/dn8ElvJ1Rf
— PoliticsJOE (@PoliticsJOE_UK) January 6, 2022
There’s a couple - annoying - items at play here. Firstly, the idea that financial success is solely reliant on how “hard” a person works, and secondly the idea that poverty is self-determined - so reminiscent of Thatcher!
This is also an opportune moment to remind ourselves exactly who the influencer is working for. Pretty Little Thing’s parent company, Boohoo, was in 2020 facing a “slavery investigation”, after the Sunday Times reported it was paying garment makers in Leicester as little as £3.50 an hour. At the time, the factory foreman said: “These motherf***ers know how to exploit people like us. They make profits like hell and pay us in peanuts”.
In the wake of the ST investigation, Boohoo said it would work with local officials to improve standards in its suppliers. The brand added that it was "absolutely committed" to ensuring that "that the actions of a few do not continue to undermine the excellent work of many of our suppliers in the area, who work tirelessly to provide good jobs and good working conditions.”
In 2021, Molly Mae Hague signed a seven-figure deal with PLT. On TikTok, she announced she had celebrated the career move with a £37,000 bracelet, following it up with a post on Instagram, with the caption: "A well done to myself."
The appointment attracted a wave of criticism on social media which revolved around the Sunday Times investigation into workers' pay and concerns over the "fast fashion" industry. While she didn’t directly reference the disapproval levelled at her regarding workers pay at suppliers of the firm, she did post on her Instagram that she had been “enlightened” to things she now aimed to address.
Prior to signing the lucrative deal, Hague was signed to PLT as a “brand ambassador”. Two years ago, she paid an informal visit to the warehouse of PLT for a video posted to her YouTube account. She met the people who work in the “back office”, the workers who fulfil orders from the main site, shipping out thousands of packages everyday on agonisingly tight deadlines.
this is the hard work she’s talking about girlies ✨ pic.twitter.com/7uCdFu7tL5
— Ava-Santina (@AvaSantina) January 6, 2022
“I’ve started my 2 til 10” shift she joked, before being corrected by an employee: “One til’ One”, he says. Hague’s jaw drops. “12 hours?!” she exclaims, adding she’d be “on the floor” by 1am. Objectively - a woman unfamiliar with the toils of a 12 hour shift might not be best-placed to lecture the rest of us on the essence of “hard work”.
The idea that constantly working (or appearing to work) is a desirable trait for entrepreneurs has gained a lot of traction in recent years. It seems performative: phone calls on the beach, laptops in coffee shops, business meetings at unsociable hours - all part of the hustle and grind culture that has come to define influencing.
While influencers might pay lip service to progressive ideas, maybe through a black square on Instagram, promises of Veganism or even a push toward sustainability, much of their content ignores the constraints of poverty, family commitments and social mobility. Molly Mae Hague isn't responsible for the creation of this counter-culture, but promising anyone can achieve a certain aspirational lifestyle with just a little hard graft is arguably tone deaf to the structural forces that have afforded her success.
In a statement from her publicist, Hague claimed she was talking solely about her personal circumstances, that her words are taken out of context and that the meaning the majority of us construed from her words, aren't her thoughts. She said words like “if you are homeless buy a house” and “if you are poor be poor” were not hers. And that’s true, she didn’t say that and frankly- she didn’t need to: it was already implicit.
Now look - I really don’t care what you do for a living. If you can make money out of posting photographs of yourself, good for you. But there’s something uncomfortable in believing that people could achieve better lives for themselves through work, while presiding over the “creative” of a fashion outlet whose owners have been accused of failing to adequately pay its workers.
It’s also not ridiculous to observe that ultimately, the very nature of girlbossing your way into a lifestyle others can envy though “hard work” and “working your ass off” while refusing to acknowledge privilege might have factored into anything, is Thatcherism at its core. But with six million Instagram followers, something is working. Perhaps being a Tory really is becoming trendy.