Wednesday 1 September 2021
Nimo, narrating: Hi, I’m Nimo – and this is Sensemaker.
One story every day to make sense of the world.
Today, how Molly-Mae Hague became the ultimate Love Island influencer.
“The winners of Love Island 2019 are…. Greg and Amber.”Love Island 2019 final announcement
Back in 2019 Tommy Fury and Molly-Mae Hague were the bookies’ favourites to win the fifth season of Love Island, the wildly popular TV dating show.
But in the end it wasn’t even close.
The winners Amber Gill and Greg O’Shea got 48 per cent of the vote.
The runners up, Tommy and Molly-Mae, barely got half of that.
And yet of those four contestants, it’s Molly-Mae who’s become the most successful Islander – not just of that season, but of all time.
At just 22, she has been announced as the creative director of Pretty Little Thing in a deal reportedly worth millions.
She will be a leading figure in a company with revenues of half a billion pounds – a fashion brand that counts Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj and the Kardashians among its fans and collaborators.
This isn’t the post-reality show circuit of provincial nightclubs and teeth whitening ads. This is the real deal.
So how has Molly-Mae done so well – where so many other past Islanders have failed to capitalise on their summer of fame?
“Hey guys, welcome to my channel, I hope you’re all doing well.”Molly-Mae in 15 August YouTube video
It’s mid-August and Molly-Mae Hague, a runner up on Love Island, is talking to her 1.5 million subscribers on YouTube.
The video’s called: ‘Let’s talk business.’
She’s sat next to her manager, a woman called Fran, who hints at an enormous announcement coming down the line.
“Your real big break moment is going to happen in two weeks’ time. People’s heads are gonna go…”Molly-Mae’s manager in 15 August YouTube video
We know, now, that they’re talking about the Pretty Little Thing deal, which Molly-Mae announced last week to her six million Instagram followers.
But the whole video is really interesting.
It’s a chance for Molly-Mae… bouncing off her manager… to show off a bit about the things she’s been able to land.
“Obviously one of the first people I reached out to when she came off the show was Starbucks, and lo and behold, 12 months later you were the first UK influencer Starbucks have ever paid.”Molly-Mae’s manager in 15 August YouTube video
But the most fascinating bit… It’s not when Molly-Mae and her manager talk about something Molly-Mae did, but when they talk about something she didn’t do.
“A high street fashion brand came along last year, offered me £2 million which is a lot of money, a hell of a lot of money. And said to me: ‘We’re obsessed with Molly-Mae, we’d love her to be the face of our brand. We want her to work with us.’ I thought brilliant. So I said: ‘How do you feel about that?’ She said: ‘No.’ I said: ‘Why, you told me you want that house?’ She said: ‘No I don’t buy my clothes from there.’”Molly-Mae’s manager in 15 August YouTube video
So what can that deal – a deal that never even happened – tell us about Molly-Mae’s secret sauce?
That deal that never happened tells us about the two most important parts of the Molly-Mae formula: aspiration and authenticity.
Aspiration, well that’s ten-a-penny among influencers – their whole purpose is to sell us the dream. Whether it’s the latest makeup brand, or car, or a foreign exchange trading scheme.
But authenticity? Well, that’s much harder to come by.
Managing to be authentic in a world known for sponsored content and heavily edited selfies is like threading the eye of a needle.
Molly-Mae, however, has managed to do it.
Of course she’s had ridiculous moments where she definitely hasn’t seemed much like one of us at all. Like when she imported an expensive Pomeranian dog from Russia which died just days after it arrived in the UK.
But then there’s the genuine and relatable moments too. Like when she got cosmetic fillers, only to remove them again… and tell the world that she must have been insecure to have done it in the first place.
And then there’s one more thing.
It’s crucial, because it sets her apart from a lot of the other former Love Island contestants.
And it burnishes her credentials, too, as someone who’s just a normal woman, working hard, who happens to have a lot of followers…
She barely ever talks about Love Island… the show that made her.
“I definitely have spent a lot of time since I came out of the show removing myself from that stereotype and by doing that I just don’t speak about it a lot.”Molly-Mae in Instagram Q&A
That’s the biggest trick the Love Island contestant Molly-Mae Hague has ever pulled…
Convincing the world that she wasn’t a Love Island contestant…
“Obviously the last two years I have spent so much time not necessarily removing myself because my job was an influencer before, but I wanted to go back to what I was doing before without that brand of being a Love Islander, or just being known for that.”Molly-Mae in Instagram Q&A
Or at least, not really.
Today’s story was written and produced by Xavier Greenwood.
Grooming gangs, conspiracy theories and the lawless digital politics of Oldham