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I read Molly Mae’s girlboss bible so you didn’t have to

‘Aside from telling her fans to hustle a bit harder, Hague doesn’t have much left to give them’: Diyora Shadijanova delves into Becoming Molly-Mae: Finding Happiness in an Online/Offline World

Molly-Mae Hague writes how she vlogs, which tends to become tedious in her new 280-page memoir, Becoming Molly-Mae: Finding Happiness in an Online/Offline World. There are no particular story arcs, no crescendos or pauses and many filler words. Sentences start with phrases like “don’t get me wrong” and are interrupted with repetitions of “of course” or compulsory digressions to caveat potentially controversial points. Often, entire sections drop off with ellipses…

Yet once you get past the Notes-app style writing, what becomes clear is that Hague is adamant about controlling her narrative in this book. The Instagram girlboss, whom over six million people follow, writes that she “decided a long time ago not to really do many interviews” because journalists could misinterpret her, and there’d come a time when she’d want to tell her story in her own way. Considering how much of her success relies on the aspirational ‘it girl’ brand she upholds for many of her followers – and thus, public opinion – it’s clear why she’s concerned about how she comes across; there’s a lot at stake if she gets things wrong. Especially as she recently ended up inside Twitter’s gladiator arena for regurgitating the myth of meritocracy.

Becoming Molly-Mae attempts to cover a lot. The first part of the book goes over Hague’s childhood filled with the difficulties of her parents’ divorce, body-image issues, and the lessons of strict routine learned from beauty pageants and Irish tap dance competitions. Then she writes about what it was like to step into the spotlight during the early days of Instagram and after her first-class Love Island-shaped ticket to stardom. The second half of the book, however, turns into an amalgamation of slightly patronising self-help guidance and practical advice for hopeful influencers, as well as an insistence that “manifesting” your dreams is the route to success, if you try hard enough. 

The memoir promises to let the reader see an unravelled version of the influencer for the first time – “by sharing these parts of herself, Hague gives a fresh take on finding beauty and balance in a busy world,” the blurb states. Yet the influencer’s ‘take’ isn’t exactly fresh, nor is it very interesting, because those who have followed her on social media since she came out of the Love Island villa in 2019 have heard it, read it and seen it all before on her YouTube vlogs or Instagram reel. As writer Lauren O’Neill points out: “there’s nothing left for a memoir when your job is sharing everything.” So one must ask, what is the need for an influencer memoir when its contents can be found in extensive social media captions underneath photos instead? 

Perhaps my expectations were too high for a celebrity memoir, but when you’re paying £20 for a Sunday Times bestseller, you’d think there’d at least be some salacious gossip. Yet it gives none, which is unsurprising because what compelling life story is there to tell when you’ve just turned 24? Instead, the things Hague chooses to write about give us a glimpse into her psyche. “I’ve always felt the impulse to do more, achieve more, experience more”, she pens in the introduction. She credits her aunt Jackie for giving her relentless ambition and having someone to look up to when growing up. “She had an incredible car (a Porsche). She had an incredible house. She was always draped in Louis Vuitton bags and designer clothes,” Hague reflects, revealing how her aunt’s flashy life formed her early understanding of ‘success’. Predictably, Hague thinks it is the same childhood ambition that has created her prosperity today. “I think my upbringing and [my family’s] values – the importance of hard work, of doing the right thing and of achieving your absolute best – really did shape me in terms of becoming who I am now,” she insists on one page. “I actually think that my attitude of always striving for more has led me to where I am today. My motivation to succeed comes from always wanting to be doing something bigger and better and to exceed people’s expectations of me,” she says on another. With no emphasis on luck or material privileges, Hague’s self-awareness hasn’t grown since the last time she was criticised for peddling a similar line. It’s also just a bit too self-aggrandising.

“My motivation to succeed comes from always wanting to be doing something bigger and better and to exceed people’s expectations of me”

When reading Becoming Molly-Mae – teased for sounding like the similarly named Becoming by Michelle Obama – I couldn’t help but feel like it was written to convince the reader that Hague is deserving of her success (and immense wealth) because she is a Good Person. The text is littered with testimonies from Hague’s close friends and family. Her mum, Deborah, describes her as “very humane and sensitive” because “[s]he is charitable and always gives to the homeless.” Her aunt, Jackie, writes: “The best things about Molly? Her vision, her drive, her artistic nature and how hard she works to achieve her goals.” While her sister Zoe says, “Molly to me now is the most generous sister ever, always offering to pay for things, buy me things.” Aside from militant superfans, who are these family statements even for? 

One thing Hague is undoubtedly an expert on, however, is social media. Having cracked the Instagram algorithm in the early days, she advises those who may want to follow in her footsteps on things like when to post or how to write captions. Yet even these tips sometimes feel too revealing, leaving the influencer naked in her objectives. “Every move I make on Instagram, from every single Story to every single post, is done with intent,” she explains with pride. “It’s about keeping the vibe chilled and relatable but also being conscious that what I post is going to make an impression on nearly six million people, so it needs to be a positive one.” Hague reveals that she spends up to three days a week making content so that her audience stays engaged with her. “[It’s] so they feel they know me, they can relate to me and they want to invest themselves in my life,” she writes. Though it was never a secret, the revelation of this manufactured behaviour online for higher click-through rates (CTRs) feels particularly dystopian. The idea that a person’s career trajectory should depend on the regular performance of a parasocial relationship with a largely anonymous fanbase is not only sad, but sounds exhausting.

The most frustrating aspect of the memoir is Hague’s vague fascination with manifestation. When she first moved from her childhood home into a flat in Manchester, the influencer worried she wouldn’t make up the rent, but managed it with her income from the early days of brand deals. “I do feel like I manifested that flat”, she says. Later on, when discussing the reasons she went on Love Island she writes, “Before I even went on the show, I saw myself being a successful businesswoman. And I just think the minute you start seeing yourself as that person and believing that you’re going to get there, your focus and drive to reach that goal just become so much sharper. That attitude changes everything.” 

The insistence that manifestation can bring out about her level of success without as much of a mention of structural barriers to inequality not only feels misguided, but dangerous. As people’s financial circumstances in the country harshen in a cost of living crisis, how many will unknowingly follow the unclear laws of manifestation to make risky financial decisions which may or may not pay off? In a survey of 511 British schools, 32 per cent said that they would consider becoming an influencer, so there’s no doubt that young people are willing to spend hundreds of pounds to try to break into influencing, only to see no returns. In his book Get Rich Or Lie Trying, journalist Symeon Brown interviews many influencers, most of whom come from marginalised backgrounds; unsurprisingly, he finds that their pursuit of online fame sets them back even further financially. “YouTubers, Instagrammers and TikTok creators are all at the whim of the rules, payment models and algorithms of platforms they do not own, cannot control and upon which they are utterly reliant,” he writes. “[O]ften they find themselves disadvantaged by temporary adjustments.” If influencing is a game of Russian roulette, most people end up being losers.

Hague is not the first or last person to have written a celebrity memoir. Still, unlike those who came before her, she wrote this book as someone who has already overshared a large part of her life to build her success in the attention economy. Becoming Molly-Mae is an example that for many influencers, putting out a book in the first person is just an extension of scattered social media content; it doesn’t matter if they’re talking about your family on one page, giving bogus career advice on another and end with a tutorial on camera angles, the fans who want to emulate them will gobble up anything they put out. The issue is that aside from telling her fans to hustle a bit harder, Hague doesn’t have much left to give them in this book.