Molly-Mae, PLT and the myth of meritocracy


I’m pretty sure that a day having 24 hours is not ground-breaking information for most adult human beings. So then, why isn’t everyone as successful as Molly-Mae?

The ex-Love Islander and newly appointed Creative Director of PrettyLittleThing has recently been confronted with an onslaught of online criticism following some of the comments she made during a recent guest appearance on the podcast Diary of a CEO

She attempted to motivate her audience by reiterating that “you’re given one life and it’s down to you what you do with it… It just depends what lengths you want to go to get where you want to be in the future”.

Many have pointed out the ridiculous irony of preaching about hard work and equal opportunity while being top dog at a fast-fashion company that, in late 2020, was hit with allegations that they were paying their workers roughly 40% less than the national living wage at the time, effectively using slave labour. Ludicrous sales with 99% off left some items literally going for pennies – there is no way this could be possible without a detrimental human cost.

The human cost isn’t the only price we’re willing to pay for fast fashion

Of course, we know that the human cost isn’t the only price we’re willing to pay for fast fashion — my eyes also water at the environmental impact. According to research from McKinsey and Company, the fashion sector was responsible for “some 2.1 billion metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, about 4 per cent of the global total”.

According to the site Good On You which provides advice and expertise on ethical fashion, as of mid 2021 there is “no evidence” that PLT “has taken meaningful action to reduce or eliminate hazardous chemicals, nor does it implement any water reduction initiatives”. Not only is Molly-Mae drawing her success from a company that has (allegedly) been careless with the lives of current human beings, but also from one that is being careless with the lives of future human beings who will inherit the planet in the state we’ve left it.

Those who came to Molly-Mae’s defence praised her for seizing the opportunities presented to her with both hands and breaking through the glass ceiling that usually prevents women attaining prestigious leadership roles.

But it’s bittersweet when she, at point-blank, refuses to check the privilege that has been instrumental in getting her to ‘where [she] is today’, even acknowledging during the podcast that she’s been ‘slammed’ for saying stuff like this before.

I’m a reluctant fan of Love Island, it has to be said, but arguably it did the most to boost Molly-Mae’s career, and I don’t think many people would consider lounging seductively in Mallorca for eight weeks ‘hard work’.

Further, her conventional attractiveness favoured by the fashion industry, that is, the bikini-ready Instagram body, the flawless tan and the flowing platinum locks must take up more of her money and her 24 hours than personal grooming does for your average Joe. I don’t doubt that she works very hard for her figure, but if you’re on the poverty line and all you can afford and have the time to make while juggling multiple jobs is fish fingers and chips, then such an appearance seems all but unattainable. You won’t have time for a workout at the gym either, let alone enough disposable income to pay for their extortionate memberships.

Not everyone is able to thrive off of the cards life has dealt them

Not everyone is able to thrive off of the cards life has dealt them. Whether that’s poverty, disability, race, gender, illness or otherwise, society is not a level playing field — as much as we’re socialised to believe it is. Inspirational success stories from those who have achieved their dreams attach a romantic, sentimental value to the idea of the meritocracy, which is ultimately what gives it life.

Maybe Molly-Mae’s comments would have stung less if they’d come from someone who had managed to work their way up from abject hardship.

Although admittedly I can’t be sure of what being Creative Director of PrettyLittleThing entails exactly, perhaps there is a way for Molly-Mae to use her new position to make a positive impact. As Creative Director, she’ll most likely have influence over the clothes that are being designed and sold — reducing the sheer volume of products being trawled through the supply chain might be a step towards improving the lives of both the workers and the environment.

Taking steps to make changes such as this might help redeem her in the eyes of those particularly affected by her comments.

Image credit: latest in bollywood via flickr

2 thoughts on “Molly-Mae, PLT and the myth of meritocracy

  • Just the same old boring combustion of outraged socialist envy as usual, I see. The idea that MM’s living is made solely out of casually broadcasting her day-to-day life is oversimplified and unfair to social media influencers: cultivating a public profile that will generate income is a highly intensive – and in this electronic age – perfectly valid way of making a living and contributing to the digital economy. No-one is pretending that everyone faces the same hurdles, but the idea that it is impossible for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in 21st Century Britain to achieve social mobility does them a disservice as well as fail to take account of the radical shifts in educational and social pathways over the last decade to boost accessibility. Oh, and perhaps we should celebrate young women like MM for their hard won successes in business and especially on social media platforms that still routinely demean women and girls’ self-image.

    • Molly Mae’s success was not “hard won” she more or less had everything handed to her by Love Island, she would be nothing without it.


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