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07th Jan 2022

Are we finally witnessing the end of hustle culture?

Sarah McKenna Barry

Molly-Mae Hague’s recent controversy ignited a conversation about privilege and success.

Last week saw Love Island star Molly-Mae Hague attract considerable backlash for comments she made regarding wealth and success on a podcast interview.

On the Diary of a CEO podcast, Hague referred to the idea that we all “have the same 24 hours in a day” as Beyoncé.

She said: “When I’ve spoken in the past I’ve been slammed a little bit, with people saying, ‘It’s easy for you to say that, you’ve not grown up in poverty, you’ve not grown up with major money struggles. So for you to sit there and say we all have the same 24 hours in a day is not correct.’

“But technically what I’m saying is correct – we do.

“I understand we all have different backgrounds and we’re raised in different ways and have different financial situations, but if you want something enough you can achieve it.

“It just depends to what lengths you want to go to get to where you want to be in the future. And I’ll go to any length. I’ve worked my absolute arse off to get where I am now.”

Later, representatives issued a statement that claimed that Molly-Mae was only speaking of her own personal experiences with time efficiency, as opposed to more sweeping generalisations about success.

Needless to say, Hague’s comments attracted major backlash, with many pointing out how her original comments fail to take the mechanisms of privilege and class into consideration.

Molly-Mae herself was subjected to plenty of very valid criticism, but the controversy also shone a light on hustle culture generally, and the myths it perpetuates surrounding success.

Lifestyle influencers, business gurus and right-wing politicians have long been pushing the narrative that hard work inevitably leads to success. We’ve seen this message promoted by entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk and Tim Ferris on their social channels. We’ve seen it condensed into 10-minute speeches on the TED Talk circuit. We’ve seen it plastered across the lobbies of office buildings in neon. “Thank God it’s Monday”, for instance, was the mantra of the co-working company WeWork.

The undercurrent of this argument not only fails to consider the dynamics of systemic factors, like class and race, but it also inevitably suggests that one can work themselves out of tough financial situations, which simply isn’t the case.

In the past, the workability of hustle culture has been questioned, but the controversy surrounding Molly-Mae could usher in its end. Truly, never before has the “work hard” myth been so thoroughly and publicly debunked. Moreover, the backlash could possibly change the way influencers work as well. Authenticity and relatability play a huge role in the industry, but the backlash Molly-Mae received demonstrates just how quickly that illusion can break.

What’s more, as the appeal of hustle culture loses its sheen, the idea of worklife balance has become a more desirable – and perhaps realistic – goal to strive for. For instance, a survey conducted by GOBankingRates in November found that 42% of Gen Z workers prioritise work-life balance over any other job perk. This could indicate that the ethos of hustle culture may simply not resonate with a huge fraction of society going forward.

Of course, it is impossible to anticipate an end to hustle culture, but last week’s events demonstrated a widespread awareness of the mechanisms of privilege and its relationship to success. Perhaps we’ve reached a point of no return.