Molly-Mae Hague appears on Zoom without a scrap of make-up, head adorned with the signature topknot from her Love Island days. She chats freely as we catch up, just 72 hours after meeting on her Cosmopolitan cover shoot.
Gone are the high heels and tight corset top she wore on set, and in their place is an oversized white hoodie. She’s open and relaxed, as if she’s filming one of her vlogs and has forgotten I’m there. Speaking from a central London hotel, a distinctly different setting to her life two years ago, before her appearance on the fifth series of the much-loved reality show. But then, Hague’s aspirations have always been big: “I never wanted an ordinary life, and the one I’m living now is every girl’s dream.”
The life Hague, now 22, is referring to is the 20 months of remarkable success she’s experienced since leaving the ITV2 villa as a runner-up in 2019. Love Island cut short her regular life, making way for an “incredible apartment” in Cheshire, eye-watering brand deals and an enviable relationship with boyfriend Tommy Fury, who was also a contestant. After the pair made it to the show’s final, won by Amber Gill and Greg O’Shea, life’s been “pretty crazy”. These days she can reportedly charge £12,000 per sponsored Instagram post, and is said to be worth in the region of £2.4 million.
“It’s a bit of a blur,” she says. “I remember straight after the live show, Tommy and I got out of a hotel lift and two young boys were standing there. Their jaws just dropped. I couldn’t believe people recognised us.”
Hague grew up in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, with her parents and sister Zoe, and started building an online following early on. “I was on the ‘uncool table’ at lunch and a bit of a goodie two-shoes,” she tells me. “But I’ve consistently cared what my Instagram feed looked like, and I’d amassed 8,000 followers by the age of 16.” She now has well over 5 million.
The first photo on her grid, from June 2017, shows Hague in a green jumpsuit with sparkly fringed details, getting ready for her end-of-school prom. Her social presence grew from there, thanks to her picture-perfect selfies and carefully curated outfits. And she could call herself an influencer long before Love Island came along. “I was making a fair amount of money from it, to the extent that people advised me against taking part in the show in case the public hated me.” Little did Hague know that it would push her influence to a monumental scale.
The series was also responsible for her meeting boxer Fury, 22. Their first date was in the Love Island hot tub, in front of millions of viewers. While they’re now, Hague points out, “one of the only couples still together”, people at the time doubted her feelings were real. “I don’t know why I didn’t come across as genuine,” she admits. “But I was away from home for 12 weeks, so it’s no wonder I wasn’t always myself.” Almost two years on, the pair live together, and are house-hunting. “We’re not going to rush it, but we’ve been looking for a long time,” she sighs.
“I do believe we’re soulmates,” she says. “My parents love him. We’re cringey and mushy, and I like it like that. We know we’re going to be together forever. People speculate that we break up all the time – if Tommy doesn’t like one of my pictures on Instagram, I get DMs asking about it. But we’re so content, like two peas in a pod.”
There has been criticism of reality TV shows like Love Island in recent years after the suicides of contestants Mike Thalassitis (in 2019) and Sophie Gradon (in 2018). In 2020 the show’s host, Caroline Flack, also took her own life. It has been questioned whether contestants are given enough support when they leave the show, but Hague is keen to stress that Love Island’s aftercare was “second to none”.
“I think they’ve really stepped up their game, to the point where Tommy and I joked that they contacted us too much. The welfare team couldn’t have done more for me. They offer counselling if you need it, and I can imagine they’ll improve even more for the next season.”
As well as gaining a boyfriend, Hague came out of the villa with 3 million Instagram followers. This must have come with a lot of pressure for someone so young? “I definitely have to be extra careful with what I post,” she explains. “There is always someone who will find an upload offensive.”
But beyond that, she is mostly unfazed by people watching her every move – although she admits that at times the paparazzi intrusion is intense. “We went to Ibiza last summer and it was awful. We were followed everywhere by photographers. We rented out a boat and they still found us in the middle of the ocean. The only time I’ve ever wished for my old life back is when I’m photographed unaware, in a bikini. It’s such a vulnerable position – and then I see hundreds of tabloid comments calling me ugly and fat. Tommy has helped me a lot with trolls, though. He’s like, ‘So? Why do you care?’”
Part of the appeal of Hague’s social-media presence is her honesty. She vlogs regularly about her life on her YouTube channel, which has 1.5 million subscribers. In a video posted in October, she talked about her journey to regain her natural appearance. So far, this has involved dissolving her fillers, and having the composite bonding on her teeth removed.
So what prompted her to reverse all of this cosmetic work? “I was doing a club appearance and took a selfie,” she says. “I remember staring at it and thinking, ‘I don’t know what I’ve done to my face.’ I went from looking like a teenager to someone on [extreme plastic surgery show] Botched. I’ve never thought of myself as insecure, but I must have been to do that.”
And Hague is aware of the impact tweakments can have on younger generations. “We need to stop normalising filler, with things like ‘Kylie Jenner [surgery] packages’. I was 17 when I first got my lips done, and it scares me to think that if I have a daughter in 10 years’ time, what it might be like for her. I sometimes forget how young my followers are, too. I’m often surprised by the fact some of the girls in my DMs even have a phone.”
Despite not winning Love Island, Hague was overwhelmed with offers of work afterwards. She remembers one day when her management rented out a boardroom in Manchester, inviting fashion and beauty brands to pitch their ideas to her.
“I’ll never forget how many people wanted to work with me,” she says. “They brought me flowers and one offered me a car, even though I couldn’t drive. There were huge [financial] figures being thrown around.”
In the end, Hague chose to work with brands she’d been affiliated with prior to the show. Both PrettyLittleThing and Beauty Works “had always believed in me, and I knew we could reach the scale I aspired to”. After leaving the villa, she reportedly signed a six- figure deal with PrettyLittleThing, with her first collection becoming one of the brand’s most successful launches to date. She has also launched a cruelty-free vegan tanning range, Filter By Molly-Mae, and had sponsorship deals with the likes of Starbucks. Does she worry about it all coming to an end?
“I don’t, because I’ve worked really hard to protect myself from that. I’m able to look after my family now, and I bought my sister a car last Christmas.” Despite the status Hague has gained, she is a bit of a homebody at heart. “My dream evening is watching Harry Potter with Tommy. I’m not fazed by socialising and clubbing or going on girls’ holidays, and I don’t really drink alcohol. We go for walks and eat at TGI Fridays. We don’t try to be boujee.”
Perhaps therein lies the secret to Hague’s success: behind the hundreds of thousands of likes, endless freebies and million-pound brand deals, she’s actually just a normal girl living out an extraordinary life.
Cosmopolitan UK's July/August issue is on sale on 10th June and available for purchase online.
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