Keep­ing mum

The Sunday Telegraph - Stella - - EDITOR -

She shot from mid­wife to so­cial­me­dia star in the space of four years, at­tract­ing half a mil­lion fol­low­ers. So why, this May, did Clem­mie Hooper (aka Mother of Daugh­ters) delete her In­sta­gram ac­count? She tells Caro­line

Leaper about the highs and lows of a life lived on­line

The jug­gle is real for Clem­mie Hooper. In the week that we speak, she has put in lengthy shifts on the labour ward at King’s Col­lege Hos­pi­tal in Lon­don, and dis­patched her el­dest daugh­ter, Anya, 11, to her first week at se­condary school. She has cel­e­brated her 10th wed­ding an­niver­sary with hus­band Si­mon, and taken their three younger girls (Marnie, seven, and twins Ot­tilie and Delilah, two) to var­i­ous it­er­a­tions of school days and play dates. She has also posted for her 560,000 In­sta­gram fol­low­ers: 1) a great out­fit selfie in front of the bed­room mir­ror; 2) an emo­tive pic­ture of her hands giv­ing Anya her first set of house keys; 3) a shot of her­self in a lace bralet to demon­strate that big bras aren’t just for nurs­ing; and 4) an artis­tic pic­ture of a woman’s C-sec­tion scar, to en­cour­age pub­lic dis­cus­sion on the sub­ject.

More than 100,000 peo­ple pressed ‘like’ on that se­ries of posts. Just by shar­ing what she’s do­ing and think­ing un­der her alias, @moth­er_of_­daugh­ters, Clem­mie has cap­tured the at­ten­tion of a highly in­ter­ested au­di­ence. She’s an in­flu­encer of the most pow­er­ful kind: when she en­dorses a prod­uct on her page (say, wear­ing a nice new jumper while her adorable twins cling to her feet like shoes), that mes­sage, like one from a close friend, is far more likely to res­onate than when a celebrity posts a stylised ad­vert.

What’s spe­cial about Clem­mie, though, is that her whole fam­ily is part of the pack­age. The Hoop­ers are a mar­keter’s dream: Clem­mie is 33, stylish and pretty. Her man­age­ment­con­sul­tant hus­band Si­mon (aka @fa­ther_of_ daugh­ters) is 35, hand­some and has al­most 900,000 fol­low­ers of his own. Their girls are cheru­bic, all gor­geous blonde curls and bright blue eyes. They’re a pic­ture-per­fect fam­ily with sen­si­ble jobs and a re­lat­able daily grind – which they just hap­pen to pull off while wear­ing lovely clothes. We could be them, if we just dressed a bit bet­ter.

‘Ten years ago, I would never have pre­dicted that I might be an “in­flu­encer”,’ says Clem­mie. ‘I def­i­nitely don’t look like a model. But I think there is this amaz­ing, pos­i­tive shift in the way we’re look­ing at women’s bod­ies, and brands are un­der­stand­ing that we want to see more women who look like us [in ad­ver­tis­ing].’

In May, Clem­mie went from be­ing In­stafa­mous to mak­ing na­tional head­lines when she took a break from so­cial me­dia. The de­ci­sion to close her In­sta­gram ac­count for a month came af­ter she re­ceived a vir­tual bat­ter­ing for her choices in a Mum­snet fo­rum. A con­ver­sa­tion had be­gun about In­sta­gram in­flu­encers and the ethics of pro­mo­tional posts and ‘shar­ent­ing’ – and Clem­mie weighed in per­son­ally to de­fend her­self. ‘I would like to point out that nei­ther my­self or my hus­band make huge wads of cash, if we did he wouldn’t still work full time… I am also fully com­mit­ted to my job as an NHS mid­wife,’ she wrote. ‘I don’t feel I “sell” my chil­dren to make money. I ac­tu­ally hardly ever fea­ture the older girls. They also see and give con­sent to any post where they are in the pic­ture.’

Al­most a thou­sand com­ments fol­lowed: one said that she and Si­mon had ‘sold the soul of their fam­ily to the In­sta­gram devil’, and oth­ers that it’s ‘strange and un­sup­port­able’ to fea­ture their chil­dren; that ‘ask­ing chil­dren for con­sent to some­thing they can’t pos­si­bly un­der­stand is ne­glect­ing parental re­spon­si­bil­ity’. Oth­ers ap­plauded her for com­ing on to the thread and en­gag­ing with the de­bate her­self, but she was clearly wounded.

‘I think I’m al­ways cau­tious and con­scious about the fam­ily and what I’m shar­ing,’ she says now. ‘Es­pe­cially as Anya and Marnie are get­ting older, giv­ing them more pri­vacy is im­por­tant. I know that peo­ple from Anya’s school fol­low us on In­sta­gram and might see things, so we’re def­i­nitely be­ing more mind­ful about what we’re post­ing.’

Clem­mie orig­i­nally joined In­sta­gram in 2014 as a way to pro­mote Gas and Air, the blog she had started writ­ing about her mid­wifery prac­tice. Her orig­i­nal user­name was @Mid­wifeyHooper and her feed was dom­i­nated by her job and her ex­pe­ri­ences of moth­er­hood. ‘Ev­ery now and then, though, I’d post a pic­ture of my­self and peo­ple would ask where my shoes were from, or my bag,’ she ex­plains. ‘My fol­low­ing grew from there and brands be­gan to get in con­tact to say they wanted to work with me.’

‘Work­ing with’ a brand is a mul­ti­fac­eted con­cept. A part­ner­ship might be as sim­ple as the brand giv­ing a prod­uct as a gift to the In­sta­gram­mer, hop­ing that they like it enough to show it to their fol­low­ing. It might in­volve paid-for posts, whereby the

‘I’m al­ways cau­tious and con­scious of what I’m shar­ing – as they get older, giv­ing my daugh­ters pri­vacy is im­por­tant’

In­sta­gram­mer shoots one, or a se­ries, of con­structed pho­tographs for an agreed fee (Clem­mie clearly la­bels these kinds of posts when she does them). We’re speak­ing to­day be­cause Clem­mie has now landed her first gig at the next level: a de­sign col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Clem­mie says that she be­came fa­mil­iar with Bri­tish jew­ellery de­signer Rachel Jack­son’s work via so­cial me­dia two years ago. ‘She mes­saged me on In­sta­gram and said, “I’m a jew­eller, I’m a mum, I’d love to send you a piece from the col­lec­tion,”’ she ex­plains. ‘I loved what she was do­ing, and I ended up buy­ing things for my fam­ily as well. It was a dream when she asked me to col­lab­o­rate.’

For in­spi­ra­tion, Clem­mie looked to her own jew­ellery box – es­pe­cially sen­ti­men­tal pieces, like her grand­mother’s charm bracelets. ‘I haven’t put my name to any­thing like this be­fore,’ Clem­mie says. ‘So it was im­por­tant to me that it was per­sonal.’

When it came to shoot­ing the cam­paign im­agery, Clem­mie couldn’t re­sist get­ting her fam­ily in­volved. ‘I said it def­i­nitely needs to be peo­ple in our lives that we love; we can’t use mod­els as it won’t work. That’s when we de­cided to bring in my chil­dren – do­ing the shoot to­gether was so fun.’

In­cred­i­bly busi­ness-savvy, over the years the Hoop­ers have gleaned many lessons about what ‘works’ and what doesn’t. Of her­self and her hus­band, Clem­mie was the first to start blog­ging, but he quickly caught her up and now both have re­leased par­ent­ing books. They also share a lim­ited com­pany, and have done cam­paigns with house­hold names from Bo­den to Per­sil.

‘Si­mon’s posts have a very dif­fer­ent style to mine and he only posts in the evening, as that’s when his en­gage­ment is high­est,’ she says. ‘His one um­brella is fa­ther­hood, so it’s all about him­self and the kids, whereas I’ve got a few more arms to mine through fash­ion and in­te­ri­ors. Si­mon is “own­ing” the chil­dren, re­ally, so I’ve been bring­ing a lot more mid­wifery back on to my page.’

Brands now ask the pair for their in­sight and tai­lor their deals ac­cord­ingly. ‘A trainer com­pany might ask us to do a cam­paign to­gether and to post about the train­ers with pic­tures of the fam­ily do­ing stuff,’ she says. ‘But we learned that if we put it on our chan­nels at the same time, it doesn’t work. Also, a brand came to me re­cently with a deal

and I passed it on to Si­mon – their idea was for me, the mum, to be do­ing the house­work and I thought that was sex­ist. When we fed that back they loved our new ap­proach.’

Hav­ing the whole fam­ily be­come fa­mous on so­cial me­dia has had its highs and lows. Google the Hoop­ers, and you’ll find de­tailed run­downs of ev­ery el­e­ment of their lives: the birth weights of their chil­dren, the fam­ily’s hol­i­day pho­tos, pic­tures of bath time/ bed­time/any time. While she’s had plenty of ben­e­fits (spon­sored hol­i­days, free hand­bags etc), Clem­mie says that she’s also learned a lot about over­shar­ing. ‘Two years ago, I wouldn’t have thought twice about post­ing a “back to school” pic­ture of the kids,’ she says. ‘But now I wouldn’t do it. With the amount of fol­low­ers we have col­lec­tively, I’m more con­scious about safe­guard­ing the kids, and peo­ple recog­nis­ing their uni­forms.’

So was her hia­tus in May help­ful? ‘I just needed to step away from it,’ she says with a long ex­hale. ‘The trolling was very in­tense. I was at a cross­roads, won­der­ing if I wanted to carry on with In­sta­gram. The amount of time I spent on it was be­com­ing a big is­sue – and you’re an­swer­able to a lot of peo­ple. When your fol­low­ing gets to a cer­tain size it is very dif­fi­cult. I felt like a pres­sure cooker try­ing to re­ply to ev­ery­one. It was great to take time out and set my­self some new rules.’

Liv­ing in two worlds – a re­al­ity and a fan­tasy – at once is un­doubt­edly a chal­lenge. So if she had to give up one of her ca­reers, which would she choose? She doesn’t hes­i­tate: ‘In­sta­gram. Mid­wifery is what I love the most; I’ll never get bored of it.

‘In­sta­gram is just a snip­pet of some­one’s life,’ she adds. ‘I still emp­tied the dish­washer to­day. I went to work, paid my bills and shouted at my kids to make their beds. There are 24 hours in a day, and, at most, I’ve shown you one minute of mine.’

pho­tog­ra­phy: gary houl­der

Pre­vi­ous page Clem­mie with daugh­ters Marnie (left) and Anya. Above This se­ries of posts got more than 100,000 ‘likes’ on In­sta­gram

Above State­ment Charm Neck­lace plus charms, £285, RJL x MOD Col­lec­tion (rachel­jack­son lon­ Be­low Clem­mie with Rachel.Right, from top The Hooper clan; Clem­mie with a fel­low mid­wife

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