Targeted by cruel trolls, she tried to turn the tables by becoming one herself
Dubbed a ‘trolls paradise’, gossip website Tattle has become known for the venomous nature of its users’ posts.
From celebrities to writers, it seems no one is safe from the ire of its anonymous commentators.
Yet one tribe seems to draw particular malice: so-called mumfluencers, Instagram influencers who make their trade in sharing the exploits of themselves and their children online.
Take this post about leading mumfluencer Anna Whitehouse, known as ‘Mother Pukka’, who boasts 382,000 followers.
‘One minute she’s in Africa with Comic Relief, then she’s swooshing her blonde locks with Grandmother Pukka for Garnier,’ wrote a user going by the name ‘AliceinWanderlust’.
Using the moniker ‘Mother of Daughters’, midwife and mother-of-four Clemmie Hooper had gained almost 700,000 followers
Simon, who still posts to his now diminished 854,000 followers, recently published a loving Valentine’s Day post under a photo of the pair sharing a passionate kiss
‘It all slaps a bit of bull***t and inconsistency to me.’
Over a period of seven months, Alice similarly dismissed lifestyle blogger and mother-of-two Emily Murray as ‘smug as f***’, ‘bland and incredibly try hard’.
Bethie Hungerford, a self-declared ‘American mama in London’, was slammed as desperate. ‘Oversharing a bit whiffy,’ Alice claimed.
In another, more controversial post, she accused black influencer and author Candice Brathwaite of ‘social climbing’, being ‘aggressive’ and using her ‘race as a weapon’.
Her posts were frequent enough to attract raised eyebrows from other site users — especially since there was only one mumfluencer who met with Alice’s approval.
Using the moniker ‘Mother of Daughters’, midwife and mother-of-four Clemmie Hooper had gained almost 700,000 followers, courtesy of her photogenic family and unvarnished tales from the frontline of motherhood.
Her popularity led to her fronting adverts for M&S and Boden, while assorted celebrities appeared on her podcast — and AliceinWanderlust was clearly a fan.
‘Her passion [for midwifery] shines through,’ she wrote in one post. ‘Generally she seems to be more conscious about sharing more engaging content,’ she claimed in another.
Clemmie, Alice added, ‘seemed like a laugh’.
She was rather less enamoured of Clemmie’s husband, Simon, a fellow influencer who goes by Father of Daughters, writing: ‘Her husband on the other hand is a class A t*** I can’t believe she puts up his nonesene [sic].’
But then Alice was uniquely placed to know the ins and outs of the couple’s relationship. For this internet troll and Clemmie Hooper were one and the same.
Alice’s identity was uncovered by fellow Tattle users who — in an act of online sleuthing worthy of Coleen Rooney — had noticed that Alice often posted from exotic locations that exactly matched where Clemmie was holidaying at the time.
After initial denials — ‘I’m not associated with MoD [Mother of Daughters] or her Insta[gram] crew’ Alice wrote in March 2019 — by November that year, amid ongoing fierce online speculation, Clemmie was forced to admit she was in fact the disagreeable Alice.
The fallout was instant. Clemmie deactivated her Mother of Daughters account, the lucrative brand associations melted away and the scandal sparked global headlines as commentators pondered the hitherto unseen dark side of a world that trades on aspiration, relatability and inclusivity.
Alice was uniquely placed to know the ins and outs of the couple’s relationship. For this internet troll and Clemmie Hooper were one and the same
Black British actress Kelechi Okafor asked whether Clemmie’s future as a practising midwife should be called into question over alleged discriminatory comments
Yet the fallout has continued long after her unmasking. Last week, following a lengthy investigation, the 38-year-old’s online activity saw her found guilty of misconduct at a fitness to practise hearing by the Nursing & Midwifery Council.
As a result Clemmie, currently working part-time as a midwife for the King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, was handed a one-year caution order.
Though this will not affect her ability to continue to work as a midwife, it is nevertheless a stain on her record.
It’s bitter come-down for a woman who had been one of the UK’s most popular ‘mumfluencers’, complete with book deals and lucrative brand endorsements.
As Sara McCorquodale, author of Influence: How Social Media Influencers Are Shaping Our Digital Future, puts it: ‘I don’t think anyone — least of all Clemmie — could foresee how toxic this whole affair would become.’
Clemmie’s journey into the influencer world began in 2011, when the then 25-year-old Bristol-based midwife and mother-of-two launched an online blog called Gas And Air.
Basic and functional, the blog was an endearing mix of the professional and personal.
Early on, she revealed her initial foray into motherhood had happened by accident. Her first baby, Anya Rose, now 15, was the result of an unplanned pregnancy not long after she had moved in with her university boyfriend Simon.
‘I didn’t want to be pregnant, but I didn’t want to make the decision not to be pregnant,’ Clemmie wrote of seeing her pregnancy test.
She was equally candid about the envy she felt towards her childless girlfriends, but loved motherhood nonetheless. Three more daughters followed — Marnie, 12, and seven-year-old twins, Ottilie and Delilah.
Clemmie’s social media following grew along with her burgeoning family and, in 2013, she launched her Instagram account.
Initially posting under the handle ‘Midwifey Hooper’, in 2014 she rebranded to ‘Mother of Daughters’, where Clemmie, an attractive brunette, posted light-hearted warts-and-all-shots of life with her equally photogenic daughters.
As her followers crept into the hundreds of thousands, it was not long before businesses took notice. There were paid partnerships with companies including Pampers, and sponsored videos for Mothercare and fashion brand Boden.
Sara McCorquodale, author of Influence: How Social Media Influencers Are Shaping Our Digital Future, said no one could have predicted how toxic the accounts would become
Clemmie wrote two books on pregnancy and birth, and launched a jewellery line. In 2019 she produced a podcast — Birth Stories With Clemmie Hooper — featuring, among others, chef Nadiya Hussain, DJ Annie Mac and mental health campaigner Bryony Gordon.
In September 2019 — several months after ‘Alice’ had trolled her on Tattle — fellow influencer Candice Brathwaite was a guest, invited to discuss her traumatic birth experience and how she developed life-threatening sepsis following an emergency C-section.
The episode also covered statistics showing that black women are five times more likely to die during childbirth than white women.
That same month — two months before her unmasking — Clemmie’s profile was high enough for M&S to feature her as a model alongside Holly Willoughby and Line Of Duty star Vicky McClure to promote its autumn clothing collection.
Clemmie’s profile had undoubtedly been boosted further by the fact that Simon had set up his own ‘dadfluencer’ account in 2016.
Called Father of Daughters, his ‘mirror blog’ morphed into its own highly successful brand, gaining more than a million followers.
Together, the pair shared photographs of enviable holidays at sun-drenched locations, including St Lucia and Mauritius, while their success helped fund the move from South London to a £750,000 six-bedroom property in Ramsgate, Kent.
To all appearances, they were the very image of the successful social media power couple.
Journalist Georgina Fuller, who was catapulted into the ‘mumfluencer’ world after a blog about the birth of her third child went viral, recalls attending an event alongside Clemmie around four years ago, when she was at the height of her fame.
‘She was a celebrity in that world,’ she recalls. ‘In influencer world your worth directly correlates to the number of followers you have. At an event in Soho we were given different coloured wristbands according to how many followers you had, so everyone could tell your “ranking” by a quick glance — and Clemmie was the Queen Bee.’
Anna Whitehouse (pictured) shared her painful account of miscarriage with Clemmie for her Gas And Air blog in 2015
Behind the scenes, however, the cracks had started to show. In May 2018, Clemmie shut down her Instagram account for a month after being accused by users on parenting website Mumsnet of exploiting her children for gain.
One user accused her of being ‘ethically dubious’; others described her output as ‘morally wrong.’
It’s a claim Clemmie refuted, posting on Mumsnet: ‘I don’t feel I “sell” my children to make money, I actually hardly ever feature the older girls and have changed my approach when working with brands e.g. I won’t feature a picture of my children alone for an ad and I always ask, “Do they need to be in the post at all?” ’
Nonetheless, her Instagram account lay dormant for a month. Less than a year later, though still publicly highly successful, Sara McCorquodale was struck by her vulnerability when she interviewed her for her book.
‘The person I spoke to was not the person I thought I would be speaking to, and certainly not the person she was putting forward on Instagram,’ she recalls.
‘She struck me as someone who was slightly reeling from the consequences of Instagram fame. She had been trolled badly for a number of years and, as a result, her focus was to try and move away from being a personally driven brand to more midwife-driven content.’
It is against this backdrop that Clemmie logged onto Tattle as Alice in September 2018.
By then, Tattle had already featured some unflattering threads about Mother of Daughters, accusing her of being ‘fake’ and milking her fame for free gifts. ‘In it for the adverts’, said one.
‘Just another instahun pretending to keep it real’, wrote another.
‘Some people actively enjoy being critical of a content creator — it’s like another version of reality TV,’ says Sara. ‘That in turn has contributed to the rise of sites like Tattle.’
Clemmie would later say she had become drawn in by the trolling against her and had hoped to redress the balance.
To that end, she posted flattering comments about her and her husband’s Instagram feeds.
Yet her interactions did not end there — and soon the trolled became the troll.
Dismissing the output of other ‘instamums’ as ‘drivel’, she picked out a number of influencers for specific criticism.
Among them was Anna Whitehouse, who in 2015 had shared her painful account of miscarriage with Clemmie for her Gas And Air blog.
The comments that proved to be the most damaging, however, relate to Candice.
‘Her behaviour is shady,’ she wrote in one post. ‘She is often really aggressive and always brings it back to race . . . It feels like a weapon to silence people’s opinions.’
Meanwhile, suspicions around Alice were growing.
‘Oohh, this is interesting. I found my way here from Mumsnet,’ posted one Tattle user in March 2019. ‘
AliceinWanderlust complained to the moderator that I was being unkind to MOD, but sent the complaint to me by mistake! Clearly I have wondered if they are the same person!’
‘Alice’ disappeared from the site around a week later, though it was not until November that year —against a backdrop of ongoing rumours on Tattle, among them that an unnamed influencer had confronted Clemmie with ‘extra evidence’ — that Clemmie outed herself, sharing a statement in her Instagram stories saying that she wanted to ‘take the opportunity to explain’.
‘Earlier this year, I became aware of a website that had thousands of comments about my family and I. Reading them made me feel extremely paranoid and affected me much more than I knew at the time. I decided without telling anyone else that I would make an anonymous account so this group of people would believe I was one of them, so that I could maybe change their opinions from the inside to defend my family and I.
‘It became all-consuming and it grew bigger than I knew how to handle. When the users started to suspect it was me, I made the mistake of commenting about others. I regret it all and am deeply sorry. I know this has caused a lot of pain.
‘Undoubtedly I got lost in this online world and the more I became engrossed in the negative commentary, the more the situation escalated. Engaging in this was a huge mistake. I take full responsibility for what’s happened and I am just so sorry for the hurt I have caused to everyone involved including my friends and family.’
The comments were met with widespread derision on Tattle. ‘I do not feel remotely sorry her. She has brought all this on herself, fuelled by her greed and ego’ was a typical response.
In the real world, meanwhile, brands were quick to distance themselves from Clemmie.
Many of those she attacked chose not to comment publicly, although in 2021 Anna Whitehouse released Underbelly, a novel set in the world of influencers and anonymous trolls.
Candice has remained largely quiet on the subject, although last year she said reading the comments had been ‘painful’ and a ‘knock to her confidence’.
Days after his wife’s double life was revealed, Simon posted that he was ‘angry and sad’ about her activities, adding: ‘What I do know is that online actions have real consequences.’
Indeed they did. Clemmie’s comments about Candice led black British actress Kelechi Okafor to ask whether Clemmie’s future as a practising midwife should be called into question, given the routine racial bias experienced by black women within the medical profession.
Three years on, amid similar complaints from others, they have proved central to Clemmie’s fitness to practise hearing.
She accused black influencer and author Candice Brathwaite of ‘social climbing’, being ‘aggressive’ and using her ‘race as a weapon’
This month the midwife admitted three of four charges levelled against her regarding her posts on Tattle: that she made the comments, that they had been intended to ‘undermine or humiliate’ their target, and that elements of the posts were ‘racially offensive and/or discriminatory’ — the latter admitted on the basis that she was ‘not aware at the time’ .
On March 3, she was cleared of a fourth charge of knowing and intending her comments to be racially offensive and discriminatory, something she had denied.
It will have come as some relief that this most damaging charge was not upheld. Nonetheless, it undoubtedly casts a shadow over the future of her career.
The personal legacy has also been huge. ‘There have been dark times where I’ve not felt like I can get through this and you question everything,’ she told the hearing last week.
Her marriage, at least, has survived. Simon, who still posts to his now diminished 854,000 followers, recently published a loving Valentine’s Day post under a photo of the pair sharing a passionate kiss.
Yet Clemmie’s is a salutary tale of the dangers of falling down the social media rabbit hole, where those with gigantic followings are put on a pedestal and expected to provide ever glossier insights into their lives, yet are subjected to the fiercest, and most bitter, scrutiny.
‘I think she didn’t bargain for how much she wouldn’t be able to control the narrative once she became so popular,’ says Sara.
‘Just because the platform is about you doesn’t mean you control all of it. At the end of the day, you are only one part of it. And the rest of it can be difficult to handle.’