Year after year I tell myself I am done with that one reality show that perpetuates impossible beauty standards, uplifts abhorrent dating rituals, and portrays its Black women contestants as undesirable — if you guessed Love Island, you're correct.
Every year without fail, I, alongside Black Twitter (the soundboard that blew up the show on social media), return to watch as Black women are rejected or never truly seen as desirable by any of the men contestants. This year is no different, but it is the year that I concluded that the show's overuse of the underappreciated Black woman trope needs to end. It's not a far or outrageous cry for me to say that Love Island has never actually catered to Black women contestants, in fact they have capitalised on their most painful moments of rejection.
The most predictable part of Love Island this year hasn't been the consensus of the guys (unsurprisingly) sharing their preference for a blond-haired, blue-eyed bombshell, but how Black women are treated in the villa.
The most predictable part of Love Island this year hasn't been the consensus of the guys (unsurprisingly) sharing their preference for a blond-haired, blue-eyed bombshell, but how Black women are treated in the villa. This season I've heard more of the islanders compliment Kaz's energy than her physical looks, as if unbeknownst to us she has been cosplaying as a bottle of Lucozade this whole time. This was an early indicator that the season would become yet another demoralising and disappointing year for Black women on the show
Most of the men contestants have the same formula for success on the show, which is to "pick the desperate Black woman, I will look multicultural, until someone else comes along that's more my type," journalist Afua Adom told POPSUGAR. It's never about genuinely getting to know them or nurturing a bond, it's really just a surface-level connection in an attempt to prolong their stay on the show.
We saw the way Rachel was unceremoniously dumped from the island after, in her own words on Aftersun, "giving Brad a better shot" than herself. Seems we all mistook Brad's thinly veiled excitement and exclamations that Rachel was his type when she arrived at the villa for actual interest, because in the blink of an eye — after saving him in the recoupling — his whole demeanour changed towards her. In walked blond-haired, blue-eyed Lucinda and off Brad ran to graft, with Rachel left in tears. The same thing happened to Kaz when Toby randomly realised that he'd rather crack on with Chloe than continue on with her. Viewers clocked this as him using Kaz as a safety net until someone better came along.
Yes, anyone being dumped or rejected on national television is terrible, but when it is done systematically to a specific type of woman of a certain race every season, that's when it becomes harmful.
I don't think Love Island producers or non-Black viewers understand how devastating and harmful these moments are to watch. Yes, anyone being dumped or rejected on national television is terrible, but when it is done systematically to a specific type of woman of a certain race every season, that's when it becomes harmful. Seeing these moments repeatedly have an effect on some Black viewers who may feel that being passed over for someone white is what they are to expect when dating, alongside feelings of not being good enough.
It's hard not to see the placeholder trope used by producers towards Black contestants, because Kaz and Rachel are two of many islanders who have undergone the same thing. There was Samira, the first Black girl to ever make it on the show, who was asked to twerk within mere minutes of entering the villa; there was also Yewande, who was predictably not picked and dragged on social media because of her wigs. The dismissal of Yewande throughout her season was personal for me. Here was a stunning brown-skinned girl with a broad nose and full lips, a girl who had features that represented a lot of us, and she was being rejected repeatedly. Some of us already have our own personal hang-ups that we internalise, but I think to visually see someone who looks like you essentially being told their beauty isn't enough hurts.
When will we see change? "It's a top-down issue, the bosses at ITV — white men only know how to hire white men and white women," Adom said. "Big companies are too lazy to hire outside who doesn't look like them." Love Island has been on the air now for seven years without any real changes being made. If anything, we have seen non-Black viewers defend the show and rebut what they consider a "woe is me" act with proclamations that Black contestants shouldn't go on the show if they feel they aren't being given a fair shot.
I once shared this thought after Yewande's dumping; why continuously go on a show that perpetuates Black women as unsuitable? The simple answer is Black women are entitled to love and are as deserving of it as anyone else. They are as entitled to finding love and all of the other things that come along with being on a show like Love Island such as fame, brand sponsorships, and success.
All I ask is they're not made to feel like they're not an option.