Unless there’s a mindset shift, Love Island will always have an inclusivity problem
In the wake of a new series of Love Island, Social Media Executive Emily Im discusses the show’s inclusivity problem.
Alexa, play Britney Spears’ ‘Oops I Did It Again’ because Love Island has mugged off its viewers for another year.
Despite promising a more diverse cast—media outlets have previously reported that the show was searching for people of ‘all shapes and sizes’ as well as gay contestants—Love Island has put all its eggs in the same basket for Series 7. Earlier in June, the idea of having LGBT contestants was written off as a ‘logistical difficulty’ while an ITV spokesperson responded to backlash over the lack of body diversity saying this year’s Islanders ‘have a healthy BMI’.
Love Island’s type on paper is typically vague—all you need to be is single, over 18 and looking for love—but on screen, the show’s preferences are more obvious. It doesn’t matter how often bosses say they’re committed to better representation, anyone with a working pair of eyes can see they favour slim, busty women and tall men with square faces, six packs and a foot fetish. As one twitter user said, where are the skinny boys and dad bods?
Of course, Love Island’s first physically disabled contestant, Hugo Hammond, has been widely discussed, with some seeing his inclusion as a positive step for disability representation while others believe it to be tokenistic. Since ITV claimed in 2019 that ‘accommodating people with special needs’ was ‘complex’ and suggested budget restraints meant they couldn’t make the villa more accessible, Love Island bosses really did the bare minimum by choosing someone who doesn’t require adjustments.
Love Island might point towards the show’s increasing racial diversity as some kind of win against critics; Series 1 featured three mixed race individuals whereas Series 6 had approximately twelve people of colour. For Series 7, the original line up includes two half Asian women (Sharon Gaffka and the already-dumped Shannon Singh) and three black contestants (Kaz Kamwi, Aaron Francis and Toby Aromolaran). However, viewers have noticed a concerning trend over the years: black women are always picked last during the first coupling ceremony, which is when decisions are made purely based on looks.
Although disappointing, it’s not entirely surprising when contestants’ tastes are so unvaried. Male Love Islanders have described their type as either ‘petite blonde’ or ‘tanned brunette’ while the go-to description women use is ‘tall, dark and handsome’ (to their credit, this year’s female Islanders also want good teeth). Sure they like personality too, but given the superficial nature of the show’s beginnings, these types come first. Nobody will dare say it on TV, but the men in particular only seem interested in white or mixed-race women.
This is not a coincidence.
Nobody will dare say it on TV, but the men in particular only seem interested in white or mixed-race women
According to a former Love Island hopeful, applicants are asked what their type is and what they look for at every stage of the process. At her screen test, she recalls being in a room full of blonde white women wearing Misguided and bodycon dresses, and discovered many were influencers who had been contacted through Instagram. Casting producer, Lewis Evans, has said that social media profiles are viewed to gage who aren’t ‘afraid to show themselves off and have a big following’, so it isn’t a secret that contestants can be scouted online.
With all this in mind, it’s hard to deny that Love Island actively seek out people who fit into a very specific box. Considering 100,000 people applied to the show this year so far, it seems unlikely they all looked similar and mentioned the same type, yet the casting team have clearly and consciously chosen people who do.
The icing on the cake is this comment from ITV creative director, Richard Cowles: “We want to be as representative as possible but we also want them [Love Islanders] to be attracted to one another.”
If they keep prioritising men who desire pint-size Jessica Rabbits with blonde hair, then of course it makes sense to keep inviting blonde influencers to auditions.
If they keep prioritising men who desire pint-size Jessica Rabbits with blonde hair, then of course it makes sense to keep inviting blonde influencers to auditions. But there are many sexy singles in the UK looking for love who don’t conform to this Love Island norm. And unless there’s a mindset shift and the show’s perception of what constitutes an attractive person changes, Love Island will always have an inclusivity problem.