Love Island and Racial Diversity
Love Island was one of the most popular shows this summer but it still had a real diversity problem.
This year, Love Island saw its first black woman, Samira Mighty, entering the villa and the show failed her. From the moment Samira was not chosen by any of the Love Island men in the first episode, I knew that she would be facing this kind of rejection for the rest of the series. Throughout the show, she was either seen as a second choice by the men or served her role as an asexual agony aunt there to save the relationships of her white friends. Unfortunately, Samira’s experience on the show is simply representative of black women’s experience in the real world.
Misogynoir is a portmanteau that combines ‘misogyny’ with the French word for black, ‘noir’. The term, coined by the black feminist Moya Bailey, is often overlooked by mainstream feminist discourse as it describes the racialised sexism experienced specifically by black women. Whilst in many ways the Love Island is completely inconsequential, it is also a microcosm of what our society desires; beauty, wealth and fame. The rejection of Samira in the villa only mirrors the rejection of black women from such values.
Whilst white women can watch Love Island and choose to identify with any of the women on their screen, Samira is the only contestant black women can share their identity with. Samira cannot represent all black women in Britain, nor should she have that responsibility. However, it was the responsibility of the producers to show her as a full and well-rounded person instead of an antiquated black women stereotypes. Now we know that Samira was cheated by Love Island producers who kept the footage of her and Frankie in the hideaway, causing him to be dumped by the viewers and her to be left devastated.
In her twitter thread, black actress Susan Wokoma writes about her time on a reality show when she was a teenager. She writes ‘I learned – at 14 – that in order to be television worthy you have to be sexually desirable or be in turmoil’. Wokoma expresses that she felt like an extra, showing that time and time again black women are left to feel insignificant in shows they are integral to. To add to this, all the talk about ‘types’ this season only increases the Love Island exclusion problem. It would be unfair to say that Love Island makes only black women feel ugly – the truth it makes everyone feel that way – but when male contestants like Charlie say their type is blonde and petite I cannot help but think about the politics of preferring delicate European women to strong or angry black women.
Samira’s experience on Love Island and the discourse around her only reaffirms the prejudice black women have had to face for centuries and will continue to face. Despite our society’s obsession with hyper sexualising the black body, Samira was ignored and made to feel inconsequential in a show which is made to be all about love. Did the producers decide that she was not worthy of the love that her white peers experienced? Perhaps I’m reading too much into a show which is only relevant for 8 weeks out an entire year. But maybe I’m not.