This year’s Love Island has sparked both fierce debate and many a social media storm. Possibly the most unexpected and yet pertinent has been around the issue of race. ‘The token Black girl’ is a phrase afforded to the girl exploited as a symbol of diversity, rather than an authentic part of the team or group, in the case of our islanders. This year’s villa presented to us Samira Mighty; a 22-year-old West End performer of Black ethnicity. Despite her undoubted beauty, Samira struggled to find love or anything more than friendship for the first six weeks of the show. In light of this, many enraged fans have accused Love Island’s contestants of anti-blackness.
Writing for The Tab, Diyora Shadijanova went as far as to say that Samira’s experience had been ‘one of rejection, mistreatment and belittlement’ because ‘Western beauty standards mean that it’s extremely unlikely she’s going to be a new islander’s first choice.’ Beyond this, there has been a lot of focus on social media highlighting the lack of representation and diversity on TV and in the media.
For the past few summers, the nation becomes ceremoniously, religiously embroiled in the show that is Love Island where hopeful contestants enter the villa hoping to find love…oh and there’s also the £50,000 incentive for the winning couple. Not a bad deal, unless you’re an ethnic minority.
Last year Marcel Somerville, the only Black contestant in the show, entered the villa and was rejected by every single girl in one fell swoop. This year, we have Samira Mighty. Arguably the most stunning girl in the villa, Samira has received barely any attention in comparison to her fellow islanders. While Dr Alex and Samira found themselves in the mirrored situation of a friendship couple, struggling to find someone who is ‘just their type’, the islanders, producers and social media focused particularly on Dr Alex’s endeavour, completely disregarding Samira’s plight.
Sadly, this story goes beyond the villa. It is a reality for us Black women who are often cast aside and unfortunately not seen as desirable. There is only so much a girl can take, right? This is why when Samira broke down stating “unfortunately not many guys in the villa go for me and that’s fine, because I’m fine with it”, many hearts went out to her. The only thing that set her apart from the other girls is her ethnicity.
Alas, this love story may have a fairytale ending after all, with Samira leaving the villa to be with her knight in shining armour Frankie Foster. Yet, this does not inhibit the problem of discrimination and diversity that is inherent on Love Island and unacceptable in contemporary society. Six weeks later, when Samira eventually did find a romantic connection with Frankie, (after he initially rejected her in favour of Megan) it was not celebrated and embraced in comparison to the other Islanders who have found love. Their stay in the hideaway was not aired, their interactions barely shown and Frankie ultimately was voted out of the villa. It seemed like no one, including the producers, were rooting for Samira.
Samira’s Love Island journey really highlights the injustices faced by many minority groups, which stretches far beyond Black ethnicity alone. For many Asians, Hispanics and Other Pacific Islanders, it is time for something to be done about it.