Just over a week ago, Love Island took over our screens and lives for the foreseeable future. This season, the villa is full of young, attractive, entertaining people—but the main thing it's lacking? Body diversity.
Unfortunately, this isn't the first time we've had to endure six weeks of slim, honed singletons parading around our screens in tiny bikinis. In fact, it's been an ongoing issue since the start of the reality TV show and one society is all too familiar with.
And it's not just us who have picked up on it. Take one scroll through the #LoveIsland hashtag on Twitter and you'll see an array of memes and comments about the show's lack of body diversity. People are commenting on how watching the show hurts their self-esteem, and how, while the people on the show are beautiful (because let's face it, they are), beauty doesn't come in just one form. Love Island's lack of body diversity is making viewers feel disheartened. We even put a question to our community in our Facebook group The British Beauty Line, and the general consensus was that the show gives unrealistic expectations of what people are supposed to look like versus what the general public actually looks like.
According to Cosmopolitan, a viewer named Rosie Luchford decided to take matters into her own hands and write into ITV2 about the show's lack of body diversity.
"The problem stems from the fact that so many young girls watch the program. To have this as inspiration can drastically affect their self-esteem and other issues regarding appearance. As a plus size girl myself, I understand the pressures and stigmas surrounding not being conventionally attractive," she said.
Luchford makes an extremely important point in her message. People (especially women) are constantly subjected to scrutiny and criticism about their appearances, and while the show is not outwardly commenting on anyone's weight, it's highlighting a very important issue: It seems that only fit, attractive people are allowed on Love Island.
The producers of the show sent Luchford a response soon after, claiming that "the physical appearance of a contestant is not the main criteria in the selection process. No one is chosen for the way they look or body type alone. There are a variety of different factors when selecting each insider, bearing in mind that they must also be both physically and mentally able to meet any challenges they may face in the villa."
While it's great they took the time to reply, this response just highlights the fundamental problem: The show has created a Love Island mold made up of stereotypically beautiful, slim and toned people who feel confident applying knowing that they have a good shot of getting on the show. We've watched them go on to become huge personalities within the reality TV world and still be subjected left, right and center to online abuse about their bodies. So why would anyone who doesn't fit the show's mold feel comfortable and safe applying?
It's no secret that the show's production team scouts for contestants in the lead-up to each show (last year they scouted Olivia Attwood, Montana Brown and Camilla Thurlow) and go through all its applications. We also happen to know that they approached a Curve model to be on this year's series and may well have attempted to convince others to join. So while they didn't succeed in hiring diverse contestants, we do know that ITV2 is well aware of the issue and attempted to do something about it before this year's series kicked off.
There's no denying that the contestants are hand-picked for their personalities and all provide endless hours of entertainment, but as a female viewer who shamelessly tunes in every evening, I'll admit that I've had countless negative thoughts about my own body shape since it started. I'm classified as stereotypically slim but have struggled with body issues throughout my life, and the thought of parading around in a bikini all summer in a house full of the women I'm currently seeing on my screen is enough to send me into a panic attack.
And it's not just women who are affected. Last year, a lecturer from the University of York claimed that Love Island and social media were to blame for the rise of steroid use in young men. According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of 16- to 24-year-old men using anabolic steroids rose by an extra 19,000 between 2016 and 2017. However, this season, most of the men on the show, whilst still toned, don't look as unrealistically muscly as they did in previous seasons. But for women, it's not as clear-cut.
While vowing to never watch the show again is a bold statement (because let's face it, we'll all be thoroughly enjoying it this summer), it's time ITV2 opened up a frank and honest discussion about the show's lack of body diversity and made the show more inclusive. I, for one, would love to see more diversity throughout the remainder of the show. Hopefully, doing so will open the network up to encourage people who don't fit the Love Island stereotype to apply. After all, it's 2018, and we all know full well that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.
What do you think? Come and tell us in The British Beauty Line