Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past couple of weeks, you should definitely have heard of Love Island, the steamy relationship game show that aims to pair together the most compatible and in love couple. It’s a light-hearted, banter-filled reality TV show that appeals to the UK masses, however although I’ve enjoyed watching the show for the first time this season, I can’t quite shake an underlying feeling of disregard that one of the Love Islanders has faced.
Samira Mighty, a black British contestant on the show, has had a hard time to say the least. She started off in the very first episode with none of the guys picking her to couple up with, which led to her being defaulted to Dr. Alex. Since then, new guys have come in and haven’t really batted an eyelid at her. As a black woman, and I’m sure plenty of other black women can attest to this, but I’m not in the least bit surprised. In a show that is heavily focused on bodily aesthetics, unfortunately, Samira doesn’t quite fit the bill of “desirable” from a Eurocentric or British perspective.
No doubt she’s gorgeous — she’s one of the prettiest women on the show and has a banging body to go with it — however it’s quite easy to see that the show is indirectly highlighting the racial dating politics that exists in the UK. Statistically, black women have the lowest matches when it comes to online dating and are seen as the least attractive against white women, Asian women and Latinas. With dating being largely based on visual attractiveness, it’s fair to put Samira’s bad luck in love down to racial preference.
Being melanated automatically means that Samira comes well below her female comrades in the dating hierarchy because standards of beauty in British and European cultures are anti-black, which makes dating especially hard for darker skinned-women. Against typical-looking Welsh, Irish and English contestants, her blackness stands out, subconsciously blurring her attractiveness and casting her aside as a potential dating partner. Samira isn’t alone though — her experience on the island so far reflects black women’s actual dating experience to a tee.
When a person mentions their “type”, it is seldom based on personality traits, levels of humour or intelligence. It’s usually based on eye colour and hair colour. For example, in countless episodes of this season we’ve heard men saying my type is “brunette” or “blonde hair and blue eyes”. In reality, it’s rare to ever hear a man say “dark skin and brown eyes” or “afro hair and dark eyes”. In fact, I’ve never heard a man — let alone a white man — state that his “type” relates at all to the physical characteristics of a black women and with the show being filled with mostly white men, it seems as though the show’s lack of diversity will be Samira’s downfall.
And this isn’t just about the preference of white males. Go on to YouTube and you can find a plethora of videos of males of all races in the UK being asked about their “type”. Unfortunately, time and time again, black women always bear the brunt of dismissal. Our skin colour pushes and confines us into ugly stereotypes such as “aggressive”, “intimating”, “too stubborn”, or just plain old unattractive. These are how we are often labelled and categories without even having the chance to open our mouths to prove initial opinions wrong. Sad, right?
In the dating world where it’s fair to say that competition is fierce, being at the bottom of the barrel based on looks alone is disheartening, devaluing and, to an extent, discriminatory. Yes, everyone is entitled to a preference but the words “preference” and “type” are often used to mask the reality of a black woman’s place within a Eurocentric society.
With all this in mind as a very real and pertinent everyday issue, it would be lovely if the Love Island production team could do more about the lack of diversity on their show. The Islanders on the show are not very representative of the diversity in many parts of the UK, not just racially, but also in terms of age and body shape. If there was more overall diversity, rock hard abs wouldn’t matter and neither would a person’s skin colour.
It’s also important to highlight how impactful representation is. Why don’t men prefer black women as a dating partner? It has a lot to do with the lack of positive representation of black women on TV and in films. Let’s take reality TV shows in the UK as a quick example. In last year’s The Apprentice, Joanna Jarjue (the only black contestant) was branded as an “argumentative” hothead despite several of the other women engaging in frequent bickering. Similarly in Big Brother 2017, sisters Deborah and Hannah Agboola (the only black people in the house) were labelled as aggressive despite all housemates arguing on various different occasions.
The list of examples could go on but the point is, until diversity in media is addressed and multiracial representation becomes a norm, how will negative perceptions towards black women ever change?