Love Island is three weeks into its tenth season, and whilst the show seems to have made some (arguably small) progress in terms of contestant diversity and mental health support, it still has some huge areas of improvement. Scrolling on Twitter, I was reminded of one: size diversity. As in, the lack of.
Every year, trolls set their sights on multiple contestants, and get their magnifying glasses out to pick apart any perceived faults. Anyone on the show who does not perfectly fit into their narrow idea of what beauty is, gets ripped apart. In the past, Shaughna Phillips was driven to block the word 'legs' from her social media, whilst Liberty Poole was left feeling ‘heartbroken’ over comments about her tummy. This year, Jess Harding has been subject to similar abuse. One troll said “I mean, how can Jess be both fat AND slim? She's the most out of shape size 8 ive ever seen. Like a slightly thinner Gemma Collins.” Another, grossly, commented that “jess is actually the reason why i’m fat phobic”. There are plenty of other similarly disgusting tweets.
Let's be clear, Love Island has never had a ‘fat’ contestant. Every contestant has been straight-sized and slim. So, when women like Jess are called fat, it shows how warped Love Island and its viewership are: a) the show has fostered a culture where skinny is the only body type seen. b) trolls online seem to think ‘fat’ is a bad thing, when it is simply an adjective. c) the show, clearly, is not ready for size diversity.
Felicity Hayward, a curve model and author of ‘Does My Butt Look Big In This?’ spoke with GLAMOUR, saying “Love Island is the root of evil” because they consistently have “only catered to one body ideal, so they're the ones that are saying ‘this is how everyone should look like, if people deserve love and admiration they need to look like these type of people’. ”
Felicity added that “You get one bad camera angle on Jess, where you see some skin that's folded (which is normal), and she's now getting hate. Well, if Love Island at the beginning had been more diverse within size, then people wouldn't be pointing at someone who is slightly curvy. Because the others are so slim, whoever is the ‘biggest’ of the women, or the men, in there, will probably always get that hate.”
There's something producers never seemed to understand: you can safeguard the contestants, have a diverse and inclusive cast, and still make Love Island…entertaining.
She doesn't think that the answer is including plus-size people in the show, as it currently stands. Explaining that “Having one plus-size person on the show would never work, I think the whole thing needs to be rebooted, and they need to show love on a different level that isn't just aesthetic.”
Love Island has not just been a byproduct of societies' fatphobia, it has propelled it. It started in 2015, and has made the choice year after year, to reinforce this idea that love is only for slim people. The not-so-subtle messaging is that slim people only fancy other slim people, slim people are who deserve to be on screen, and that fat people are non-existent in romantic arenas. None of this is true, but it has sold these lies, again and again, to its young and impressionable audience.
Now, on its tenth season, it's gone too far to make any meaningful adjustments. No plus-size person would feel comfortable going on the show, in its current iteration (if Jess is subject to trolling, an actual plus-size person would face much worse). Felicity is right, Love Island needs a full reboot, if it's going to be size-inclusive. I, for one, won't hold my breath for this change.
A spokesperson for ITV said “It is incredibly irresponsible that any Islander would be body-shamed in this way and we would always discourage anyone from making appearance-based comments that could be hurtful to the islanders and their families.”