29.10.2020

Love Island producers on the lack of body diversity in the villa

And whilst we’re eagerly anticipating a roster of new islanders, catchphrases and merch, there’s a few elephants in the room surrounding the upcoming show. Firstly, two former contestants have tragically committed suicide and as the 2019 show returns and a new roster of islanders have been revealed, the show has come under fire regarding mental health, diversity and body representation.

We may be bias but the greatest show on TV, ahem, Love Island, is returning to our screens in a matter of days.

GLAMOUR jetted into the villa ahead of the show’s launch to grill the producers on exactly what we can expect this year, how seriously they’re taking their duty of care, their views on body diversity and the insider secrets direct from the most famous house in Mallorca.

Here’s your first look at the Love Island 2019 cast

We chatted to Angela Jain, Manager for ITV Studios, Richard Cowles, Creative Director, Entertainment), Paul Mortimer Commissioner for ITV’s digital channels, and Amanda Stavri, Commissioner for factual entertainment, who detailed their duty of care statement and emphasised how seriously they take the welfare of the contestants.

Since former Love Island and Celebs Go Dating contestant, Mike Thalassitis, was found dead earlier this year, many people have been pondering ‘just how dangerous is reality TV fame?’. How powerfully can that experience affect our mental health? And are TV producers doing enough to protect their stars from deteriorating mental health?

Thalassitis is the second former Love Island contestant to die by suicide in the past year. Sophie Gradon died last June. The causes of suicide are always desperately complex and it is impossible to pinpoint one single cause. It is relevant, now, though, to ask how vulnerable these young people felt after appearing on television – and how responsibly they were cared for before, during and after that experience and how future reality TV stars will fare.

After the death of Mike Thalassitis, do reality TV shows need to do more to protect their contestants?

“Obviously we’ve published our duty of care statement, and where we are compared from the first series is completely different to where were then and the level of scrutiny from them and from everyone else has changed and the profile of the show has changed,” said Angela.

“It would be entirely normal to keep evolving those aftercare procedures, which is what we’ve done. Our duty of care is always first and foremost the islanders. We take it really seriously. We’re not arseholes. We really do care about these people. That’s not who we are. We really care about the show and we really care about the islanders. For them to have a really good time and to find love – and there’s been babies and there’s been weddings – it’s super important for us. We are also offering social media training and financial training.”

The show has also come under fire for casting carbon copies of last year’s cast and not being representative and diverse enough in their line-up. The team behind the hit show, however, maintain that the original batch of islanders offer a ‘slice of British life’, saying: “What we’ve tried to do again is have a huge range of personalities and people, hoping there’s someone in there for everyone and a slice of British life, so hopefully lots of different types of people are represented.”

The producers’ main aim, they say, is to find people that are ‘fun, aspirational and that we’re all going to want to watch and we’re going to want to watch falling in love’.

“It’s always been key that there’s aspirational people in there, but there’s also real people in there. We represent a cross-section of our viewers; not everyone’s got a big fabulous job and some people have got completely normal jobs. We wouldn’t want to have one at the expense of the other,” said Angela.

They also believe that the likes of Camilla Thurlow and Dr Alex being past past stars has helped lure a new demographic of applicants and legitamised the show for a new roster; this year we’ll see a pharmacist, engineer and scientist battle it out for love.

And while a range of professions may be being portrayed in 2019, the body image debate has come up repeatedly since the show’s first batch of islanders were revealed. With people commenting that the new islanders are carbon copies of the blonde-haired, blue-eyed, slim physiqued previous islanders, people are questioning whether the producers are making a conscious effort to cast a wider net with their recruitment process.

“I think we try to be as representative and diverse as possible,” said Richard. “First and foremost, it’s an entertainment show and it’s about people wanting to watch people we’ve got on screen and then reacting and falling in love with one another. Where else can you watch people, who arrive as strangers, who fall in love over eight weeks. That’s an amazing thing to watch in real time. Yes, we want to be as representative as possible but we also we want them to be attracted to one another. Also, we’re not saying that everyone that’s in there is how you’re supposed to look. We’re saying here’s a group of people that we want to watch for eight weeks, and we want to watch them fall in love. That’s not at the front of our mind, but we do want to be as diverse as possible.”

Ultimately, and we have to agree here, the producers believe their show serves as the perfect antidote to the sh** political climate RN.

“This is a genuinely warm-hearted, uplifting, upbeat show. Given the absolute bollocks that is going on in our country, we are hoping this will be a breath of fresh air.”

With a strict duty of care, a more progressive cast than ever before and a broad spectrum of Britain represented, we’re counting down the hours until Love Island returns to our screens. Race you to the sofa…

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