Sharon says she ‘felt like the diversity card’ in the Love Island 2021 villa
Sharon Gaffka revealed to The Tab what she said in unaired Love Island conversations about race, sexuality, and disability
Love Island 2021 contestant Sharon Gaffka has said she felt like the “diversity card” at times during her stint in the villa.
In an interview with The Tab, Sharon, who entered the villa on day one and was dumped after three weeks, says she was part of unaired conversations about race, sexuality, and disability.
Speculating on why scenes may have been cut, Sharon says she thinks some may have been because they referred to dating apps, and Tinder is a Love Island sponsor.
She thinks that as well as efforts from producers to cast a diverse lineup, the show also needs to make sure Islanders are attracted to a diverse range of different people – otherwise “what’s the point?”, Sharon says.
Love Island bosses have previously said the show is “about boys and girls coupling up”, and to have gay Islanders would be a “logistical difficulty”. The show has also come under fire for its lack of body diversity, with a survey of 6,000 Tab readers finding 83 per cent think Love Island isn’t diverse enough.
‘It’s very hard because your race is very much fetishised’
Sharon says one of the first serious conversations she had in the villa was about race – but it was cut. She remembers sitting on the swings with Kaz and some of the boys, telling The Tab: “We were talking about as a mixed race woman, as an Asian woman, and as a black woman how hard it is to date, if you use dating apps for example.
“Sometimes, especially in a heterosexual environment, it’s very hard because your race is very much fetishised, especially because of what modern pornography is like. Interracial pornography and Asian pornography is very much hyper-sexualised and fetishised a lot.”
Sharon says she and Kaz spoke a lot about awful things people have said to them whilst dating and on apps, but these conversations were also unaired.
Obviously, Islanders are in the villa around the clock for eight whole weeks – we all know that not every conversation can be shown in an hour-long episode.
Speculating on why these scenes may have been cut, Sharon told The Tab: “I do think that maybe that conversation might have been cut from the show because we were referring to dating apps specifically, when Tinder is one of the big sponsors of the show.”
Continuing, she said: “In terms of commercial routes it’s probably not great for them to have that part of the show, but I do think there’s a lot of people that do really relate to those experiences.” Sharon says she’s had messages from lots of people sharing their own similar experiences.
A gay Love Island ‘would still make just as good entertainment as a heterosexual Love Island’
Sharon says she had a conversation about her sexuality with Faye that, like some of her other conversations, was also cut.
Sharon says that for her “bisexuality is a grey area”, and she thinks different people have different definitions of it. She’s never been in a relationship with a woman and says: “I think it’s very confusing for me to really know where I fit in with this thing and I feel like a lot of people can also relate to that in terms of their sexuality. It’s very grey, very confusing.”
She was unsurprised her conversation was cut. “I think that’s the first time in my mind I’ve ever, I’ve actually spoke about it quite publicly with anyone, so yeah I wasn’t really surprised that was cut from the show either.
“I know that Love Island’s had a lot of people say to them that you know you should have more diversity in terms of sexuality on the show, and that’s been one of their main battling points, I think.”
Last week, a Love Island boss said the show is “about boys and girls coupling up” and said they haven’t found a way to make gay couples work on the show. Earlier this summer, an ITV boss said to have gay Islanders would be a “logistical difficulty” for the format.
Sharon says she understands this viewpoint because Love Island’s recouplings show either boys picking the girls, or vice versa, but says this “doesn’t stop them from having bisexual contestants”.
“If there is a logistical difficulty, then why can’t you have one where it’s a bit more open?” she says. “I think that would still make just as good entertainment as a heterosexual Love Island, it would be just as interesting if not more.”
She continues: “If you have that many people in a room that can think about things I think there would be a way for you to work it out, but I think it’s very much an easy answer to say ‘no, it doesn’t work'”.
As well as Sharon’s unaired discussions about race and sexuality, she says she had many conversations with Hugo about his disability. Hugo was the show’s first ever physically disabled Islander, and before he entered the villa it was revealed he has club foot.
However, when he was in the villa this seemed to be completely ignored, and viewers weren’t shown him speaking about it even once. Speaking on his Instagram story since leaving the villa, Hugo said he did speak to the other Islanders about his disability, but it wasn’t shown.
“I was upset that he felt like that hasn’t been portrayed either”, Sharon says.
‘They forgot diversity is not just one thing’
Love Island often comes under fire from people who say it lacks diversity, and Sharon says she thinks this year producers “tried”, but forgot about the wide range of forms diversity takes. “When you think about the starting lineup in terms of the girls this year more than the lads, Shannon and I are Asian, two white blonde women with Faye and Lib, and then Kaz is a black woman, so the starting lineup in terms of women I felt were quite diverse and I do think they really tried.
“But I do think people forget that diversity is not just race. Diversity comes in lots of different boxes and lots of different ways – hair colour, race, weight, size, height, all of that stuff.
“I feel like this year they tried, but they forgot diversity is not just one thing.”
‘What’s the point of me being here if everyone’s type is blonde?’
She also thinks producers need to make sure people’s types are actually diverse, too: “Where they might have picked more diverse people to be in the villa, people’s types were not diverse. It’s all well and good having myself, Shannon and Kaz if the boys only prefer white girls.”
Sharon says the “happiest point” for her watching the show after leaving the villa was when Tyler came in and immediately told Kaz he was all for her. “I know how much that meant to her,” she says.
“Unfortunately, that never happened for me and sometimes I was sat there being like, well, what’s the point of me being here if everyone’s type is blonde, because I’m not. Like I have balayaged hair, but I am still Asian, I still identify as that and that’s never gonna change. And so a lot of the times when Kaz was upset about how men portrayed their type, I very much related to that.”
Sharon continued: “I feel like if the cast was more diverse, I probably wouldn’t have felt as self conscious as I did when I was in there.”
Although it’s nothing against the people in the couples that made the final, “they were all genuine relationships and that’s just the way the show played out”, Sharon says the lack of diversity in the final was difficult to watch. “Watching the final was quite hard when you see a black woman and three blonde girls,” she says.
Sharon remembers going into the garden from the villa one day, and seeing six blonde girls sat around the fire pit. “Something about that moment just didn’t sit right with me”, Sharon says.
‘There was times where I felt like the diversity card’
“Where I grew up, the tall, busty blonde girls were the girls who boys liked, light skinned blonde girls and I think for me being in that villa I basically felt like back at school,” she says. “Where because I was shaped differently because I was athletic, or because I had darker hair, or I had different features, I think it just felt like 2.0.
“And it made me feel really self conscious and kind of put me back in that weird space in that weird shell.”
Sharon says she’s size eight, athletic and muscular, but says there were times she felt “unattractive” surrounded by “petite” girls.
“There’s nothing wrong with that like that is just their natural body and I would never want to shame them in that way at all,” she says. “I think because they’re all very petite, there was times where I felt a bit like, ‘oh, am I now also the body diversity card as well as the race diversity card and the career diversity?
“‘Am I here to tick these boxes, or am I here because you’ve genuinely matched me of another person?’ There was times where I just felt like the diversity card for the show.”
In regards to suggestions of scenes being cut, a Love Island spokesperson said: “It is not possible to show everything that happens in the villa due to time constraints. It is always our intention to produce a show that is a fair and accurate representation of life in the villa.”
In regards to suggestions of lack of diversity, the spokesperson said: “Love Island’s only stipulation is that applicants are over 18, single and looking for love. Our application and casting process is inclusive to all and we are always aiming to reflect the age and diversity of our audience on the show.”
Featured image via Sharon’s Instagram @sharongaffka
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