Love Island South Africa’s ‘too white’ online backlash


POPULAR reality show Love Island made its long-anticipated African debut to a very disappointed South African audience, mainly for its lack of diversity. 

The first African version of the UK hit reality series premiered on the M-net channel on Dstv with the first group of cast mates being white dominated, with only 3 black contestants introduced in the first episode. 

The show is also hosted by Leandie Du Randt, a white actress, and narrated by Warren Robertson, who was heavily criticised for his script on social media.

Love Island is a competition aimed at 10 singles finding their match on location, in the hopes of the winning couple winning 1 million rand ($66,200) at the end. 

Durang Atembe who hails from Cameroon, 23; Asad Boomgard, 24, a coloured from Johannesburg, and Thimna Shooto, 26, from Mossel Bay, were the only black contestants to start the show, with Shooto being the only black female in the Love Island villa. 

The three non-white contestants on the show. Picture: Instagram/loveisland_sa

It didn’t take long for South African viewers to air their disapproval at the casting, with many echoing the lack of varied faces that many had expected with the concept of a Love Island set in the rainbow nation where there resides a black majority of over 80% and of 8% white people.

“Wow so much diversity. This is a true representation of what I thought SA looks like,” said @blaqqueenreign. 

Another user, Bassie M, wrote: “#LoveIslandSA is getting that (sic) international (sic) drag for their black erasure IN AFRICA. I hope this happens with every episode. It’s what they deserve.”

@teawithkakes tweeted: “I knew  #LoveIslandSA was gonna be whitewashed, i just didn’t want to believe it.”

The backlash did not end in South Africa. International viewers from Nigeria, the UK and USA sent their own criticisms over the lack of diversity, commenting that the original (UK) and the US versions had far more casting than a nation that is known for being a black majority nation. 

American beautyologist, Nai wrote, “South Africa is only 8% white.”

Talky said: “This is love island south “AFRICA” …. even love island UK has more black people in it.”

British artist Sophia Tassew wrote, “What in the ap*rtheid is going on?”

Former Nigerian Big Brother contestant Erica Nlewedim also commented with: “Love island South Africa? Does the ratio represent the real South Africa?”

Many of the viewers were also disappointed with the narration by Robertson and the production of the first few episodes thus far, calling the former boring with forced banter, and the latter – an amateur representation of filmmaking that South Africans felt was not representative of the actual filming industry’s professionalism.

The African Mirror understands that more diverse castmates will be added as the show continues, but many viewers commented that they would not hold their breath if the first group of singles was what the show chose to premiere with. 

In a statement, a spokesperson for Dstv said, “We pride ourselves in reflecting diversity and inclusion for all our shows, including Love Island. The many channels and thousands of program hours we produce are testament to this,

“Viewers can be assured that this will become more apparent in future episodes of Love Island SA. We hope viewers will keep watching to enjoy the new stars of the show who will be arriving over the next few days.”

In response to the technical and production errors seen on television, Dstv said: We understand viewers’ disappointment in relation to the production quality and would like to apologise for the technical issues experienced yesterday and are working really hard to resolve them.”

Love Island is also set to expand to Nigeria later this year. 

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