June is just around the corner, which means one thing: Love Island.
I have had various discussions during the build up with my friends. To watch or not to…
Last year, the answer was simple: Yes. But now, I’m not so sure. What changed my mind? After all it’s a great antidote to a dull day in the office. TV where you can escape reality and watch without a worry. Or so we thought.
There had been some anticipation of plus size models and a more ’diverse’ group of entering the villa this year, so when I saw ITV had released the line up, I excitedly went to investigate. Scrolling through bright candy coloured images, I saw 12 gorgeous human beings… from scientist to surfer. But not one person with a visible difference.
18% of people self-identify as having a visible difference such as a mark, scar or condition* (me being one of them- I have Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome). Which means, that there should be at least one person on Love Island representing this demographic.
Why do people who look ‘different’ need to be represented?
1 in 3 people feel depressed, sad or anxious as a result of having a visible difference*
I believe that a contributing factor to this is how people are portrayed in the media.
Adverts show a very narrow perspective of beauty and we are under constant pressure to look like what their idea of ‘perfect’ is. This in turn can influence our happiness: we experience low confidence and self esteem , as our bodies do not match what we see in the media; suggesting that we are simply not good enough.
People with visible differences are putting up barriers because they assume that they wouldn’t make the cut. I would never apply to go on Love Island purely because I don’t think they would want someone like me, who has a swollen foot and is a size 12/14. We aren’t putting ourselves in situations to gain opportunities because of our insecurities about looking different.
What can we do to change this?
I am very proud to be a Campaigner for the charity Changing Faces and we want more brands to sign our Pledge To Be Seen and commit to better representing people with a visible difference.
Love Island attracts millions of viewers, with the average amount being 3.6 million.
Over half a million people with a visible difference will be tuning in on Monday to watch a new group of singletons entering the villa. Amongst the viewers will be many teenagers.
For me, I was most self-conscious when I was in my teens. I never felt good enough and I was constantly comparing my body to what I saw in magazines, films and reality TV.
At times, I was very sad and wished I would wake up one day and for my KTS leg to have miraculously shrunk to the same size and colour of my left.
If only I had a public figure to look up to who had a visible difference! This person could be a Love Island contestant. I know I would’ve felt a bit more comfortable with my body, knowing there are other people with visible differences who are successful.
Instead, it’s taken me years of anti depressants, therapy and counselling to help me on my journey of accepting my visible difference.
On the plus side, I feel a lot better about my body and how it looks and I am comfortable enough to show my leg in public: I’m not hiding it anymore!
*Statistics are taken from the Changing Faces report: My Visible Difference.