Some might call it trash telly, but reality shows like Love Island are a guilty pleasure, proudly consumed by as many as 4.3 million viewers each night. Summer after summer we tune in to enjoy all the grafting, banter and plenty of snogging between hot people “doing bits” on the telly.
This week, Love Island viewers were left shaking after Irish Nigerian beauty (and brains) Yewande Biala was dumped from the show. The Dublin based scientist’s exit will be one of the most memorable moments of the series. Her storyline formed the season’s most divisive drama, as she found herself wedged in a love triangle with two models: Danny and Arabella. In true karmic fashion, love rival Arabella was swiftly eliminated from the show in last night’s episode, ringing true to Yewande’s last words to Danny, “what goes around comes around”.
Naturally, Yewande’s eviction kicked up conversation about the lack of representation of black women in British reality TV. As one of the most-watched programmes in the country, Love Island also happens to hold the title of being one of the least diverse in terms of the age, race, orientation and body shapes of its stars.
Elsewhere in the sphere of reality television, former The Only Way Is Essex cast member Vas Morgan recently pointed out that in their entire history, Towie, Love Island, Geordie Shore and Made In Chelsea have had a combined cast of 386 people, with only 17 of them being of ethnic minorities. Obviously, the number drops even further when you consider how many of these cast members were black women.
Knowing this makes our good sis Yewande’s presence in Love Island bittersweet. On the one hand, we can celebrate the representation of beautiful, educated black women with outstanding taste in wigs, snatched physiques and a masters in the art of subtle shade. On the other, we’ll mourn the loss of one of the season’s favourite cast members. But in light of her absence, we can also take a look back at some of the most iconic black women we’ve seen on British reality TV – the ranks of which Yewande Biala will be joining.
Kicking off with icons of the recent past, fellow Love Island alumni Samira was a West End performer and originator of the term “cutesie” – which sadly went down like Gretchen Wiener trying to make “fetch” happen. Before her time on Love Island, Samira starred in productions of Mamma Mia and Dreamgirls and had a brief romance with American actor Chris Pine. However, she recently landed herself in hot water alongside Alexandra Cane and Josh Denzel for attempting to brand Yewande as “bitter”.
Back in 2005, Big Brother’s Makosi became an overnight sensation after a steamy jacuzzi scene with fellow housemate Anthony Hutton. With the help of the tabloids, the on-screen encounter has been scorched into the memory of millions. The scandal led to Makosi being hypersexualised and hounded by the press. A controversial post-eviction interview with Davina McCall saw the Channel 4 presenter receiving 450 Ofcom complaints for the biased grilling she gave Makosi, leaving many viewers uncomfortable. Following the show, she fought a challenging deportation case after the Zimbabwean national left her job to appear on Big Brother and was subsequently banned from the UK in 2012.
The formation of Girls Aloud on 2002’s Popstars: The Rivals was an iconic moment in British reality television. Singer Sarah Harding narrowly beat Javine in the live reveal that was watched by 8.5 million people. Just missing out on a place the manufactured pop group, Javine embarked on a solo career and went on to bravely represent our nation at Eurovision in 2005. She was also famously embroiled in the cheating scandal that broke up Alesha Dixon and MC Harvey of So Solid Crew.
Blowing the judges away with her rendition of Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’, Manchester singer Misha B made it all the way to the semi-finals on 2011’s season of The X Factor. The singer was dragged into a backstage bullying controversy with accusations from judges Tulisa and Louis Walsh, but a lack of evidence swiftly led to apologies from both. None of that stopped her from going on to support Nicki Minaj on tour or earning a nomination for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards.
In 2007, Charley Uchea became another of Big Brother’s unforgettable housemates. She was at the centre of one of the show’s best plot twists, when she was falsely evicted only to be sent back into the house the very same day. The Lewisham “it girl” made it to the series finale which was later won by Brian Bello and will always be remembered for her infamous beef with Chanelle Hayes. Television gold.
Ruby was runner-up in 2013’s Great British Bake Off then went on to become the author of three culinary books and co-founded the ‘Do What You Want’ zine with her wife, Leah Pritchard. During her time on Bake Off, viewers tried to paint Ruby with the “sassy” black girl brush after taking none of judge Paul Hollywood’s nonsense in the show and famously calling him a “walking gammon joint”. In another hilarious swine inspired insult, she dubbed Piers Morgan “a sentient ham”. Ruby is far more than just a “feisty” trope and has spoken up and written eloquently on issues surrounding food shaming and classicism.
Honorary mention: Tiffany Pollard
Starring in 2016’s Celebrity Big Brother, reality TV O.G Tiffany Pollard (née New York) has provided us with an endless supply of memes. Having first made a name for herself on VH1’s Flavor of Love and snagging her own show, I Love New York, Tiffany came for the bag again in 2016 after crossing the pond to star in the UK series. The “David’s dead” identity mix up where she mistook fellow housemate David Gest for David Bowie is still one of Big Brother’s wildest moments.