Love Island Australia contestant Ari Kumar is not only going on the reality TV show to find love but to make a social statement while she's at it.
The 25-year-old, who was born in New Zealand-born but is of Fijian Indian descent, is the first South Asian woman to appear on the Australian version of the dating show and hopes her involvement helps other young women from the community feel seen on mainstream media.
The web content manager said she's struggled to see women who look like her on-screen in general, let alone on a show where people are looking for love in front of a whole country.
"Watching TV, you don't really see a lot of strong brown women from our community and so it's hard to find a model figure to look up to," Kumar told Refinery29 Australia ahead of entering the Love Island villa.
"I want to make that [going on a dating show] more of a thing especially in the Fijian Indian community and as an Indian woman. I want these women to be confident and to not be afraid to put themselves out there and without that judgement."
The judgment she speaks of is linked to some of the cultural expectations of South Asian women to pursue an academic career and the stigma of appearing on reality TV. It's often frowned upon to be on a dating show in conservative communities, and even Kumar had to have a difficult conversation with her own family before going on the show.
"In the beginning when I told my parents, I added to the conversation that it is kind of like Big Brother," explained Kumar, saying she hoped that may soften the blow.
"My dad wasn't too overly pleased," she continued, adding that because she was already living out of home and made this decision without consulting him, he and the family were "a little bit scared."
But she's grateful they eventually "came around". In fact, her dad has since been "really supportive", telling her, "make sure you do really well on the challenges".
Former Bachelorette and Bachelor In Paradise contestant Niranga Amarasinghe has previously said that “from experience, there are less POC (people of colour) auditioning for reality TV", referencing “very strict cultural backgrounds” as one reason they may not be participating as they "don’t always allow this kind of public display.”
"For the ones who do and are successful, there is another hurdle an individual has to conquer to actually make it to the filming stage," the Sri Lankan Australian told news.com.au last year. "They have to convince their families they are happy for them to go on reality TV."
Meanwhile, Kumar also opened up about facing judgment within her community when it came to her appearance.
"I have been knocked down by people, especially people in the community where if you'd gain a little bit of weight, they'd say, 'You've become too fat' or if you'd lose weight 'You've become too skinny'.
"My weight has fluctuated over the years," she said, hoping being on the show will convey that size diversity is also important in addition to racial representation.
Kumar is one of several contestants appearing on the third season of Love Island Australia in a bid to find love. The show is yet again hosted by Sophie Monk.