Spoilers ahead. In a world of dating apps and social media, there's never been a greater focus on physical appearance when considering a potential date. However, Stan's new reality TV show, Love Triangle (created by the producers of Married At First Sight) aims to challenge this by asking six Aussies to select someone to date after merely chatting to two people via text message where no mention of what they actually look like is allowed.
By eliminating the discussion of physical traits from the initial banter, the objective is for two strangers to connect on a deeper, emotional level. But what happens when these people meet and they suddenly can't see past what's now right in front of their eyes?
In episode two of Love Triangle, we see this scenario play out loud and clear when Yannick Samarasinghe meets with the woman he's asked out on a date, Erika.
With Sri Lankan and Portuguese heritage, an afro and standing at over six-feet tall, Samarasinghe jokingly describes himself as an "Aussie with a constant tan". But the 32-year-old sports lawyer from NSW says he was taken aback when he learnt of what Erika told producers about her initial reaction to his appearance.
On the show, viewers see Erika confessing in a piece-to-camera that Samarasinghe is not her type.
"I did say, 'Oh no' in my head, I’m not going to lie," Erika told producers. "He’s not my type. I do tend to go for that Australian boy look, I guess... light skin blue eyes, a bit of that Viking look [compared] to someone who looks like a basketball player."
While we may want to deny it, we all inherently have preferences when it comes to what we look for in an ideal partner. So, while Erika's honesty is to be commended, it's her 'basketball player' reference that particularly raises eyebrows. With approximately 80% of the National Basketball Association (NBA) consisting of Black players in 2020, and the long-time stereotype that "all black men are good at basketball", it's hard to ignore the racial undertone of Erika's statement.
"To Erika's credit I literally wear basketball jerseys probably 80% of the day," Samarasinghe laughs when speaking to Refinery29 Australia. "But obviously she didn't know that at that point.
"I have a lot of respect for Erica so I don't want to throw her under the bus and it is a pretty full-on environment where things can be taken out of context. But I'm not African American or American so that comment obviously is a little bit narrow-minded."
When it comes to Samarasinghe's dating history, he's interestingly only dated white girls in the past.
"All my girlfriends have all been white — not by any particular choice or anything like that. It's just been whoever I meet and get to know," he explains.
While he hasn't personally faced challenges being in an interracial relationship, he says he's aware that there are varied experiences amongst people of colour and particularly the South Asian community, where it's not as easy to date someone outside of your culture due to stereotypes and expectations.
"I've never really felt that stigma of being a Sri Lankan in Australia or the struggle to connect or attract Aussie girls," he says. "But it's definitely something that friends of mine, cousins, family members and other people in my community that I care about have struggled with and it's something that I was aware of coming into the show."
We're only two episodes into the show so far, but there's plenty of loud personalities and drama on display. Samarasinghe says he went onto the show being 100% himself so what you see is what you get on the screen.
"There's no point going on the show pretending to be something that you're not and then getting a bad edit anyway," he says.
"So I just went on there [and was myself]. I know who I am and I know I'm a big personality. Not everyone's going to love me but I know that I've got always got great intentions and I'm never going to put someone down to make myself feel better.
"Whatever comes of that — good or bad edit — at least I know that I just was true to myself through that process."
The first two episodes of the Stan Original Dating Series Love Triangle are now streaming, with new episodes every Thursday.