‘All The Guys Like Blonde Hair & Blue Eyes’: Love Island’s Vakoo On Racial Bias In The Villa

From tokenism to stereotyping and a lack of visibility, the representation of people of colour on reality TV shows has been a topic heavily discussed over the past few years. And when it comes to casting on dating shows, the issue of race is undeniably hard to ignore.
While programs like The Bachelor, Married At First Sight and Love Island have tried enlisting more culturally diverse contestants, what happens when people's dating preferences are swayed (even if unconsciously) by racial bias?
Love Island Australia's most recently eliminated contestant Vakoo Kauapirura said it felt like she was almost set up to fail when she entered the villa as a 'bombshell' intruder later in the season. The 27-year-old, who was born in Namibia, claims that while it's positive for the show to cast a Black woman like herself, it's disappointing that none of the men seemed to be interested in dating a Black woman.
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"If you're going to bring a Black person onto the show, why didn't you bring someone who is attracted [to them]? I feel like all the guys in there very much like blonde or brunette, blue-eyed, tiny little five-foot-nothing girls, and I'm five-foot-nine, I have short, blonde hair and I'm dark," Kauapirura tells Refinery29 Australia.
"I just felt like none of the guys were really attracted to me because of that."
During her time on the show, Kauapirura connected most with Callum Hole and Tak Chipangura. While she and Chipangura shared a kiss at one point, she ultimately chose to pursue Hole, and viewers later saw a rejected Chipangura in tears.
Since the show's aired, Kauapirura says she's felt the pressure from fans claiming she should've chosen Chipangura. But the model says this reinforces the unfair expectations placed on people of colour on reality TV.
"I've felt the pressure now reading the comments where everyone's going, 'She should go for Tak'. But why do I have to go for the only other Black person?" she says. "Why do we have to be only limited to each other?"
Kauapirura's not the first person on a reality dating show to have felt at odds with a potential love interest's dating preferences that could be influenced by racial bias.
Revian Chang is a Chinese-American woman who was eliminated in the first episode of Colton Underwood’s season of The Bachelor in America in 2019. She has recalled a similar experience.
"The history of The Bachelor is all white men. Most of them do have a preference already. Most of them are used to dating white American women — blondes or brunettes," she previously told StyleCaster.
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“I don’t think anything was like, 'Oh, she’s Asian. We’re trying to weed her out.' But I feel like their personal preference going in there, who they already have a history of dating, they know what they’re attracted to."
Meanwhile, for Kauapirura, this wasn't her first time on a reality show, having starred on Matt Agnew's season of The Bachelor Australia in 2019. After being eliminated, she was briefly in a relationship with co-star Rachael Arahill, and says she was also hoping there may have been an opportunity to date a woman in the Love Island villa.
"I've dated guys and girls, I just like what I like," she says, explaining she had told Love Island producers about her dating preferences prior to going on the show.
"I was actually hoping there would be a girl, so then I would go that direction," she says. "They [the producers] knew that from my interviews, so I thought they would maybe bring in a girl like that, as well, but they didn't."
Kauapirura is the latest contestant to be eliminated from Season 4 of Love Island Australia. Hosted by Sophie Monk in a beachside villa in Mallorca, Spain, the show features a group of singles who must couple up and try to stay together while resisting the temptations of new cast members called 'bombshells'.
The cast includes Claudia, Stella, Holly, Jessica, Layla, Phoebe, Phoebe H, Maddy, Vakoo, Tak, Austen, Mitchell, Jordan, Conor, Andre, Callum and Married At First Sight's Al Perkins.
Refinery29 Australia has contacted Channel 9 for comment.
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Disclaimer: Refinery29 Australia is published by Pedestrian Group, which is wholly owned by Nine Entertainment.
Love Island Australia airs Monday to Thursday, with new episodes dropping at 6pm on 9Now.
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