‘You’re Like Rihanna’: FBoy Island’s Ziara On Being Fetishised As A Black Woman While Dating

Image courtesy of Binge
FBoy Island star Ziara Rae
Cultural and ethnic diversity on reality TV has gradually improved in recent years, but there's still a long way to go. Ziara Rae grew up seeing very few women who looked like her on television, which makes appearing on the new Aussie dating show, FBoy Island all the more special to her.
The 21-year-old, who's proud of her African-American heritage, is one of three single women looking for love on the new reality series on Binge.
"I just think that representation is so important because little me would have loved to see that, and I know that I'm being an example right now," Rae tells Refinery29 Australia.
Growing up in Sydney with her mother and younger sister, Rae recalls being bullied at school because of her race, and also facing racial microaggressions when she began modelling while in primary school.
"I started modelling when I was quite young, around seven, and I did have brands tell my mum, 'We're not ready for her yet,'" she recalls. "If I was in a photo shoot, I would kind of be in the background to the blonde girl."
As she's continued modelling through adulthood, Rae has noticed the lack of diversity within the industry, and the discrimination that still takes place. Some of the most consistent issues she has faced have been stereotyping around what a Black woman should look like, and people's expectations of how she wears her naturally afro-textured hair.
"There have been a lot of microaggressions, especially around my hair. I've always had to plan ahead," she explains.
"I've rocked up to shoots with my hair straightened and I've had my pay deducted before for not having my hair the way they [wanted]. They said, "Can you go dunk your head in a sink so it's curly?" and I said, "I'm not doing that.'"
The reality star says that some of her friends who are also Black models have shared recounts of similar experiences. She believes it probably happens more often in Australia due to a greater lack of diversity in the hair and makeup artists hired on set.
"I think in the US and the UK, they've got hair and makeup artists that are more equipped to work with people of colour," she says. "Australia needs to kind of get with the program a bit, and offer workshops around 4C hair to emerging artists."
Of course, appearing on FBoy Island is a departure from her modelling experiences in front of the camera, forcing Rae to dig deeper as she tries to find love with a stranger. Along with co-stars Molly O’Halloran and Sophie Blackley, she'll meet 12 genuine men and 12 self-proclaimed fuckboys, and will need to figure out which guys are in the competition for true love. Rae shares that she has had her own share of difficult dating experiences in the past.
Having been cheated on while in a past long-term relationship, she says that social media has thrown a spanner into the way modern dating works.
"He was cheating on me the entire time online. He had other social media accounts with a different name, and that really just threw me off because we lived together," she reveals.
Having learnt from this experience, Rae says she feels somewhat more equipped to distinguish the nice guys from the fuckboys, but fears she could also be fooled.
"I know the red flags to look out, [like] being a little bit shady. But it's tricky, because I couldn't say that he [my ex] had many red flags. In the real world, you don't know if he's an fboy or a nice guy, so that's why I'm going on the show."
Other past real-life dating disasters have involved white men fetishising Rae because of her cultural heritage. She's received comments such as "You're like Rihanna, I've never been with a Black girl before".
"It's pretty crappy," she says. "You'll see on this show, I really don't have a type. I'm here to give everyone a go... I don't care what you look like or what background you are. I really do not discriminate."
After filming the show over the span of just three weeks, Rae is ready for Australia to finally watch her reality TV experience unfold. Hosted by former The Bachelor star Abbie Chatfield, FBoy Island premieres on Binge on Monday, May 29.
Want more? Get Refinery29 Australia’s best stories delivered to your inbox each week. Sign up here!    

More from TV