Between seven seasons of Below Deck, four of spinoff Below Deck Mediterranean, and one of Below Deck Sailing Yacht, there's been an awful lot of misogyny on board the luxury yachts of the Bravo reality series. The seventh season of Below Deck, in particular, was especially bro-tastic. But season 5 of Below Deck Med, with Captain Sandy Yawn at the helm for the fourth year in a row, will hopefully counteract that alpha-male energy: Not only is Hannah Ferrier returning as chief stewardess, but season 2 deckhand Malia White is back as the franchise's first-ever woman bosun, meaning she's in charge of the deck crew on the franchise's biggest-ever luxury yacht.
White was new to yachting when she joined the crew of the Sirocco in Below Deck Med season 2, but the dive master worked her way up to lead deckhand and quickly realized this was the career she wanted. Since then, she changed career paths, earned her captain's license, and called Refinery29 from France, where she's working as a bosun and waiting for the Mediterranean to open up for sailing again.
"Unfortunately, [misogyny] is still around in the industry — well, I think everywhere," she says. But on yachts, it's especially prevalent because "everyone comes from such different backgrounds, culturally, so there's such a huge learning curve on boats anyways. And then you mix up genders and different gender roles and leadership roles and it gets even more interesting. But coming back as a female bosun, the first female bosun, I think it's something that people are ready to see and I think that it's a good representation of where the industry is going because a lot more females are starting to step up everywhere, hopefully."
In stepping up, she'll quickly have to crack down on the behavior of her all-male deck crew — including lead deckhand Pete Hunziker, who has a penchant for calling his coworkers "sweetheart" and "sweetie." It's not something White will sit back and let happen, but it won't necessarily be the first thing she confronts him about as the season begins.
"Pete loves to call women sweetie and I think what he doesn't understand is that a lot of women don't like to be called sweetie, especially in the workplace — and even more so when they're your boss. I think you'll see me put my foot down a couple times," she teases.
But that's the least of the drama she and the crew will face as they travel around Mallorca, Spain. Her roommate is Hannah, with whom she notoriously clashed during season 2. "It's Hannah and I. We're very strong women. We have very strong opinions," White allows, noting that she's incredibly tidy and Hannah's a bit more disorganized in her living quarters. There's a drug bust, which is a pretty big-deal criminal offense at sea, and lots of other inter-personal drama between the crew.
"Being the bosun, you have so much other stuff to worry about, like logistics and safety and the guests and tender trips," White says. "You really don't have much time to worry about all the drama that's going on. I try to [stay out of it] but I think, you know, naturally we all get wrapped up into it at some point."
She won't be hooking up with anyone, since she'd been dating someone for a year by the time she reunited with Sandy and Hannah on the Wellington, but there are plenty of messy hookup situations between the rest of the crew. And although she was involved in one of Below Deck's most notorious love triangles — she had a flirtation with bosun Wes, but was also involved in a secret relationship with chef Adam after meeting him before production began — she promises the action on board will be even more dramatic.
"I think it's funny that during my season a love triangle where I just kissed two guys was, like, the biggest shocking thing, you know? I watch the seasons now and everybody's doing a lot more than kissing and it's like, come on," she says. "But I think what I've learned is everyone hooks up on boats. Crew just hook up with crew. It happens. We usually don't have other people to hook up with. [Laughs] But I am a very taken lady these days. So this season I try to keep my love life out of it and let the triangles happen with other people."
And don't worry — things will heat up quickly.
"After my first time I thought, 'oh, it can't get any juicier or crazier than this.' I mean, there was a love triangle. But I would say this season is 10 times that and there's just so many different characters, personalities that are going to come to light. It's intense. And there's a lot of plot twists, I can tell you that."
Below Deck Mediterranean airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on Bravo.