Love Island reveals Hugo Hammond as its first ever disabled contestant – Screen Shot
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Love Island reveals Hugo Hammond as its first ever disabled contestant

Last week, Millie Pickles, a para-athlete, took TikTok by the storm after revealing Love Island’s plans to cast her as a contestant. Although Pickles declined the offer, it paved the way for wider speculations about the reality dating series welcoming one of the most diverse line-up of singletons this 2021. Following a series of announcements this morning, Love Island has indeed delivered on its push towards inclusivity.

Confirmed as the show’s fourth Love Islander, Hugo Hammond is a 24-year-old Physical Education teacher based in Hampshire. Born with a clubfoot, a condition caused by a shortened Achilles tendon in which an infant’s foot is turned up and inward, Hammond is reportedly the first star with a disability to be casted for the reality TV show.

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“I’ve actually played cricket for England PD (Physical Disability),” the star told The Mirror. Visiting places like Bangladesh and Dubai, Hammond has travelled across the world to score wins for his team. The Oxford Brookes University graduate also credited the pandemic as the major reason for being “single for a while.” “It’s been really hard to get back into dating,” he said. “I saw it as an opportunity to have an amazing fun summer and put myself back out there.”

Born with a clubfoot, Hammond also added how he had many operations as a kid. “You can only really tell when I walk barefoot. I’ve got a really short achilles heel and walk slightly on my tip toes.” As for his job as a PE teacher at a secondary school, he admitted to loving everything there is to it. “It’s great to be able to pass on the enthusiasm to be physically active to the younger generation and hopefully they feel the same about me teaching them,” he explained.

Love Island has previously featured Niall Aslam, a 25-year old, who revealed his diagnosis with autism only after leaving the villa prematurely in 2018. The star later admitted to suffering from psychosis and hallucinations on some nights, which eventually led him into quitting the show. Love Island has since faced criticism for the lack of diversity in its line-up of contestants, particularly in regards to race and body shapes.

In 2019, Richard Cowles, creative director of ITV Studios Entertainment, went as far as defending Love Island by outlining its efforts “to be as representative and diverse as possible.” “It has to come back first and foremost,” he said. “It’s an entertainment show and it’s about people wanting to watch people we’ve got on-screen and then reacting and falling in love with one another.”

In April 2021, ITV revealed Love Island’s plans to be more LGBTQI+ inclusive. Partnering with Tinder to find new contestants, it was announced that some of the advertisments run by the show would target both straight and gay users on the platform. This inclusivity push was further criticised as a format that would “inevitably complicate things.”

However, amassing over 1,000 followers by the time I finished writing this article, Hammond is undoubtedly becoming the talk of the town even before his debut in the iconic villa on the sleepy island of Majorca, which will take place on 28 June 2021. The comments under the announcement on Instagram also feature users from across the world praising Love Island for its somewhat inclusive line-up. And with more contestants being revealed among its aesthetic grids as we speak, hot vax summer might actually be off to a good start—at least on reality television.

Love Island is all set to premiere in the UK on Monday, 28 June 2021, at 9 p.m. on ITV2 and ITV Hub.

Love Island reflects our society: the bad, yes, but also the good

I’ve always felt like people define themselves by what they hate, not what they love (me included). And during my last few summers in the U.K., Love Island is this one topic that seems to be right in the middle—some hate on it, some absolutely love it. For the few of you that have been living under a rock, Love Island is a reality TV show where hot young singles (all looking for love) move to a house in Majorca and couple-up with someone in order to survive in the villa. Weekly, the ‘Islanders’ with the fewest votes have to leave the show. The winning couple leaves the island with £50,000.

I only started watching Love Island last year, and although it made me cringe from its initial tacky look and feel at first, I slowly got into it. A year later, you’ll find me on my sofa at 9pm sharp almost every night, ready to watch the daily events unfold. Put people under a microscope for two months and you’ll get viewers. Why? Not only because it’s basic human nature to scrutinise, criticise and analyse other people, but also because Love Island has these added elements of love, dating, ‘grafting’, ‘humping’ and people talking about their ‘type on paper’. What’s not to like?

In a country where Brexit seems to be a main point of discussion, one that is stressful for most of us, Love Island is my distraction. And while it’s important that people call out the show’s lack of diverse representation (after last year’s first black female contestant ever, there have been numerous articles about Yewande Biala, the one black woman on this year’s show), it’s worth thinking about the wider positive effects it has on viewers.

My point is that even though there are a lot of things that are wrong with Love Island, there are also many positive outcomes. Viewers might not relate to the unrealistic body standards or, more precisely, the lack of (body) diversity, but there is one thing everyone can relate to, the Islanders’ need for love. Unlike the other famous reality TV show Big Brother, Love Island is about showing how people react to topics that viewers can easily relate to—rejection, betrayal; abandonment. Talking to Vogue about Big Brother, clinic director of Harley Therapy, Sheri Jacobson said the show had a “tactic of purposely bringing in psychologically unstable (and thus highly vulnerable) people into the mix for entertainment’s sake”.

Let’s make things clear, just like any other TV reality show, Love Island is heavily edited—intense romantic relationships or not, both are manipulated by producers before ending up on our screens. Once taken with a pinch of salt, you’ll notice how the show operates on a different number of levels, creating a ‘theatre’ where Islanders are part of the ‘cast’. And this is exactly why I like Love Island so much, it is one of the best (and longest) plays I’ve seen. I see the show as metatheatre as a half joke and half serious point, with the definition of metatheatre being comedy and tragedy, and giving the audience a chance to laugh at the protagonist while feeling empathetic simultaneously. Sounds about right.

Love Island also clearly defines the complexities of British society. Admittedly, that’s not the reason I started watching it, but anyone criticising the reality TV show for its lack of intelligence should then decide to put their focus on what the show reflects of our society and our way of interacting with each other, not on the bare bums and silly arguments. One of the rules that the Islanders are given before going on the show is that they’re not allowed to talk politics or share their political views. Why exactly is that prohibited? Would it not make Love Island appealing to more viewers by showing Britain’s diverse political opinions, or would it just end in another Sherif drama?

Love Island is definitely not perfect, but it compelled me not to be so judgmental. Who am I to judge people on TV, especially people that just want to find love (and, okay, possibly win £50,000, something that is a big enough incentive to be accepted by everyone as the main goal of the journey, and yet last night Molly-Mae was fuming after being accused of doing that exactly)? The show points out the social dynamics that we also have in our own lives and pushes me to reflect on my own relationships (romantic or not). Maybe you should have a go as well, have a little Love Island therapy session.