TV Exec: Same-Sex Romance Not 'Suitable' for 'Love Island'

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday August 26, 2021

A British TV executive doubled down on not allowing gay couples on "Love Island," saying that there's no "suitable" way to expand the show's amorous doings to include same-sex romance.

"ITV's director of television Kevin Lygo addressed the matter while speaking at a virtual Edinburgh TV Festival session" on Aug. 25, UK newspaper the Independent reported.

"'Love Island' is a particular thing," the Independent quoted Lygo as saying. "It's about boys and girls coupling up, so if you want to do it as a gay version or you want to widen it, it is discussed and we haven't yet found a way that would make it suitable for that show."

Lygo made his remarks "weeks after 2021 contestant Sharon Gaffka revealed a candid conversation she had with Faye Winter about 'exploring' bisexuality was cut from the show," the Daily Mail pointed out.

"Past bisexual contestants include Katie Salmon, Megan Barton Hanson and the late Sophie Gradon," the Daily Mail added.

Addressing the fact that another British reality contest show, "Strictly Come Dancing," featured a same-sex dance routine, Lygo said: "You talk about 'Strictly,' we had a gay couple on 'Dancing On Ice' before that."

Speculation about how LGBTQ+ the show might trend ramped up last year following a vow from "Love Island" producers that the show was going top become more diverse.

But ITV executive Amanda Stavri soon threw cold water on sizzling rumors that the show might be extending a welcoming hand to LGBTQ contestants.

"In terms of gay Islanders, I think the main challenge is regarding the format of 'Love Island,'" Stavri told the Radio Times, referring to the show's typical pairing of mixed-gender couples.

Stavri added: "There's a sort of logistical difficulty, because although Islanders don't have to be 100 [percent] straight, the format must sort of give [the] Islanders an equal choice when coupling up."

It should also be noted that same-sex hookups have not been uncommon on the show. As i-D noted, "2016 saw the series' first and only same-sex pairing when Katie Salmon and Sophie Gradon coupled up."

But even that celebrated moment became a point of controversy, when the late Gradon's ex-boyfriend, Tom Powell, claimed that the same-sex smooch had been "manipulated," and that "Sophie didn't want to kiss on screen."

"The producers wanted the kiss to appeal to the LGBT community," Powell alleged.

Previously, the show appeared to be moving toward a model that would allow LGBTQ+ people to participate. As EDGE reported on in April, the show not only announced that LGBTQ prospective contestants were welcome to apply, but that it had "formed a partnership with the dating app Tinder to face-track the application process with ads promoting the recruitment process appearing on both the app's gay and straight-identified users profiles."

"Our only stipulation for applicants on 'Love Island' is that they are over 18, single and looking for love," an ITV spokesperson said.

Digital Spy summarized the feelings any number of the show's fan might well have when it critiqued Stavri's remarks last June as "lazy and disappointing".

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.