First the show sets an unrealistic beauty standard, then they try to sell us beauty products
It feels almost too obvious to critique the vision of beauty set by the TV show Love Island. Where do you start? The basic premise is a group of extremely hot people who may or may not have sex with one another. The casting, therefore, includes 12 initial contestants who are a mixture of commercially attractive models, ripped personal trainers and glamourous dancers. The format then pits them against one another in a survival of the fittest (fit as in good-looking, basically) over the course of eight-ish weeks, as those who are not romantically coupled with another contestant at the end of each week are brutally sent home.
Last year, the same prejudices around class, race and body image that pervade people’s dating lives off screen were brought into sharp focus on the show. A housemate called Samira for instance was dubbed ‘single black female’ in a Guardian article that dissected the show’s dialogue around ‘type’, which for the men in the villa seemed to include ‘blonde’ or ‘brunette’ but didn’t seem to include a black woman. Outside of the villa, in the real world (although by week three it can be hard to tell the difference), eurocentric beauty standards and colourism have the same knock-on effect when it comes to ideas of desirability.
In other words, we might get angry at Love Island, but the programme does not exist in a vacuum; it takes society's beauty standards and reflects them back at us. Yet, by placing exclusively bronzed and athletic bodies on our screens, or faces that have been augmented with a great deal of surgery, it is in no way championing the natural or diverse either. It peddles an unrealistic beauty standard by virtue of excluding anyone who does not meet its slim and toned criteria. And then, in 2018, ITV2 showed us adverts for breast augmentations in the interval, as though to directly capitalise off the insecurities the show may have instilled in us...
If you follow this logic, it comes as no surprise that Love Island has decided to create its own beauty brand to help us all look like its glowing contestants. Loveburst by Love Island is a range of cosmetics inspired by the ITV2 show, and includes products like Coupled Up, “a revolutionary liquid lip duo packaged as two halves of a heart which snap together with a magnet” and Hideaway Eyes, which “are two carefully curated eyeshadow palettes which each showcase six high-pigment, blendable shades.” There’s also my personal favourite, Scene Stealer, “individual metallic cream eye shadows give an ultra-impact high shine look”.
The product names might be amazingly literal interpretations of aspects of the show, but more thought has gone into the manufacture of the products themselves, which are created by Established, the same respected New York agency who design Fenty Beauty and Marc Jacobs Beauty. The cost almost reflects this, with products ranging from £13 – £25, more expensive than a lot of what you might find in Superdrug, one of Love Island’s main advertisers. On top of all that, the team behind Loveburst claims that the products are 100% cruelty-free and suitable for all skin tones – making them much more natural and diverse than the show itself.
What should we make of Love Island’s foray into cosmetics? We probably shouldn’t be surprised that a show as savvy towards the powers of influencer marketing as to dress its entire soon-to-be-influencer cast in Misguided for a summer on screen would start their own beauty brand in a market increasingly led by celebrity beauty influencers. It makes total sense – everyone wants a slice of the pie, Love Island are just the latest to jump on the bandwagon. The real question is whether, in a time when more progressive beauty brands are moving towards depicting imperfection in their campaigns and better representing diversity, the campaign and faces of Loveburst – so essentially the show and its contestants – feel in any way reflective or relevant. The other question that remains, of course, is whether anyone will buy it.