Love Island 2019 has finally come to a dramatic end, crowning Amber Rose Gill and Greg O’Shea as the rightful winners of the show. The series undoubtedly has a huge buzz surrounding it with tabloid newspapers juicing out any fresh gossips and people everywhere being exasperated by the terrible messages that the show sends out to young children, especially because the contestants are chosen based on their appearance and social media presence. But this year of Love Island has been a proud watch for women. From Amber’s refusal to settle for anyone who doesn’t know her worth or Maura Higgins unashamedly announcing that she has “fanny flutters” and Amy Hart’s brave exit from the villa to preserve her mental health, Series 5 has taught us all something about the magic of friendship, sisterhood and perseverance.
I have just finished my first year of university, and it is undoubtedly fertile ground for gossip, drama and hostility to grow, especially between women. Upon watching Love Island for the first time, despite it being about love, it wasn’t the romance that made me stay, it was the powerful bonds between women that really hooked me. Watching Yewande, Anna, and Amber’s friendship blossom into something unbreakable really made me realise the value of the women in my life. I have had rocky friendships, some of them last, and some of them don’t, but when you put your trust in a man – correction: boy – who leaves you in the pits, it is the women in your life who will pull you out of that hole. Being able to fall back into the arms of sisterhood when you are in pain is something I have taken for granted but never will again. Watching Anna defend Amber against Michael knowing that she was risking her friendship with him was a brave move. When Maura ignored Curtis’ protests and revealed to Anna that Jordan was cracking on with another islander, it was clear where her loyalty lay. Even on Love Island, sisterhood was sacred.
Reality TV with its unquenchable thirst for conflict loves to pit women against each other. There is something so primal about the way grown women succumb to this instinct to fight each other, tooth and nail, over a man. We love to watch it. The producers of Love Island did everything they could to set up the women so that we would have something to gossip over. When Yewande plonked herself on Danny’s lap in front of Arabella it was a passive-aggressive claim on a man. When Amber came out of Casa Amor to see Michael coupled up with Joanna, in the heat of the moment she called Joanna a “dead ting” and in the following weeks, people expected to see things blow up between the two. The audience watched Joanna with a critical eye and the producers fed that hype by making Joanna seem as if she was threatened and intimidated by Amber. The truth wasn’t aired. Amber and Joanna actually had a strong friendship in the villa despite their initial rocky start. Yewande and Arabella came out of the show united in their feelings of betrayal from a man who used them both and moved on in seconds. Although Maura made a move on Tommy at the start, Maura and Molly grew into the best of friends. Lucie claimed that she “doesn’t get on with girls”, but there is no doubt that the girls were stronger together than separated.
I have to admit that when Maura Higgins graced the screen, I immediately fell in love with her. It wasn’t because she looked like she had just walked out of the covers of Vogue magazine but instead it was the way she oozed confidence from the way she walked and as Tyra Banks would put it, “smized” into the camera. On TV, it is common for women to hide their emotional and sexual needs but Maura’s frank and comical confessions that Tommy Fury gave her “fanny flutters” swept across social media platforms as girls and boys welcomed a change from the tight-lipped, and often orchestrated actions of the other islanders. Maura turned that around. She would vocally admit her sexual needs without a second thought, but she never let anyone disrespect her (I’m looking at you, Tom). As someone who has suffered from low self-esteem, watching Maura on my TV, renewed my sense of self-confidence. Maura has been truly iconic, and she will be the start of conversations about how women present themselves on TV: a place where men are excused for vulgarity and jokes about sex, women are usually judged heavily on their behaviour. Maura’s popularity in the show is just another sign that times are changing.
Finally, the rightful winner of Love Island this year has been Amber Rose Gill and her partner Greg O’ Shea. When Amber strutted into Love Island, people often mistook her brazen confidence for arrogance. Why is that when a woman is self-assured and confident about herself instead of insecure, people find a way to drag her down? Although her popularity wavered at the beginning, the public’s love for Amber shot up as she went on her extraordinary journey on the Island. From being dumped by Michael, a fellow islander, and not being spared from his insulting comments about her, Amber truly became a woman to look up to. Despite having to watch Michael crack on with Joanna, Amber put on a brave face and took the insults on the chin. She also showed us that it is not wrong to cry or show emotions. Most importantly, when Michael came running back to her, she did not cave in and give it all to him. Even though she clearly had feelings for Michael, she made a wise decision and chose to couple up with Greg, because she knew she deserved better.
A few things to take away from this year’s Love Island is to never base your self-worth off of a man; remember that if someone puts you down, you can and you will come back stronger than ever, and most importantly us women are stronger together.