Why Ovie Soko’s Time On Love Island Is So Important For Black People

So rarely do we see black men portrayed as sweet and funny, rather than hypersexual or violent, and that matters, says Tobi Rachel Akingbade.

Ovie Soko

by Tobi Rachel Akingbade |
Updated on

It’s rare that the people of Great Britain can agree on something – just look at everything going on in the world of politics. But Love Island’s Ovie Soko’s status as a national treasure is something we have all managed to settle on.

The ITV2 dating show may have ended withAmber Gill and Greg O’Shea walking away with the £50k prize - but Ovie clearly won the hearts of men and women, of all ages, by just being himself.

However, and I hate to break it to everyone, Ovie is far from a rarity. So why has seeing his face on our screens for 32 days been such a breath of fresh air?

It’s simple, really. It starts with the fact, that we only get one Ovie per generation - think Lenny Henry, Ainsley Harriot and Andi Peters.

TheBritish-Nigerian basketballer walked into Casa Amor on day 26 as his good looks, his 6ft 7 frame - and the fact that Love Island rarely casts darks skin men - became a trending topic before he even said a word.

After a few days of harmless thirsting - although, I did notice some questionable objectifications and stereotypical ‘banter’ about the black male genitalia - the athlete's personality became very apparent. And it was here that his wisdom, his swag, his loyalty, obsession with hats, his humour and goofiness really shone through.

Reminding many viewers of their friends, brothers, fathers, uncles, cousins and partners, the 28-year-old’s adventures in the Marjocan compound showed us that representation truly matters. It may not fix issues like racism and police brutality, but it well and truly matters, especially for those represented.

Ovie’s time in the villa was so refreshing because dark skin men are rarely, if ever, portrayed positively on television,

Whether it’s scripted drama, reality TV, or just the news bulletins – black men are rarely presented without a tinge of negativity or damaging hypermasculinity.

The closing episode - which saw Ovie come in third place with partner India Reynold - was watched by 3.63 million with a peak of 4.1 million, making it the most-watched final in the programme's history.

ITV also confirmed that Love Island peaked at 6 million viewers this year and after airing 42 episodes this series averaged 5.7million viewers based on consolidated viewers.

That’s a lot of people, especially young ones, watching. And it would be foolish to say that the representation on there would not have an impact - negative or positive - on those who rinsed out nine weeks of reality TV this summer.

Darnell Hunt, director of the Ralph J. Bunche Centre for African American Studies at UCLA, told the Huffington Post: ‘We’re pretty confident that, the more TV you watch, the more media you consume, the more likely it is that media ― almost like radiation ― builds up.

‘And the accumulated effect is to make you feel that what you’re seeing is somewhat normal.’

Studies show that what you view becomes a part of your memory, meaning that tales on telly matter a whole bunch especially to those being represented, in this case black men.

Ovie being himself is not his duty but his right because why should one man have all that responsibility? But in being himself unapologetically he touched the black male viewers that I personally know.

One friend of mine said he was surprised to find himself moved when Ovie burst into tears over his mate George’s exit, as it was a demonstration of such positive masculinity. Another said he appreciated Ovie’s brother-sister relationship with Amber because it proved that black men aren’t only good for one thing - remember what I said about the obsession with black penises?

Without a doubt the show is heavily edited. But while on my show, the Yellow Cup Podcast, Ovie’s co-star Jourdan Raine testified that the occasional model is 'a sweet, funny and nerdy man'.

Again, a far cry from the aggressive, violent, knife wielding dark skin black men the media loves to recycles on screen.

If someone wants to be racist, they will be racist and even ITV’s highest rated show is not going to change that. Nice as it would be, race relations will not suddenly change because of a North Londoner’s quest for love on prime-time TV.

That said, the Ovie that we saw on screen is important. He’s important because he might help people to change their perceptions of black men and rewrite their unconscious bias.

But most of Ovie is important for black people who don’t often see the sweet, funny, wonderful men who they know in real life represented on TV.


Love Island 2019 rumoured contestants slider

Delilah Belle Hamlin1 of 5
CREDIT: Getty Images

Delilah Belle Hamlin

America star Delilah Hamlin could potentially go on Love Island later this yearand you might not have heard of her before but we reckon you'll know her mum Lisa Rinna aka Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star.

Lotan Carter2 of 5
CREDIT: Getty Images

Lotan Carter

Controversial Big Brother star Lotan Carter is also rumoured to be going on Love Island this year. We say controversial because back in 2017, when he appeared on the show, he broke several of the shows rules.

Braelin Kail Peery3 of 5
CREDIT: Getty Images

Braelin Kail Peery

According to reports, bisexualInstagram star Braelin Kail Peery has been approached by the Love Island producers. Former Love Island stars have previously revealed they were discovered on social media.

Soph Piper4 of 5
CREDIT: Instagram / rochellehumes

Soph Piper

Rochelle Humes' younger sister Soph (far right) has apparently been in talks with Love Island bosses to join the show. According to The Sun: "ITV2 bosses are really keen for Soph to be the star of this year's series."Soph is the perfect islander – she's incredibly beautiful and loves meeting new people after already doing a season in Ibiza."

Ted Pullin5 of 5
CREDIT: Instagram / tedpullin

Ted Pullin

Rumour has it that Jack Fowler's friend Ted Pullin could be heading into the villa this summer. According to reports, he's in 'advanced talks' with bosses after he was apparently replaced by Josh Denzel on the 2018 series.

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