‘I’m Only 23, So Why Does Love Island Make Me Panic About Being Old?’

As 29-year-old bombshell Rachel Finni is praised for looking 'so young', one writer explains why the show is making 20-somethings worry about their age.

love island

by Bonnie McLaren |
Updated on

Love Island is supposed to be a bit of trashy escapism, but, when watching the show, I can’t help worrying about my age. For context, I’m 23. And while I’m well aware this isn’t old, Love Island has started to make me feel like I'm at the age where I should start saving for preventative - 'baby' - Botox{ =nofollow}.

At the end of Friday’s episode, the villa was finally rocked when new, stunning, bombshell Rachel Finni walked into the villa. If you needed evidence of just how much Rachel is going to shake things up, you only needed to look at the way Brad McClelland’s jaw hit the floor and his eyes turned to love-heart emojis when she made her entrance.

To keep their place on the show, single men Chuggs{ =nofollow}Wallis - a man who goes by the name ‘cuddles and hugs’ by choice - and Brad have to convince Rachel they’re worth coupling up with. During one of the chats between Chuggs and Rachel, which aired on Sunday night's show, the inevitable ‘how old are you?’ question came up. When Rachel told him she was 29, 23-year-old Chuggs couldn't hide his shock, and told her she didn't look a day over 22.

The insinuation to viewers? Being 29 was old.

It didn't help that social media echoed the shocked sentiment, with many commenting on how good Rachel looks 'for her age'. One fast fashion brand even posted and promptly deleted a tweet asking how Rachel could possibly be 29, alongside a glamorous selfie from her Instagram. (As one Twitter user replied: ‘BREAKING NEWS: woman in her 20s looks young!') It’s like everyone has collectively forgotten that 29 is not that old - because, please, for goodness sake, it is not.

This year, more so than most, Love Island is making me and all my friends - the majority of them in their 20s - feel ancient. And it’s only going to get worse - as each year, the cast only seems to be getting younger. (Before Rachel, nobody in this year’s villa was older than 26.) It’s something one of my friends, a 27-year-old longtime Love Island fan, has observed: ‘I started watching Love Island when I was 23 and the cast somehow gets younger every year.’ She noted how nobody in the original Winter Love Island line-up was over the age of 25. And considering it was the most boring series to date, it probably could have done with some older bombshells to liven things up.

Whether or not you watch Love Island, being young and obsessively worrying about your age is nothing new, thanks to the way society fetishises young women. But when watching the show, you can’t escape the idea that you’re supposed to have your entire life sorted by the age of 25, with a gym body and thousands of followers on Instagram to boot. And, if you don’t, you’re not desirable. Even this year's Sharon Gaffka, 25, was heard talking by the pool about how her fear of looking older. Love Island's obsession with youth is one of the reasons one of my mates, who is 25, won’t watch the show at all: ‘In the pursuit of trying to live my best life, I cut Love Island out of it completely. It's not worth comparing myself.’

Another friend, who is my age, told me: ‘Whenever a new islander walks into the villa, my brain just assumes that they are much older than me. Then when they explain they are only 20, I feel ridiculously old. Also I feel only using younger cast members can feed into the idea that you are only worthy of love when you are young and beautiful - which makes me feel like my youth is fading quickly.’

Though the majority of comments about Rachel’s age have been positive - even if they are back-handed compliments - there have been numerous attacks on the islanders younger than Rachel who have had fillers and cosmetic work, with people laughing that it makes them look older. (Faye, 26, joked that she was a hard faced cow in her introductory video, adding that it was probably down to her Botox.)

Women on Love Island are historically torn apart if they look ‘too old’, as Laura Anderson was mercilessly trolled in 2018 for being 29 - so much so that her birth certificate was later ‘revealed’ as proof she wasn’t lying about her age. The ultimate double standard is that, this year, on the show, and on social media, people have been making a huge deal of Liam Reardon being 21, saying that he looks older with admiration. We all know when a man is told he looks older, it’s usually complimentary, as men are often praised for looking better with age, like a fine wine.

Aside from being beautiful, Rachel has already shown she has a standout personality. And she’ll probably end up being one of the most popular cast members of this series, just like bombshell Maura Higgins, 28, before her. As my 27-year-old friend added, it also makes for better TV to have a variety of ages (the show desperately needs to be more diverse too, with ex-contestant Yewande Biala{ =nofollow}noting that the show should employ more Black producers). ‘It’s nice to see yourself represented, but also because having a slightly wider age range makes for a more interesting dynamic,’ she says, noting the friendship between Amber Gill and Ovie Soko, who had seven years between them. ‘Slightly “older” women also bring extra confidence and life experience to the programme, which you just don’t get from some of the younger contestants.’

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