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Love Island 2021 received criticism on social media because of its casting – specifically the fact that the vast majority of the women who walked through the villa doors were blonde.
The abundance of fair haired female contestants, coupled with the fact that they seemed to be every man's 'ideal type on paper', certainly raised a few eyebrows amongst viewers at home.
Having started the series as part of the OG line-up, Sharon Gaffka, 25, tells Tyla how she felt appearing amongst the rest of the cohort, as an Asian woman who didn't fit this very specific mould.
The civil servant from Oxford said trying to find a connection with guys in the villa felt like a "losing battle" because they all made it clear they were into 'blondes', and as an Asian woman she wasn't anyone's type.
Referencing her argument with Hugo Hammond, 25 - which stemmed from comments he made about liking 'real' women, and saw Sharon accuse the teacher of "discrimination" - the reality star said that viewers had misunderstood the crux of her insecurities.
"During my argument with Hugo, people thought I was comparing race to lip filler when actually what I was doing was sharing my frustration that people only fancied blonde girls," Sharon says
"For me it was never a comparison and more of an outcry that I was a bit fed up."
Sharon became close friends with fellow original Islander Kaz Kamwi, 26, on the ITV show, and she tells Tyla they had unaired conversations about dating as women of colour, and the difficulties that came with it.
“I remember having conversations with Kaz and she said to me 'Sharon, all I want is for one man to walk through that door and tell me that he fancies me [rather] than telling me he likes blonde tanned girls.'
"All of the women in the villa were beautiful, but it’s hard to listen to day in and day out and know that you’re basically fighting a losing battle.
"There's no point of having a diverse cast if you're not gonna [recruit members of] the opposite gender [who have a] diverse type."
But would things have been different if Sharon and Kaz had dyed their hair lighter? She doesn't believe so.
You see, Sharon believes the issue is a wider one.
“When guys said their type was blonde it generally means white in ethnicity. Because AJ [Bunker] had blonde hair but she was half Filipino and she was no one’s type. I had balayage hair, and [I was] still no one’s type," she says.
"When a lot of them refer to their type as blonde, they often reference tanned skin which is obviously never going to be Kaz for example because she is a black woman.”
Outside the villa discussions about race shifted when bombshell contestant Danny Bibby, 25, entered the villa and viewers at home uncovered his use of the N-word on Instagram two years prior.
Danny took both Sharon and Kaz on a date, a decision Sharon says felt "unnatural" because he set his focus solely on Lucinda Strafford, 21 after joining the main villa.
When she was dumped after spending three weeks in Mallorca, Sharon had a phone call with her dad, who told her of the controversy stemming from Danny's comments - and she says it was this moment that she realised she was glad she had left.
"After hearing about the comment, I was really glad I was going home, and that I wasn't coupled up with him. I don't want to judge a book by its cover, but for me anybody that can use that word, and think it's okay. It's just not okay with me."
Tyla has contacted Love Island for comment regarding Sharon and Kaz's unaired conversations and Sharon's date with Danny.
Although Sharon didn't find love in the villa, she has found friendship, particularly with bombshell Georgia Townend - fans don't call the show Friendship Island for nothing.
The pair share the fact they both had experiences with Hugo, and Sharon says she is happy being "sister-zoned" by the former P.E. teacher.
Romance is off the cards with the other Islander guys, including former beau Aaron Francis, 24. Things turned sour after he complained about the fact she was "career driven" during a date, and questioned the fact that she didn’t want to be a "housewife" - comments Sharon calls "small dick energy".
Now, Sharon is turning her attention to continuing her work as an ambassador for the Young Women’s Trust, an organisation that works to achieve economic justice for young women.
After experience as an Asian woman in the world’s biggest dating show, what would she say to next year’s singletons like her?
“It’s hard and it’s challenging but it will only get better if you put yourself forward for it. As challenging as I found it, I’m glad I did it," she says.
"Even if I didn’t find love that I’ve taken so much from the experience.”
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