The latest spin-off of the reality dating show-turned-cultural-phenomenon premiered on Sunday on South Africa’s M-Net network. However, the launch was subject to a wave of ridicule on social media after only three Black contestants entered the luxurious villa.
Viewers flocked online to express their disappointment that, despite South Africa’s population being more than 80% Black African, producers cast just two Black men and one Black female contestant.
Durang Atembe, 22, Asad Boomgaard, 24, and 26-year-old Thimna Shooto, the only Black female contestant so far, make up this year’s handful of non-White contestants.
“Y’all are in South Africa but managed to have a whiter cast than UK Love Island,” one viewer tweeted.
Reacting to the casting, another argued: “I don’t ever want to hear ‘they cast according to their population’ … the percentage of black people in South Africa is 80.2% and there is only two black people in love island South Africa. It’s a choice.'”
South African actor Siv Ngesi shared a picture of the cast with the caption: “This is Africa!”
CNN has reached out to Rapid Blue, the production company behind the show, for comment.
The “Love Island” format sees 10 hopefuls — five men and five women — shut up in a villa together, away from the world, for six weeks as they search for love.
Throughout the new series — hosted by South African actress Leandie du Randt — there will be regular recouplings, which will allow the islanders to choose to remain with their current partner or swap suitors when new islanders enter the villla.
Any contestant left single after the weekly recoupling is eliminated from the show. In the final week, the public vote for their favorite couple to win the 1 million rand (around $66,000) prize.
The “Love Island” franchise has become wildly popular, with “Love Island Nigeria” announced last year along with other new territories.
Despite impressive ratings, the original UK edition has been embroiled in controversy since its inception in 2015. Its host, Caroline Flack, took her own life in February 2020 while awaiting trial on assault charges. Flack’s suicide was the third associated with the show, after former contestants Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon also took their own lives.
In 2019, production company ITV Studios responded to the growing scrutiny by releasing an updated set of “duty of care” guidelines ahead of its fifth season. Provisions included a minimum of eight therapy sessions for each islander on their return home, as well as “proactive contact” from the team for a further 14 months.