SOS: Deserted on Love Island; Why none of us can find higher ground.

Love Island Cast, 2019

It’s been two weeks since the final of this years Love Island, which saw ultimate fuck-boy repeller Amber and the outcome of what you’d be presented with at the check-out if your mum took you to ‘Build a Bear’ but for boyfriends, Greg (srsly why can’t we do that yet? Can someone Black Mirror the shit out of that please?), crowned champions of shagging and salmon’ing. Fourteen long days. 336 painful hours, or- as I prefer to keep track of it, 19,600 excruciating minutes. If you haven’t already gathered from my torturess tallying or my knowledge of this years break out star ‘The Salmon’, I am a Love Island super fan. Gasp Horror Get a life. Yeah, I get it, I should be ashamed. I’ve never been a super fan of anything, other than the icons that are Hear’Say, and even I got bored of them when Kym Marsh left. It’s become trendy to proclaim you hate the show, that you hold some superior status because you enjoy scrolling through Twitter moaning about the show instead of actually just watching the show in question. But when your views are on par with Piers Morgan, there’s nothing ‘edgy’ about you mate, your just a bit of a prick. For all it’s cringe, it’s tragic-ness and it’s satire, there is something rather endearing about watching a group of strangers fight to share a bed with a girl that they all have a connection with (Did I miss 5G network hitting Mallorca first? Michael, hit me up with your network provider because your connection rate is outstanding) -that they met 24 hours ago, who they’re totally willing to pie their current fling for- who they also met 24 hours ago– because you know, it is what it is, right?

In fact, calling it endearing is playing it mighty humble, to say the least. This years show broke records, with six million of us minions all tuning in amongst the pie’s and the no-text-back’s of our own lives to see how firefighter turned King Of Thy Fuck Boys Michael was going to go down in flames when Hurricane Amber hit (fuck me, it was good seeing him mess it up at the end wasn’t it? But we’ll get to that later). A millenial phenomonem like no other, a show which started with Paul Danan and Calum Best frolicking on the beaches of Fiji (If she don’t remember Celebrity Love Island and the infamous ‘love shack’, she’s too young for you bruh), has become an all-consuming prime time tv-show turned podcast turned after-show turned twitter takeover like no other. Water Bottles and Suitcases alike are coveted items, squiggled with your name in a font a poor intern probably mocked up in the deep shadows of Ian Stirling’s voice box. Car air-freshner’s and Boohoo clothing #ads have become a set-piece of the contestant’s Instagram accounts furniture, whilst viewing parties are popping up across the country faster than Ovie (Oh, Ovie) can shout ‘MESSAGE’. But what is it about this Island-which is really a rich persons villa– that has us cancelling our plans to be in front of the tv by 9pm evevery night to hear those magic words seep into our veins….. TONIGHT, ON LOVE ISLAND.

It’s pretty simple really, we’re all ridiculously curious about eachother’s lives, desperate to find out if anyone else out there is shit with securing dates or keeps getting ghosted at the earliest opportunity. An air air hostess, an eye-lash guru and a naked butler walk into a room, and all I want to know is ‘how the fuck do you look like that, and where can I buy your trousers?’. Love Island provides us with the platform to see inside the inner circle, the cool kids in school who wore thongs aged 12 and snogged boys at the school disco’s. We’re enticed in by their beauty, their glamour, their claims their mum shaves their arses, just wondering is this really what it’s like beyond the blue tick? As an audience we love to love, the proof of that is in the Loose Women Panel Slots and This Morning Presnter gigs which wouldn’t be offered to the contestants if no-one gave a shit. But boy, do we all love to hate too. Love Island is an escape from our shitty dating history where even Aled from Merthyr- who’s a solid 5 at the most after a few dozen flavoured vodkas in revs- is putting us in a taxi to go home…. alone. Pointing out a former Miss United Kingdom winner walks ‘like a dinosaur’ and seeing sex-goddess Maura get given the cheek by Tommy ‘how are you that pretty’ Fury gives us the reassurance that all us sausage-roll loving, drunk-texting beings need that maybe, just maybe, these carved by the gods and painted by the GAWDS perfect looking humans aren’t so perfect after all.

Some people complain that there isn’t enough variety when it comes to looks on the show. That the producers should throw in your average Joe bloggs from the building site and Brenda from your local pub because that would be soooo much more entertaining (yeah, I’ve seen you traitors on Twitter, and you call yourself fans?). But listen up folks, as much of a champion I am for Sharon’s Worlwide, that’s what we’ve got Eastenders for ok? Because the fact is we know what goes on in these everyday folks lives, because we live it, every day. As much as we all hate to admit it, what draws us in to those neon-bikini poolside scenes are the bodies and the hair extensions and the ‘how is there that many good looking people in one room?questions. We watch their every move and admire them from afar as if they were Angelina fucking Jolie in her Tomb Raider days. Buying the clothes that they’re wearing, Following their social accounts, Voting for them to WIN even more money than they already have in their trust funds and a minute percent of what they’ll make from their club appearance fee’s. But what separates the Love Island contestants from their A-list counterparts is the very same thing which keeps them apart, the idea that next year- that could be me.

They’re relatable. They haven’t got *that* much (sorry guys) talent when it comes to making it big that you think shit, I’m 10 years behind on the acting classes here. For all the tits and the tan, there’s primark push-up bra’s and bondi sands. For all the smiles and veneers, there’s a ryanair flight to Turkey. For all the chat, and the vibes and the untimely pie’s, there’s a guy who’s told you you’re just not his type. What’s different about Love Island is the feeling of involvement, the thoughts of how nice it’d be for you and your mates to jump in the pool fully clothed after the guy you fancy asks you to be his girlfriend, the anger of your boy taking lad banter too far (Anton, we’re all looking at you yeah?) and the sinking feeling of comforting your best friend after her boyfriend cheats on her in front of her mates. These glamourous tv-stars are just like us, and that gives us that hit, that warmth, those good vibes to know that ok, maybe i’m really alright?

So next time you scoff at the thought of sitting through sixty minutes of snogging and ‘have you ever’ games, think of the last time you genuinely related to someone’s toe-curling sex confessions and ‘I can’t promise I won’t do it again’ chats on TV. Countdown not doing it for you, no? Love Island is refreshing. It’s tacky. It’s fun. It’s predictable. It’s everything you’ve thought it is and more, but it’s reality TV at it’s finest, and at it’s most authentic. That’s ignoring the fake hair and teeth and tits, of course.

I am not a body, I am somebody.

I am not a body, I am somebody.

Staring into the mirror I prepare myself for another pep talk as the overwhelminginly familiar curtain of doubt and fear of pre-judgement draws down upon me once again; “You are more than just a pair of tits”.

This might sound like a crazy ritual but being able to distance yourself as a person, from your job, is an art in which I find difficulty in mastering; Not for reasonings on my own part, I possess full self-belief in my abilities and who I am as an individual (Well if you can’t love yourself n’ all that….). But once people learn of my job as a Glamour Model, it’s difficult for them to see anything else. Unlike many jobs where you get to clock out at 5pm and go back to being “Just John” who lives at Number 12, I don’t have a job- I am my job. Or so people think.

As a naive 18 year old to the big wide world of the internet, the thought of thousands of images of my boobs being available at a click of a button was not exactly something I gave much thought too. And it’s definitely not something you give a lot of thought too when you don’t see anything wrong with your job in the first place. “What name do you want to go by?” My agent asked as I enthusiastically signed my first modelling contract. “Erm, just my own?” I answered innocently, not foreshadowing the collective of cold-shoulders which awaited me in my years to come. Fast forward eight years and the realisation that people can judge me by one google search is a terror which haunts me every time I meet someone new. “What’s your name?” Are three words which send a shiver down my spine. My heart drops into my stomach every time I’m asked to note down my social media handles at an interview. Most people with hundreds of thousands of followers (barf- subtle brag) would be eager to boast to potential clients about their following, riding the wave of influence and outreach, but for me it’s just another hump in the road. Another chance for someone to see my body and link it to the idea that I must be a terrible person and incompetent at succeeding. I jump at the chance of meeting people in the flesh, where they get to encounter the real me, rather than the image they’ve curated in their head from a posed picture online. All of this has led to me having a love – hate relationship with my bosom; Thankful for the opportunities that have risen from being #blessed, but bitter at the stereotype they’ve forced upon me. So much so, that when I started the transition to working more behind the scenes in the industry, I decided to change my name. I set up a fake email address and a new Instagram account, full of crippling dread that a client I email could see my lady lumps online and never want to work with me, or the brand, again. I began to live a lie, pretending to be someone I was not all because the fear of rejection for being who I really was. I felt like a fraud. Being ashamed of my job, of my body, was not what I stood for and yet I was feeding into it out of terror of being criticised by the World.

I’ve recently started watching The Secret Diaries Of A Call Girl (I know I’m ten years behind but stick with me here) And something resonated with me in the way that Hannah is forced to live a double life. She’s petrified her family may find out about her job, unable to share her career with her friends and feels shame and unworthiness when it comes to finding a real partner to date, and yet she feels all of this whilst loving the job she does. Now perhaps comparing myself to a prostitute is not exactly the angle I’m going for, but the stigma which surrounds females who make a living out of their body- be it glamour models, escorts or webcam girls, is outdated and does not represent the woman behind the role. What the show did so well was expose us to the other side of Belle- the motherly, caring and witty friend, daughter and mentor. She was so much more than just a call girl.

And I know what you’re thinking: “You’ve put yourself out there; You must expect people to judge you for posing for topless pictures” But expect and accept are two very different things. I’ve unfortunately come to expect the judgement, but I don’t accept the stigma given to me because of it. Where my torment lies is in the rationale that I don’t see anything god-awfully wrong with making money from shedding my clothes. I chose to become a glamour model because I find empowerment in the human form in it’s natural state- my human form. The same way many other women do; The same expression which sees many other women applauded for their ‘body positivity’. The shame in which I feel has been involuntarily placed alongside me, like a ball and chain constantly dragging me down whenever I attempt to break free and fly. But after compromising my character for long enough I decided I was done with the pretending, the fake name’s and the hiding. If I am going to make it as someone, something, I want to do so as me, and not someone everyone deems as more acceptable to be. And if I’m going to fail, then I sure as hell am not going to go down quietly. Or fully clothed for that matter.

I am not my boobs, I have boobs. I also have arms, and legs, and compassion, and ambition, and over-sensitive tear ducts when it comes to watching something mildly sad on TV (Don’t tell me you’ve never cried at an episode of Jeremy Kyle). I am not my body, I am somebody. I’m a glamour model. But I’m also a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a friend, a Bachelor of Science (of course I had to get that in there, it cost me £28k), a writer, a yoga enthusiast (albeit not a great one), and an extremely embarrassing drunk dancer. If you can look passed someone‘s job as an office worker, and see the glorious dishevelled, unique individual which lies behind them, then you can see passed me for “just” being a glamour model. I am so much more than a pair of tits. I am me.

Feature image copyright Anna Bressi https://annabressi.com