Love Island is not racist, says Amber Rose Gill, the dating show winner now shaking up romantic fiction

Es Love Island racist? Amber Rose Gill faced online abuse from racial slurs to death threats after winning the TV dating show in 2019, and a backlash after tweeting her support for Black Lives Matter.

And this summer there has been more controversy for Love Island – which has previously come in for scrutiny over the level of support if offers participants – as some Black contestants have been snubbed when choices are made about who couples up.

Gill has been watching the current series closely. does she think Love Island have you a problem with racism? The 24 year-old from Newcastle answers carefully, but appears to absolve the ITV show from blame.

“It’s hard to say racism is the cause of what’s happening,” she tells Yo. “You get dealt the cards you get dealt with. Sometimes I had a really bad time on the show. But I was always shown on screen when they edited it because I’ve got a big old mouth.

“If you don’t have a big personality or you are not outspoken, then you get faded into the background. Maybe some people aren’t as comfortable speaking their minds.”

Gill has been a victim of social media trolling (Photo: Mills & Boon)

With 2.6 million Instagram followers, 363,000 on Twitter and more than 100,000 YouTube subscribers, Gill certainly has a voice.

“I’ve got this platform and I want to extend it to help as many people as I can,” she says. But her readiness to be outspoken and candid can come at a cost, as she found out when she publicly backed the Black Lives Matter movement.

“My follower count immediately plummeted. I don’t really understand what you thought I stood for? But there’s a bigger picture out there than just losing followers,” says the one-time beauty therapist whose father is from Trinidad and Tobago.

“When you have a platform you either make a conscious decision to be neutral or stand up for what you believe in,” she says. “If I’m not making anyone upset then I almost feel that I’m not doing anything of meaning.”

Gill, who broke up with her Love Island-winning partner Greg O’Shea days after they split the winner’s check, adds: “I didn’t want to be in the box of ‘what Love Islanders do’. Everyone seems to think I can’t talk about politics, I can only talk about dating.”

After being “overwhelmed with support” when she emerged from the villa, social media trolls began to undermine Gill’s mental health – apparently unhappy about the winners’ decision to split.

“It really got to me,” she says. “I feel like I’m a good person. Why do these people think I’m just horrible no matter what I do? It really did have an impact.”

“I had about 14 weeks therapy afterwards (mandated by ITV). The producers were always available on the phone. My experience was positive overall because I won. But what works for me might not work for someone else.”

Love Island has introduced a new aftercare policy after three former contestants took their own life. Participants have also been given sensitivity training about language used to speak about ethnicity and race this year. The viewers could benefit from similar help, Gill believes.

“Sometimes the audience gets too invested,” she says. “It’s not anything to do with the show. People are putting too much pressure on these people. Take it as face value as just entertainment, that’s what it is.”

In her business life, Gill promises that her Instagram Stories and posts are “100 per cent authentically my thoughts. It’s important that the commercial stuff is aligned with what I want to say.”

Yet she was ticked off by the Advertising Standards Authority during a crackdown on influencers who fail to declare when they are doing a sponsored post.

“It’s typical that I was made an example of. I think it was one post I forgot,” she says. “I always make it clear on my Stories. In fact I say ‘we’re gonna have an ad break now’ and people really like that. There’s no hiding from the Advertising Standards body!”

Gill, who talked openly about putting on weight during lockdown, says she tries to spread a “body positive” message: “People my age on Insta and TikTok try to present a perfect image 24/7. I always try to share my truth.”

She admits that receiving the first copy of her debut novel was a “how did this happen moment”. Gill worked with romantic fiction publisher Mills & Boon for Until I Met Youa sun lounger read with a message amid the passionate kisses.

“I’ve always loved romantic fiction since I was young, but I didn’t appreciate then that there was a lack of diversity and ethnic representation among the characters,” she says.

“I wanted to read a book with characters that look and sound like me. Mills & Boon also wanted to reach a wider audience, so we teamed up,” she said of the title, which follows broken-hearted travel blogger Samantha, who catches the eye of hot-shot businessman, Roman, on holiday in Tobago.

Gill had the support of a co-writer, Nadine Gonzalez, an experienced US romantic fiction author. “Obviously I’ve never written a book before and it was very scary,” she says.

She hopes the book will resonate with “young women like me, who are a bit confused about what they’re going to do with their lives, and then they get dumped whilst their friends are off doing amazing things like getting married”.

Gill isn’t quite the same as her target audience – how many find themselves “linked” to the England football star Jack Grealish in the tabloids? “It’s really hard to deal with this interest in my dating life,” she says. “Maybe it’s because I don’t talk about it much.

“I knew Jack Grealish but I never dated him. It’s really hard because people painted me out to be a bad person, like I was trying to split up a relationship, like I was a homewrecker. That’s really not who I am.”

• ‘Until I Met You’ by Amber Rose Gill, published by Mills & Boon, is available now

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