Former Love Island contestant Marcel Somerville has told MPs he turned down the chance to appear on an earlier series of the reality show because he had concerns about the diversity of the line-up.
The Blazin’ Squad star, who had already found fame in the music group, appeared on the third series of the dating show when it was rebooted on ITV2, but revealed he had been approached for an earlier series – when he would have entered as a bombshell – rather than part of the initial cast.
Giving evidence to MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, he said: “I’ve had an agent since I was young and the year before I participated in the show, Love Island contacted my agent and said ‘Do you have anyone that would be good for the show?’
“They put me forward. I spoke to the casting producers, done a medical, but they wanted me to go on for the last two weeks of the show.
“During my conversation with the production team I said I wasn’t sure… I basically said I wasn’t too sure if I wanted to go on the show at that time because the show didn’t look very diverse.
“So I was like I didn’t want to be the first black person to be on the show as a bombshell because you’ve go to go in there and try and steal someone’s girlfriend.
“I was like ‘I’m not really sure that’s my character’, so they held off from putting me on that year and then the following the year they came back in contact with my agents and said can Marcel come in for another meeting.”
The committee is investigating representations of race, gender and body image and how contestants are prepared for life after being filmed on the popular ITV2 show.
Somerville said he was shocked by the attention he received after leaving the show in fourth place with then-girlfriend Gabby Allen, adding that not all of it was positive.
He said: “I came out and I had like six hundred something thousand followers. I was like ‘Wow, this is crazy’.
“They aren’t necessarily people that like you. Some of them are there to be horrible to you. There will be racist stuff. Horrible people saying horrible things.”
Somerville, who appeared on the same series as Mike Thalassitis, a year after Sophie Gradon appeared on the programme, added: “You are in the spotlight. No matter what you do, anything that happens there is going to be a story about it.
“Public break-ups – everything that happens. You are like, ‘This is the worst period of my life’.
“That was the worst period of doing Love Island.”
He suggested that more help was needed by contestants after the show had aired.
Somerville added: “Six months down the line when you are fully into dealing with the fame.
“They definitely changed it now with what happened to Mike and Sophie.”
Love Island came under scrutiny following the deaths of the former contestants.
Somerville said that after he left the show, he had contact with producers – but only due to other projects he was working on.
Beyond that, the former contestant said there was no support in place.
He said: “You are kind of left to your own devices. It wasn’t like a big thing of them contacting you.
“It wasn’t much of a ‘How are things going now?’”
With regards to being prepared for social media, he said: “Training-wise, I didn’t get told how to tweet or how to post, or what to expect from it.”
Yewande Biala, who appeared on the 2019 series of the show, also gave evidence to MPs – but said she was given extensive social media training and psychological support.