Love Island 2021: ITV announces cast with first disabled contestant

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Hugo HammondImage source, ITV
Image caption,
Hugo Hammond was born with clubfoot, making him the first disabled contestant

It's been over a year since we last got to experience the thrill of coupling up, mugging off and Casa Amor chaos.

But ITV have confirmed the first contestants who will be heading into Love Island's famous Majorca villa.

The starting line-up includes PE teacher Hugo Hammond from Hampshire, who has played disability cricket for England.

Love Island's last series to air was its winter version in South Africa in January 2020.

Paige Turley and Finley Tapp were named as the winners.

Image source, ITV
Image caption,
Brad said he was appearing on the show because "who wouldn't want to be in a nice villa in a hot country?"

ITV has also put in place new protocols for mental health this year after concerns over contestant welfare.

Series seven contestants will receive comprehensive psychological support and training on how to handle social media negativity.

Former contestant Dr Alex George, who is also the government's youth mental health ambassador, helped with the new plan.

The series starts next Monday.

Media caption,

Dr Alex: From Love Island to the frontline of a pandemic

The first contestants to be announced were Sharon Gaffka, a civil servant for the Department for Transport and Aaron Francis, a luxury events host who has worked at Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice's weddings.

Also announced was 21-year-old Liberty Poole, a marketing student and waitress at Nando's and Kaz Kamwi, an Essex fashion blogger.

Joining them is former Scottish glamour model turned influencer Shannon Singh and Jake Cornish, a water engineer from Weston-super-Mare.

Image source, ITV
Image caption,
Liberty works in Nando's but says she's never seen anyone extra hot in there

ITV has also confirmed that the series will feature a few production changes because of the coronavirus pandemic.

These include "a large proportion" of the show's production moving to London - while it has not been confirmed whether Iain Sterling's voiceovers will come from Spain or not.

They're joined by Toby Aromolaran, who plays for Hashtag United - a non-league football club which was set up by a football Youtuber and includes Chelsea player Cesar Azpilicueta on its board of directors.

And the announcement got a reaction from Toby's manager Jay Devereux.

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Also part of the cast is Brad McClelland, a labourer from Northumberland - who says: "I try and make as much money as I can by doing as little as possible" - and Chloe Burrows, a 25-year-old working in financial services.

26-year-old Faye Winter, a lettings manager from Devon also completes the line-up but it's likely that - like in previous series - more contestants will join as the series goes on.

'The villa's first physically disabled contestant - a step rather than a leap'

Analysis by Alex Taylor, BBC entertainment reporter

For a show that's long faced criticisms over a lack of diversity in its cast, the inclusion of Hugo Hammond as Love Island's first physically disabled contestant feels a progressive move years in the making.

But it's a step rather than a leap.

Hugo was born with clubfoot - which makes the foot twist downwards and inwards - but after numerous operations as a child, he says people can "only really tell when I walk barefoot. I've got a really short Achilles... I walk slightly on my tip toes."

This will still no doubt spark conversation both inside the villa and among viewers at home, which will ultimately help raise awareness.

Of course Hugo's disability doesn't define him - he's there as a dashing PE teacher and former cricketer for England's physical disabilities side, and that's before we get to know his personality.

But have producers done enough to accurately reflect disability in the modern dating world? Bosses previously told The Mirror in 2019 that the villa had not been adapted for people with disabilities due to insurance costs and "budget constraints".

The nature of Hugo's disability allows them to keep disability inclusion, and the social stigma surrounding dating someone with a disability, within convenient limits.

A toned Paralympic athlete who uses a wheelchair? Maybe next year.

Love Island starts at 9pm Monday 28th June on ITV2 and ITV Hub. Episodes are available the following morning on BritBox.

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