On Wednesday September 30, Caleb Corprew and Justine Ndiba made history as the first Black couple to win Love Island in the franchise’s history. The pair, known to the internet as “Jaleb,” took America by storm for being an example of wholesome, unapologetic Black love without the struggle narrative that is often attached to it.
Throughout the reality show’s history across different continents/countries (United Kingdom, Australia, United States, etc.) Black women on Love Island tend to share a universal struggle finding potential suitors in the villa.
Firstly, there is often only one Black girl in the initial line up, and she is almost always chosen last. Secondly, Black women on the show like Samira Mighty from Love Island UK season 4, Yewande Biala from Love Island UK season 5, and Justine from Love Island US season 2 have literally cried as they watch their non-black counterparts adjust to their dating environment with ease, wondering why they can’t do the same.
In one episode, Samira even highlighted the elephant in the room saying, “Unfortunately, not many guys in this villa go for me.” With such an obvious pattern of misogynoir, the audience has begun to pick up the sentiment that watching Black women try and fail to find love on this show is an inherent part of the Love Island viewing experience.
Correspondingly, the audience watched as Justine initially struggled finding a connection. This can be attributed to her being the only dark-skinned woman in the initial line up of contestants. For example, on her first day Justine showed her boldness and stepped forward first for a guy (Jeremiah White) to signal her attraction. He instead opted to choose another girl, who didn’t step forward for him but better fit within the confines of “desirable” western beauty standards. Jeremiah and Justine were eventually made to couple up anyway by chance of last pick. However, he emphasized many times in the beginning he only saw her as a friend.
Eventually and luckily, Justine’s story arc defied the Love Island curse for Black women and she grew a connection with a guy who admired not only her strength but vulnerability. Once coupled up, he sought to vehemently prove to her how she deserved to be treated from the start. Enter: Caleb Corprew.
Upon entering the villa, Caleb was the first guy to really show romantic interest in Justine; though, the development of their relationship initially took some time. When he and Justine finally coupled up, the audience sat on the edge of our seats every episode, waiting for what we thought was the inevitable heartbreak Justine, like other Black girls on Love Island, would endure. However, episode after episode the pair defied audience expectations and projections. Together they proved that Black women could indeed find genuine love on this show. Due to the unprecedented nature of the pair’s representation of a healthy relationship, specifically for a Black couple, the two quickly became fan favorites of the season.
Justine and Caleb developed their own fan base on social media because the public noted the two’s potential to make Love Island history as the first Black couple to ever win a season. In addition, fans thoroughly enjoyed seeing a Black woman on the show prosper for once. Fortunately, the power of the fandom prevailed and Justine and Caleb were crowned the US Love Island winners of 2020.
Their win is special for many reasons, but this win especially meant a lot to Black women. Amid the resurgence of Black Lives Matter and the heartache that has come from the cases of Breonna Taylor, Megan Thee Stallion, Oluwatoyin Salau and so many other Black women brutalized by misogynoir, it was something truly special to be able to unplug and watch a Black woman be loved, loudly, and in real time on national television.
I’m a Black woman and Love Island fan who always holds my breath but roots for every Black female contestant to thrive on the show despite my apprehension. Most times, I’m proven right to be apprehensive; however, being able to now celebrate a Black woman’s win within this franchise means so much to me. Not only was I that insecure young Black girl who always felt like a last pick (if I was a pick at all), but being an adult Black woman watching society continuously brutalize or mock our pain hits differently.
For us Black women, Justine represents the silver lining amongst all this grief. If nothing else comes from this historic win, hopefully Black women can look at Justine’s Love Island journey and be inspired to persevere through hardship, bet on ourselves when no one else will, and begin to love ourselves the way we have always deserved.
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