TRAILBLAZING Love Island star Tasha Ghouri has spoken about the ableism she faced in the villa after becoming the show's first ever deaf contestant.
The model and dancer, 23, was born deaf and has had a cochlear implant, a small electronic device that allows wearers to process sound and speech, since she was five years old.
While in the villa last summer, Tasha struggled with her emotions at times and clashed with co-stars Luca Bish and Dami Hope in uncomfortable scenes.
What many watching at home, as well as the other islanders living inside the villa, didn't realise at the time was the difficulty Tasha was having trying to balance her disability with living life 24/7 in view of the cameras.
In an exclusive interview during Deaf Awareness Week, Tasha recalled the moment she was announced for the show.
She said: "Me going on the show was a groundbreaking moment for the TV industry, especially for a show like Love Island. It was like a moment that shook the whole earth, that's what it felt like."
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Though Tasha's disability, which she refers to as her superpower, made positive headlines and raised the profile of the deaf community in the days leading up to the show, once inside the villa it wasn't discussed as much as Tasha would have liked.
As a result, her fellow islanders failed to understand her individual needs which escalated tensions between Tasha, boyfriend Andrew Le Page, 27, and his friends.
She said: "I was painted out to be this girl who's not a great person, at the start. When I look back it was annoying for me because I couldn't say to the cameras 'this is why I'm feeling this and that', and I feel that got manipulated in some ways. I wasn't being dramatic. I wasn't being over the top or making drama for no reason. I was exhausted and being in the sun all day as well it is a lot. I wish that was highlighted more 100 per cent."
She continued: "On the show, going to sleep at 3 or 4am, waking up just before lunch, we're so sleep deprived and we're always having to have conversations. That's why a lot of the time I was quite emotional because I was going through my own stuff at the time, having to listen to conversations, lip-reading; it really does take it out of you. That's why by the end of the night I was so out of it.
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"We didn't really have that place to escape to. There wasn't a place I could go and be emotional, cry my eyes out and just nap to get my energy back. Maybe that's something they could change."
To make matters worse, by regularly finishing in the bottom three and facing public votes, Tasha believed she wasn't doing enough for her community.
"In there I was really doubting myself," she said. "I was in the bottom three so many times and I was really battered down quite a lot. The reason I was so emotional is I felt like a failure. I felt like I was letting down my mum and dad and the deaf community, especially."
However, the entire time she was on the show her dad, Tarek, publicly defended her in the outside world, doing his best to explain the issues Tasha was facing.
That support worked wonders and ultimately helped Tasha on her way to a fourth place finish.
She said of her exit: "To come out of the show and see so much positivity and the impact me going on the show made. I don't think I realised that until I came out."
Tasha continued: "There's not enough awareness. That's why I had a lot of ablesim while I was on the show, purely because people couldn't understand some things.
"Me coming out, doing what I'm doing now, has massively opened people's eyes like 'OK, that's why she was like that in that moment on the show', all the dots start to link up."
Outside of the villa, Tasha may have regained control but her newfound fame, and its demands, presented its own challenges.
"The first few months [after the villa] I remember being absolutely exhausted," she said. "I was just burnt out. That's why I went to Australia. That was perfect because I really had time to recharge."
Over the last year Tasha has learned when she needs to rest to prevent further burnout.
She recently sacrificed going to the final night of the Coachella Festival in California, with it's loud performances and attendees shouting to be heard over the music, to protect her mental health.
"It's something I struggle with everyday, but because I'm so used to it I don't feel sorry for myself," she said. "I'm here to educate people we do have negative we deal with. The constant migraines, the headaches, going to events, having to always do interviews at events, having to always be active sometimes my brain wants to shutdown completely."
Looking to the future, Tasha hopes to see Love Island continue broadening the types of contestants it casts and was happy to see Ron Hall, the first partially blind contestant in the show's history, take part earlier this year.
She said: "I hope they keep the change going. It's important for representation."
Tasha is a proud supporter of charities Deaf Kidz International, Royal Naitonal Institute of Deaf People and National Deaf Children's Society.
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