Zara McDermott

21st March 2022

Photographer & Editor in Chief: Owen James Vincent

Make Up Artist: Natalie Stokes

Hairstylist: Rowan Ireland

Styling: Megan Smales

Styling Assistant: Zina Gayle

Interview: Jordan Arthur

Graphic Design: Emily Curtis

Zara McDermott is no stranger to love, having starred in Love Island, and now hosts her own new dating show with a twist on BBC Three, Love in the Flesh. Zara joins ReVamp in this cover story to talk her new show, career, and brand-new documentary project; Disorded Eating.

You’re just about to launch your brand new BBC Three show Love in the Flesh, what can you tell us about it?

The premise of the show is couples who have only ever spoken online, some of them have never even FaceTimed or video-chatted, meeting face-to-face for the very first time. We strip away their phones, bring them all into the same space, and we see how their relationships can survive in the flesh.

Suit: Somebody Else's Guy / Boots: Havva Musthava / Necklace: Orelia

Lockdown has probably created a lot of couples who have never met in person. After doing the show, how do you now feel about relationships that transition from online to in-person. Has your view changed since doing the show?

When I was filming the show, I think, naturally, you fall in love with all the couples in different ways. There are some that are definitely stronger than others from day one, but then sometimes even the strongest of couples have their issues which emerge over the series.

One massive thing that I learned in that process is that, actually, dating online is kind of easy.  It’s so convenient. It seems like you have access to that person you’ve matched with 24 hrs a day, seven days a week if you want. But the transition from having accessibility to that version of someone online to a real person can be a big change.

Some might feel like they can be really forward or confident or smooth online, but often those people are the total opposite in-person and actually quite shy and a little introverted.

The technology - dating apps, social media - lets some people create this façade, an idealised version of themselves. But when you’re meeting someone for the first time, what I’ve learned is that you can’t go into that first date, first meet, and think they’re going to be everything they seem online. We always put our best food forward, but you have to be open to not having expectations.

Green leather suit: Kiwi & Co/ Rings: SIF JAKOBS gold square rings / Thin Ring: SIF JAKOBS crown silver encrusted gold thin ring /Thing Ring: SIF JAKOBS thin gold ring / Chain: SIF JAKOBS gold thin chain / Ring: SIF JAKOBS thick silver crowned ring / White boots heeled: RAID

There’s one couple we encounter in the first episode of the show who have been talking for five years but are only meeting now. While it’s great the internet opens people up to so many more possible matches, does it create a sort of lack or urgency to actually make the effort to go on that first date?

There’s always this issue in talking to someone online that you don’t know how many other people they’re speaking to concurrently. They could be really confident to you in their approach online, but they could also be confident to several other people at the same time, and even using the same lines! It’s easy to get hooked into a situation and visualise how it’s going to pan out but it actually doesn’t work that way.

If you’re open to a bigger pool of people, then there’s a greater chance of you finding someone you’re compatible with just by law of averages, and this is what dating apps make possible. But with that, there’s always this notion of ‘is the grass greener?’

If I had just swiped on this girl, could she be a better match for me? If this doesn’t work out, I’ll just keep scrolling through Tinder – almost like online shopping – and find someone else.

It can mean people don’t feel confident in themselves, because they know that if they’re not exactly what the other person is looking for in that moment, they have so many more options and they can find those people just as easily as they found you. 

We’ve got to mention Love Island – it’s such a phenomenon. Even though your season was nearly four years ago, your time in the villa is still of massive interest. Did you know the show was going to propel you in this direction when you started?

Not at all! I think the show had made some big stars, but going into it I didn’t have any expectations. I was only 21 when I went into the villa – and that seems very young now I’m 25, and I know that mentally I was a lot younger. I didn’t have as much confidence as I have now.

I wasn’t as sure of myself, or confident in who I was, and I think that all of that meant that when I went and did Love Island, it was for the experience rather than for what would come after. Obviously, there are benefits of going on a show like that, you become a public figure – but there’s no guarantees, and I was always very aware of that and I never expected too much.

Trousers: Le Reussi / Metallic Jacket: Ivy Ekong / Bralet: Letoit / Necklace: Orelia

 believe, prior to joining Love Island, you worked as a government advisor? What was the moment that made you stop and think, “I want to go for a career in TV?”

I worked as a policy advisor in government, yeah! I did an apprenticeship when I left school.

I never ever thought I would be cut out for TV because, to be honest, I really lacked confidence. I couldn’t even speak in front of a group of people, let alone go on television. I never thought it was for me at all.

But when the opportunity came up, all my friends and family were like ‘oh my gosh, Zara, you’ve got to do this! It’s going to be such an incredible experience’. My dad always says to me, you shouldn’t say no to things, because later in life you’ll regret it.

I just thought ‘right I’m going to do it’ and I almost just lived day by day and didn’t think about it because I was excited, but extremely nervous. 

Even through the process and agreeing to go on Love Island, you don’t find out if it’s going ahead until really soon before it starts. I was scouted for the show, so going through the process I was kind of like ‘I don’t mind either way – if it’ll be, it’ll be. Nothing lost’.

And you had a pretty impressive fallback career…

Yeah, and I think I had my career very much mapped out in government. I knew what I wanted to do, and I saw my vision, and I loved my job so much so that was really hard making that decision to leave it.

Do I stay in the safety of this job that I love and I know I’m good at, or do I take this step that could be either the best or worst thing I ever do? It was a really big decision, but ultimately, I am glad I made the call I did.

Dress: Alexander wang asymmetric / Heels: Havva monogram heels / Earrings: Orelia gold statement interlocking pearl drop earrings

Bangle: Oriela gold with peal encrusted bangle / Chain: SIF JAKOBS gold chain

Your previous work on BBC Three includes two powerful documentaries. Do you see yourself making more films like those? If so, what sort of subjects would you be interested in exploring next?

Presenting is my passion; I’ve really come to love it. Factual documentaries are where there’s a real opportunity to make a difference. That feeling that you’ve actually done something incredible and you might have even changed someone’s life that day, that feeling is like no other. It’s what I loved about coming home from work every day before Love Island, and I feel lucky I’m able to still do that now, in a different way – though these docs.

I’ve just announced that I am making another film with BBC Three called Disordered Eating. 

I’ve done work for the last two years around sexual assault as a big issue in society that young people are facing. A lot of people have spoken to me about their sexual assault experiences which are so horrific; some of the things I’ve heard have been absolutely awful. But the other thing that keeps cropping up, sometimes within those conversations, is this subject of disordered eating.

It was interesting because I speak to a lot of young people regularly on my socials and in-person, even people just coming up to me in the street, and I think it’s important I’m like a reactive force in the industry where I can look at what issues people are going through, and let’s raise awareness about it, let’s make a film about it, let’s do something. Let’s try and help people where we can. 

Thanks so much for talking with us!

Zara’s new show Love in the Flesh starts on BBC Three and iPlayer this Wednesday at 10PM.

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