Laura Crane Is Empowered
How starring in the popular UK reality show, Love Island, gave Laura the confidence to feel sexy and radiant again.
“I became bulimic at 16,” was not one of the first things I thought Laura Crane would say after her manager put us in contact to discuss her time on the UK reality show, Love Island.
For those who, like me, didn’t know, Love Island is exactly what it sounds like – a reality show where couples get paired up and live together under the same roof on an island. It's one of those shows filled with enough estrogen and testosterone to permeate a villa with the drama craved by our everything-now society.
Love Island is largely popular, garnering over four million viewers an episode.
After researching various gossip sites, battling consistent pop-ups that depreciate the user-experience, it became apparent Laura was a notable participant – the (un)happy folks of the internet ate up the surfer girl, for better or worse.
Many sites wrote her off for “pretending to cry,” some claimed her partner on the show, Jack, was an unfair relationship as they’d met outside of the show. Comment sections criticized and lauded her body. And, the (un)happy patrons of the internet heckled from the cheapest seats of their living rooms, offices and dorms, jibbing and jabbing their way into some sort of entertainment.
For Laura, Love Island served as a vessel of being comfortable in her skin. Two years ago she broke out of her eating disorder and today, she is as radiant, beautiful and confident as ever. The following is a conversation about overcoming personal demons, the strange state of our modern digital climate, and the extraordinary effects of being filmed 24 hours a day for ten days straight. What I’d assumed would be a fluffy interview about finding love in all the wrong places, went deep.
"Being a surfer and traveling the world and modeling put all these pressures on me as a girl growing up in that industry. Which, don’t get me wrong, it is an amazing way to grow up, but it does weigh on you."
Stab: So Laura, I’m unfamiliar with this show. How did this all come to be?
Laura: The people from Love Island had actually contacted me to go on the show last year but I wasn’t ready for that. Before going on I wanted to make sure I was headstrong enough to put myself out there on that grand of a scale. When they asked me again this year, I felt it was a good time – that I was ready.
What was different this year?
Well, Love Island for me was a massive test. I went in to prove to myself that I’ve come a long way. Now that it’s over, I wanted to tell my journey before going on the show. That I had bulimia and an eating disorder since I was 16. That being a surfer and traveling the world and modeling put all these pressures on me as a girl growing up in that industry. Which, don’t get me wrong, it is an amazing way to grow up, but it does weigh on you.
I knew I was going to go into the show and there would be a lot of people judging and having their say about me. I wanted to go in and prove to myself that I could take it, that I could come out stronger than when I went in. Which I feel I did.
"I think when Instagram and social media became huge, it was hard not to look at myself and compare it to how other girls were looking and what they were posting."
It’s such a weird time with social media and the internet and everyone’s lives being public domain. I was reading through some comments that were particularly negative about your body. Having previous issues with your body image before, how did you take that?
I’ve been doing photoshoots with Billabong since I was 12. I’ve always been in photos and seeing myself in a bikini. When I was 16 I developed my eating disorder. I think when Instagram and social media became huge, it was hard not to look at myself and compare it to how other girls were looking and what they were posting. That was a really hard time in my life. I had to work really hard on myself to get through that.
Obviously, going into Love Island I knew there would be a lot of people judging my looks because I didn’t look like the other girls. I didn’t have hair extensions or a face full of makeup every day. I would get comments like, “Oh, she’s really masculine.” But there were also comments that have been positive. A lot of girls have been like, “It’s so nice to see a girl in there that’s sporty with a sporty physique and can do the things the boys are doing.”
For me, the positive comments, although rarer, outweighed the negative ones in the end. Even the really bad ones, they haven’t bothered me.
It's really easy to type negative comments. It's kind of funny, whenever you get positive reinforcement, it means 10 times more than the random person who thinks they're clever by typing offensive sentences behind the safety of their computer screen.
You look at these girls on Instagram or whatever and it’s easy to get a perception of how a girl should look. I have big shoulders because I surf and I wouldn’t be able to do what I love doing without bigger shoulders and stronger thighs.
I had such a negative view on my body for so long and it made me sick mentally. But on my Instagram, I was perceiving this best or ideal life and it wasn’t true at all. The whole time I was eating food and throwing it back up. I was really, really unhappy and that’s the thing I want to get across – that you can be living the most amazing life through Instagram but behind closed doors, people have no idea what you’re going through. No one knows what people are actually going through, you might write a comment on someone's profile and think nothing of it. Like, “Ha-Ha. Look what I just commented on a photo.”
It doesn’t matter how many followers you have, or what life you live. You never know what someone’s journey is. I think for me, I just wanted to share that we’re all in this together – whether you’re traveling the world or at school or work and not stoked on your life. A lot of people are going through the same thing.
"The reason behind this photoshoot and these photos is I want to show that yes, I have this strong body. I’m a surfer. I’m an athlete. That’s me."
I feel like social media has created a lot of unnecessary problems due to that. It’s easy to look at people’s profiles and criticize the decisions you’re making and wonder, why am I not in the Maldives right now drinking fruity cocktails too?
It’s weird today. You used to have to send letters and stuff to keep in contact with people, now you know what some guy you went to school with, who you haven’t spoken with in years, is having for breakfast.
It’s all so silly. Let’s get back into Reality TV. What was the hardest thing to deal with on the show?
I think for me, it was just not having the freedom. Not being able to do all the things that I would usually do. That was probably the hardest thing for me. I was just being told what to do again and being told kind of like when to eat and when to do all these things. I think that was tough for me. I really learned how to kind of make friendships with girls.
That's something I always struggled with. I've always gravitated to boy friendships rather than girls. That was something new for me there because you're living with these girls, you're getting changed in the dressing room with them, you're sharing clothes, doing each other's make-up.
That was really sick, being forced to do all the girly things and be with the girls.
"You used to have to send letters and stuff to keep in contact with people, now you know what some guy you went to school with, who you haven’t spoken with in years, is having for breakfast."
How scripted are these shows?
Not at all. All the chat and the emotions and everything is certainly real. I did not want to cry on TV and I ended up crying three days in a row. Just bawling my eyes out [laughs]. That’s all real.
Have you rewatched any of the episodes?
Yeah, I rewatched a few. It was weird to see me cry. I definitely didn't think I would go in there and get so emotionally into it, but it becomes your life and you can't get away from it. You're living it 24/7, so the friendships you have in there are real. The feelings you're having for the other people are really real. It's hard to switch off from it. You can't get away from it, you really have to deal with everything right in front of you.
Is that aspect empowering? Like in a way that you know all your emotions and actions are actively being broadcasted to millions of people you’ve never met?
It's weird. I went in there and I was like, "Oh, I'll never forget that I'm on TV.” But as soon as you're in there you don't see the cameras. You always know you're being filmed, but you forget really, really quickly just how many people are watching and how much of an impact that tiny villa in the middle of nowhere is actually having on the whole of the nation.
"I went in there and I was like, "Oh, I'll never forget that I'm on TV.”
So what’s the deal with Jack, you guys still hanging?
[Laughs] Yeah… we’re dating. Just taking it slow. Basically, being in there it's so intense, you live together for 10 days. You go from not even knowing the person to the next day sleeping in the bed with them. It's really intense.
Do you think a working romantic relationship can actually be founded on these types of shows?
I never did. I honestly thought I’d go in and think some guys were cute. But, then I ended up crying over a boy on television [laughs]. It’s genuine. I think you can find love, like it’s possible.
When were you able to kick the eating disorder? Was this pretty recent?
I was 21 when I got better. I’m 23 now.
How do you feel two years later?
Sooo much healthier! Mentally and physically. An eating disorder is a mental illness. It fucks you up in the head and it shows. You can’t control things and when you feel that out of control, it becomes the only thing you have control over. So you just hang onto it.
It’s hard to let go, but once you do you get your life back.
"I'm built like this because of surfing, and that's what I love to do."
Do you like your body image better today?
Yes! By far. Really far. I look back now at those photos when I was sick and think that looks horrible. I look gross, I was skinny and I’m a strong girl. I’m not meant to look like that. I think in time I’ve grown up and realized that it’s important to cherish the way my body is. I'm built like this because of surfing, and that's what I love to do.
The reason behind this photoshoot and these photos is I want to show that yes, I have this strong body. I’m a surfer. I’m an athlete. That’s me. And with that, you can also be and feel beautiful.
Like, don’t feel embarrassed if you have big shoulders and strong thighs. You have them because they do things.