Zara McDermott won't be 'kept in a box' after 'Love Island'

Zara McDermott says she's more than the misconceptions people have about her after her time on reality TV. (Redferns)
Zara McDermott says she's more than the misconceptions people have about her after her time on reality TV. (Redferns)

Love Island contestant turned TV host Zara McDermott says she won't allow herself to be 'kept in a box' because of appearing on the show when she was 21.

The Love In The Flesh presenter said her time on the fourth season of the ITV show felt like 'a lifetime ago and yesterday at the same time' but told Kate Thornton on White Wine Question Time that she didn't want to be defined by her time on the reality show.

Admitting she'd had a 'whirlwind few years', the 25-year-old said: "I faced a lot of challenges, I've battled the misconceptions and the stigma of reality TV and said: 'Well, actually, just because I've done this type of television doesn't put me into a bracket, doesn't make me this type of person, doesn't keep me in a box.

"I won't allow myself to be kept in a box because of something that I did when I was 21 years old."

WATCH: Zara McDermott on overcoming reality TV stereotypes, educating young people, and renovating her first home

McDermott, who has hosted BBC documentaries on rape culture and revenge porn, as well as speaking openly about her experience of the latter, said she hadn't realised how much of a box she would be put in when she came off Love Island, and so she had thrown herself into the 'deep end' despite initial reservations about going on the show.

Zara McDermott is the host of Love In The Flesh (BBC)
Zara McDermott is the host of Love In The Flesh (BBC)

She told Thornton she wasn't sure about leaving her job in the civil service but friends persuaded her it was an opportunity and she had 'the rest of her life' to go back to her job.

"So I said yes to it," she said. "And I threw myself in the deep end so much. When I came off, I didn't realise how much of a box I'd be put in.

Listen to the full episode to hear Zara talk all things Love in the Flesh, her ambitions to tackle more hard-hitting subjects in her documentaries, and about her house renovations

"I was just put in a box with every single other person who's ever done reality TV ever, and people automatically assume you're stupid, you don't know what you're talking about, you have no self awareness.

"People assume all of these things about you. That is actually quite hurtful, because you think: 'I'm not all of those things.'

"Most people do reality TV aren't all those things either."

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 25: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall talks with Zara McDermott, who has campaigned with Refuge to bring about a change in laws surrounding revenge porn, during a reception at Clarence House in London to mark 50 years of Refuge on January 25, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Victoria Jones - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall with Zara McDermott, during a reception marking 50 years of Refuge. (Getty Images)

She also spoke about her own misconceptions before she went into the villa, thinking that her every move would be on TV, including things like 'making scrambled eggs for breakfast', calling it a 'massive learning curve' how she had been pigeon-holed when she came off the show.

She said: "I was so confused, because I was so naive. I didn't understand. I thought they just showed everything... Gone are the days that we should always put people in into a box because everybody's different.

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"Everybody has their own story. I was really gutted when I came out and I saw, and I felt a narrative.

"You still do feel that narrative, like some of the messages I get: 'Oh my god, you're so stupid.'"

Love Island contestant Zara McDermot in 2018 (PA Wire)
Love Island contestant Zara McDermot in 2018 (PA Wire)

McDermott said she's got to a point now where she doesn't take any notice any more.

She said: "It's just got to that point now. And I'm grateful to be at that place, but it's taken a long time to get there."

WATCH: Zara McDermott on the challenges of renovating her first home with boyfriend Sam Thompson