For Love Island stars Luke Trotman and Siânnise Fudge, marching in London’s Black Lives Matter demonstration was something they felt both compelled and honoured to do. Following the death of American George Floyd, who was killed by police last month, the pair joined thousands of supporters to protest against systemic racism and racially charged police brutality.
Luke, 23 this week, tells us, “It was moving to be there with so many people of different ages and races – people want to learn and improve, which is amazing.”
Protestors also tore down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Siânnise’s hometown, and she says, “I’m proud of Bristol! I have always strongly believed in equality and I will continue to educate myself further.”
The couple found romance on this year’s winter Love Island in South Africa, and six months later, as the coronavirus lockdown eased, they moved into a two-bedroom London apartment together. Siânnise laughs, “That first night we had no duvet cover and we didn’t even have a cup to drink out of!”
From day one, Siânnise and Luke have made no secret of their plans to have a family. And, they tell us, the events of recent weeks have prompted discussions about the challenges and experiences mixed race children face in society as it stands. But, says Luke, “I think our children will live in a better world than we have if change continues.”
Here, the couple open up about their relationship and reflect upon recent events…
You attended the Black Lives Matter protest. Was that a powerful experience?
Luke: It was moving being there and to see so many different kinds of people, different ages and races, all so passionate. People want to learn and improve, which is amazing.
Siânnise: It was overwhelming to see how many people were there showing their support. It was an honour to be a part of that. I don’t think people were fully educated on what went on in the past and what is still going on now, so I feel like these events are helping people understand and know that things need to change.
What would you say to those criticising the protestors for risking a second spike during the coronavirus lockdown?
Luke: The fact it’s taking place during a pandemic is proof of how important it is. It’s tragic that George Floyd’s death happened at any time, but now people are so outraged we just had to do something about it. The majority of people had masks on and were taking precautions.
Siânnise: Everybody was trying their best to social distance. The protests are making a difference already, which means it is worth it. I think if everybody continues to use their voice and educate themselves, hopefully change will happen and continue.
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Have you ever experienced racism as a couple?
Siânnise: [To Luke] We haven’t experienced anything like that, have we?
Luke: No. We haven’t really been anywhere to experience it overtly in public.
Siânnise, have the events of recent weeks made you think about white privilege and taking time to educate yourself?
Yes, they have. We’re all human, it doesn’t matter what colour your skin is. There shouldn’t be any privilege, we should all be treated the same. I’ve always believed that, and I will continue to educate myself.
What did you think of the protestors in Bristol pulling down the statue of slave trader Edward Colston?
Siânnise: I think they had a right to and I think the police chief who was at the event [Superintendent Andy Bennett] was very understanding. I think police officers need to be more like that. I understand why the protestors were angry. A statue of a slave trader? Bring it down! I’m proud of Bristol for it!
Luke, what was your experience of racism growing up?
It was subtle, the little things. Like, say you’re walking on the pavement, if people feel threatened by you just because of how you look, they would cross the road. That happened. I was one of three black people in my whole school. Even in school, sometimes you just change your behaviour to fit in and be less threatening, because you can tell people are threatened just by the way you look. Even changing the tone of your voice.
How did that make you feel at the time, and on reflection?
It’s challenging because you grow up different from everyone else. And because of how I am now, sometimes I feel like the black community feel like I am quite “white”, so that’s been quite challenging. But it’s just my environment growing up that has made me the way I am now. You sometimes feel lost because you don’t know your crowd.
It’s been said that if you are a white parent of a mixed race child, you will notice racism more abruptly than before. Is that something you’ve thought about if you start a family?
Siânnise: Our kids should not be treated differently to any others, regardless. But now all of this has happened, I feel like I would be more aware of it. It’s a tough one because I wouldn’t look at them any differently, of course, but this will open my eyes more to the challenges they will face.
Luke: Say our kids wanted to go on a road trip to America, we would be wary. But I think our kids will live in a better world than we have if change happens and continues.
How’s the new flat?
Both: We absolutely love it!
Siânnise: Every night, me and Luke tell each other how grateful we are and how much we love it.
Where were you staying before?
Luke: We were locked down in Luton with my family.
Siânnise: I was with the in-laws for nine weeks! But we get on so well. I was grateful to them for letting me stay with Luke so we weren’t apart.
What did your families say when you told them you were moving out?
Luke: I think both our mums were kind of sad.
Siânnise: I think they were like, “Oh they have flown the nest now.” But they were happy for us – our happiness is important to them. I haven’t experienced the proper London life yet because of lockdown. I can’t wait for Luke to show me all the spots and to go shopping!
Are you enjoying the privacy of your own place?
Luke: Yeah. We can do what we want, walk around naked!
What would you say to anyone who suggested you were moving in too fast?
Luke: I think, on Love Island, because you’re together so much, the time scale is a bit different. The time you spend together on the show would be like three or four months out of the show.
Siânnise: Everyone’s timing is different. I don’t think it matters at all.
Has moving in brought you closer?
Siânnise: I think it has, I think we grow closer every day.
Luke: Just getting used to living with someone else is a learning curve we’re going through together.
Siânnise: This is the first time I’ve moved away from home. I’m learning how to cook, and I haven’t poisoned Luke yet!
Have you had any arguments in lockdown?
Luke: We argue quite a lot. It’s all sorts. I wanted to get extra bananas and she’s like, no we don’t need to spend that money [laughs]. But then she wants a takeaway!
Siânnise: He thinks I’m being stingy but I’m trying to manage my money. We do disagree on things but we’ll have a tiff and then five minutes later we’re back laughing together again. But I think it’s healthy to have a little tiff every now and again.
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Were you surprised your Love Island co-stars and friends Demi Jones and Luke Mabbott split?
Siânnise: It’s a shame, isn’t it? But I do think lockdown had a lot do to with it. Luke lives in Redcar up in North Yorkshire and Demi lives down south in Portsmouth, so they’re quite a long way away.
Luke: And that’s three months of not seeing someone.
Siânnise: We’ve been lucky we’ve been together the whole time.
What will you do when lockdown is eased?
Siânnise: Well, my birthday is 5 July. As long as I get to spend it with Luke, even if we’re just sat on the sofa watching TV, I’ll be happy.
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