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‘People call me a role model. I’m like, OK but why?’: Love Island’s Kaz Kamwi on influencer culture

The fashion blogger and Love Island star discusses the responsibilities of influencers, and what she intends to do with her platform

It’s a drizzly, hump-day afternoon, and next to a pleasant square near London’s Oxford Street, Kaz Kamwi has just sold her third copy of The Big Issue. 

“This is very different to my Love Island experience,” she tells a camera person filming the activity, “honestly all I had to do was wake up and go downstairs in a bikini!”.

Kamwi is joining vendor Paul Logan to raise awareness of The Big Issue’s work supporting thousands of sellers up and down the country – who pitch their magazines to members of the public no matter the weather. Where they may previously have struggled to find work or somewhere to live, The Big Issue offers them their own mini enterprise to help get their lives back on track.

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But this stunt is far from Kamwi’s first interaction with the issue of homelessness, or the organisations working to end it. As a university student, she undertook a six-month placement with The Big Issue in Birmingham, where she would talk with people who wanted to become vendors on what the role would entail. 

Some days she went out to check on vendors on their pitches to top up their stack of magazines, and generally to “see how everyone was getting on.” 

So it’s pleasantly fitting for Kamwi to find herself, seven years later, using her new-found fame to help promote the charity that – in her past life – she volunteered her time for. 

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Even before she began studying sociology at university, she would join her mum at a local soup kitchen, and despite professing she wasn’t much help in the kitchen, took on the role of welcoming and speaking to everyone who came in to eat. 

“I found I had a really good time and had some really good conversations with a lot of people,” she says.  

“I always knew I had a knack for wanting to help people… I just never really knew what I wanted to do. I always say, I spent a lot of my time at uni just vibing. I was there for the vibes and the vibes alone.”

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And spreading good vibes is a skill not to be sniffed at. It is without doubt that Kamwi has been blessed with a natural charm. Despite having never watched a single episode of the show that catapulted Kamwi into the public eye, long-time vendor Logan is snapping away on his phone with this “absolute angel” within 20 minutes of meeting her. 

It’s this desire for a good time, good chats and good banter that led her to apply to be on Love Island: “I’m not being funny, we’d been in a pandemic for like two years, I was like, ‘Ooh a holiday, get me on there!’,” she says with a laugh. 

Kamwi’s 2021 stint on the Island is memorable for her fan-favourite relationship with Tyler Cruickshank – which recently ended – for being a girls’ girl, for bringing light-heartedness and positivity to the villa. 

She also received horrific online abuse and trolling after the show, and has since spoken out about the importance of representation of black women in the media as successful and desirable. 

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Despite her winning charm and obvious gorgeousness, Kamwi says what would happen after the show – the fame and constant scrutiny that past islanders have endured – hardly crossed her mind, thinking she would only make it through a few weeks of the show. 

As the season ended and Kamwi emerged to find her social media following had ballooned, she recalls asking “people are calling me a role model, I’m just like, ‘OK but why?’.” 

Kamwi acknowledges that being a positive role model is something that is now expected of her, because “people want there to be good role models”. But, she says “it’s hard to show up every single time even when you don’t feel great, and people expect you to do that, but you’re not a robot.”

Other influencers have been criticised for the ideas they have voiced in recent times, and as our conversation progresses and we manoeuvre into more fraught territory, it’s clear Kamwi has the self-awareness to navigate the topic carefully.

Kamwi’s fellow Love Islander Molly Mae Hague recently sparked widespread backlash for her comments on poverty, inequality and privilege, in the soundbite: “We all have the same 24 hours in a day.”. Kamwi declines to comment on the matter.

After our interview, she heads off to the Pretty Little Thing fashion show where Hague is showcasing her latest range for London Fashion Week. Outside, islander ​​Brett Staniland held up a sign proclaiming: “There’s nothing pretty about wage theft,” a reference to an investigation which found that Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing’s parent company, was paying garment workers just £3.50 per hour

“Anyone with a platform can make an impact, positive or negative… what kind of impact you make is up to you,” Kamwi muses. 

So how does Kamwi intend to use her new-found platform?

“The main thing I want is for people to be able to feel like they can be themselves authentically,” she says. “I’m so big on putting myself out of my comfort zone, I try new things all the time.”

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Big Issue Group is creating new solutions through enterprise to unlock opportunities for the 14.5 million people living in poverty to earn, learn and thrive. Big Issue Group brings together our media and investment initiatives as well as a diverse and pioneering range of new solutions, all of which aim to dismantle poverty by creating opportunity. Learn how you can change lives today.

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