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Sharon Gaffka | Remix by Cole Mitchell

From ‘Love Island’ to politics, Sharon Gaffka shares the lessons she’s learned as a reality TV star, influencer, and advocate

'You have to work harder to shake off the reality TV label.

 

Grace Stanley

Internet Culture

Posted on Jun 9, 2022   Updated on Jun 12, 2022, 2:05 pm CDT

We’re reaching out to some popular creators to get their best tips and tricks for success and better understand the ups and downs of life as a trailblazer on the internet.


Sharon Gaffka is a multi-talented social media influencer, reality television star, feminist advocate, and aspiring politician and lawyer. She has grown an audience of over 515,000 followers on Instagram and TikTok

Gaffka is well-known for participating in the seventh season of British reality dating show Love Island in 2021, becoming a key player and television star before getting booted after three weeks. 

Prior to joining Love Island, Gaffka was a model and pageant queen. She was crowned Miss International United Kingdom in 2018—in case you’re unfamiliar, Miss International is a massively popular international beauty pageant based in Japan. 

Gaffka has also led a career in public service, working in operations and advisory government positions in the United Kingdom. Currently, Gaffka is an advocate for Young Women’s Trust, a feminist organization and charity, and is working to become a lawyer and politician.  

We spoke with Gaffka about the ups and downs of starring in Love Island, how the show altered her online presence, her advice for creators curious about reality TV, her political aspirations and her creative endeavors.

As someone with a career in law and civil service, why did you decide to become a content creator as well?

Strangely enough, I don’t think I decided to become a content creator, it naturally happened as a result of previously competing in beauty pageants and it seems like a natural progression when I left reality TV.

What lessons did you learn in the modeling and pageant world that have informed your future career choices?

I think pageants teach a lot of resilience, determination and good sportsmanship. For example, when I competed for Miss International UK, there were a total of 60 delegates and I was only eligible to win three crowns (1 UK, 2 England) so the odds are against you and I competed for those titles three times over 4 years.

You get feedback each time you compete and you have two choices, you either develop yourself and work harder or you just carry on the same but then don’t be surprised if nothing changes and you don’t make progress.

My pageant coaching and development really helped me with public speaking, which then helped me steer towards what I want to do in the future—mapping out my life and career essentially with the skills I developed being really truly to myself and being authentic.

Why did you decide to go to Love Island?

Due to personal reasons, I feel I didn’t truly get to experience what it was like to be young and care-free.  I went straight into the world of work at 18, so I never experienced the girls’ trips, when my friends were going traveling and island-hopping I was sitting at a desk in Westminster. I didn’t want to get to the end of my life and look back to just having worked and not done anything exciting.

You know, there were two ways of looking at it: there have been success stories from the show and I could have met someone special or I would have had a once in a lifetime experience.

What was your social media presence like before you went on Love Island, and how has it changed since the show?

I’m more active now on social media than I was previously before being on the show. The content is pretty much the same, it’s just of course more planned out in advance—I was very active in the sense that I put a lot of advocacy work in my social media. When competing in pageants at the level I did, it was more about using your platform for causes and advocacy rather than posting “pretty pictures.”

Love Island has given me the scope to do that on a more strategic and planned-out level and opened the door to work with really cool brands such as WOO WOO, Bumble, and Superdrug.

Would you recommend other people who want to be content creators look into participating in reality television?

I think it depends on what type of content you want to create. If you want to become a fashion influencer/designer or a sports personality then potentially reality TV is where you want to go. I don’t discourage anyone not to do it, obviously with certain reality TV shows, such as nice talent-based shows, you have to work and prove yourself.

With certain content, you have to work harder to shake off the reality TV label and the stigma that can come with being on such programs. However, it really is a once in a lifetime experience and I would never discourage or not recommend it to somebody but it’s not for the faint-hearted.

What would you change about social media if you could?

It’s quite complicated as with trolling, it would be nice if it was as simple as taking away people’s rights to anonymity, but then I do understand why some people would prefer to stay anonymous such as victims of domestic violence.

If people were legally required to put their name and photo to their profile, so they can be identified with the comments they’re leaving, I would like to think they would be less inclined to leave negative comments as they know there would be consequences. I would also like to change the rules on cyber-flashing [unsolicited sexual photos], it needs to be made illegal ASAP.

How much of your true self do you show online?

I’m completely honest, open and candid on social media – there’s not a lot in my life that I don’t share. I’ve posted pictures with no filters and no make-up on, I talk about when I’m having good and bad days. I don’t think I can be any more honest.

What advice would you give others who want to integrate advocacy work into their careers as creators?

I would say to do it! We have a social and public responsibility, especially with content creators who have such an engaged and large following. Also, my other piece of advice would be do something that is true to you, you believe in, and you’re very passionate about! When you do advocacy work you will find out very quickly that you can’t please everybody, for me dealing with trolling around anti-drinks spiking is very easy because I’m so passionate about it that it [doesn’t phase] me.

What are your aspirations for the future?

I would love to be in the political sector, it’s been an ambition of mine since I was young. I remember being 15 and wanting to be a member of European Parliament—of course, this can no longer happen thanks to Brexit but it doesn’t stop me from being a member of the British Parliament.

Thank you, Sharon, for speaking with us!


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*First Published: Jun 9, 2022, 8:56 am CDT