Love Island star Cynthia Taylu has said she feels “frightened to walk down a street alone” after a terrifying experience last Friday.
The 23-year-old, who appeared on the 2019 season of Love Island Australia, said she was approached by a man during an afternoon stroll in Brisbane, who commented on her skin colour before inappropriately touching her without consent.
“My body, my choice,” she wrote on Instagram. “I was walking home yesterday afternoon when a guy in his 40’s/50’s complimented my skin colour and told me he didn’t see many people within the area who were black. I felt uncomfortable but politely smiled and said thank you.”
Cynthia, who was born in Liberia, west Africa and moved to Australia at age seven, then detailed the stranger’s inappropriate physical behaviour.
“It wasn’t until he stepped into my space, and touched my chest area that I quickly realised this was not a normal encounter,” she wrote. “I pushed him away and started yelling at him.
“His response was ‘I couldn’t help myself.’ I was in utter disbelief that something like this could happen in 2020 at 3:30pm on a Friday afternoon in Brisbane.
“The world we live in forces me to constantly look over my shoulder, to feel frightened to walk down a street alone, to be protective of my colour,” she continued.
“As a woman of colour living in this day and age, I tell you, it’s not easy.
Words can’t even communicate the things we have to go through as women.”
After sharing the post, Cynthia replied to a concerned fan who asked if any passers-by offered her assistance during the ordeal.
“Guy nearby did ask me if I was alright. Was appreciative of that,” the reality star responded.
HuffPost Australia has contacted Cynthia for comment.
Cynthia was the first black contestant to appear on the Australian version of Love Island, and said she knew dating on the show would be challenging, because she “wasn’t going to be everyone’s type”.
“I think for me going into the villa, I always knew that I wasn’t always going to be everyone’s type or that stereotypical Australian beauty,” she previously told HuffPost Australia.
The show’s first night sparked a race debate amongst viewers when the initial pairing-up process left contestant Cynthia the last to be picked.
“I always knew I wasn’t going to be everyone’s type. I’m fine with that and I was happy with being coupled up with Sam the very first time,” said Cynthia.
“I just try not to take offence to it because I think once you start kind of using your race as a bad thing or be like, ‘Oh they didn’t pick me because I’m black’, [it could’ve] just like really ruined my experience.
“It’s just one of those things, you just kind of go into it and you just know you’re not going to be everyone’s type, but at the end of the day, you have to be comfortable with who you are.”
The actress and model also said she decided to apply for Love Island because she believed cultural representation on television is important.
“For me, I watched the show last year and that was something that I noticed, ‘Oh there’s not really much diversity’,” she said.
“Obviously I did go on the show to find love but I also thought it would be really cool for someone of my background to go on a show that’s about love.”
She said she’s “really happy” to have set an example for other young women of colour, who “can be a bit scared of putting themselves out there and doing particular things because they feel as though people won’t accept them because of their colour”.
“Accept yourself for who you are. Think of yourself as an individual and go for it,” she said.
After struggling to find romance in the Fiji villa, Cynthia eventually connected with latecomer, Aaron Shaw. The pair announced their split soon after the show ended.
Need help? In Australia, call 1800 RESPECT (737 732) for the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.