too ugly for love disability ostomy

Too Ugly For Love? Why this isn't ok…

The people who brought you Katie Hopkins show My Fat Story have outdone themselves with their latest show “Too Ugly For Love?” a show about… well let me directly quote the TV channel for you.

“For most people looking for love can be daunting. But for singles with a secret physical affliction the search to find ‘the one’ can seem almost impossible.

This series follows 10 unique singletons,ordinary people living with extraordinary medical conditions, on their quest to find love. All these conditions can be kept secret during a date,and with that comes a whole world of dilemmas.  From alopecia, missing limbs and colostomy bags to medical anomalies such as hyperhidrosis (profuse sweating) and pyoderma gangrenosum (a rare form of skin ulcers), the singletons are agonising over the problems that these conditions are causing in their love lives.

How can you find love when you are hiding your true self? Where do you find the confidence to play the field? When should you reveal the truth to someone that you really like? And how will they react?

The longer you leave the truth, the harder it can be to come clean and the more dramatic the revelation. Follow the singletons through the ups and downs of the dating game as they adopt different strategies to hide their conditions.”

oh no she didn't

There are so many things wrong with this that I barely know where to start! So let’s begin with the title.

Too Ugly For Love? When I saw this yesterday and spluttered and swore profusely all over Facebook and twitter about it, a few people responded saying ‘Ahhh but see the question mark? They aren’t calling them ugly, they are just questioning it!’  Ohhhhh that’s ok then!! They are just asking whether the audience thinks these people are too ugly…

As I read the the biographies of the people on the show (all of whom I have no doubt are lovely, genuine people who I have NO beef with at all) I was just appalled.  There is a lady with alopecia, two gents with amputated limbs, two with ostomy bags (the biog of the show calls them colostomies but as we know, the media refuse to accept the existence of ileostomies and so who knows which they are!), a woman with keloid scarring, one with a disease that causes excessive sweating and a woman who was burnt badly.  As you read through that list, is there any part of you that would question their beauty based on their circumstances?

The title of the show is just to grab headlines, and I am not that surprised coming from a company who works with a woman who feeds off negative publicity like a grotesque leech, but I am so offended by it.

My blog is all about celebrating our inner awesomeness, about loving our amazing bodies whatever they look like and however poorly, wounded or damaged they have become.  It is about trying to show my audience that my scars, my ileostomy bag, my illness never defined me, I have openly written about my journey and how I learnt not only to accept the changes I went through, but to embrace and love my brave, heroic body that keeps going despite illness and surgery.

too ugly for love ostomy bag sam cleasby so bad ass

The idea of a show that labels people with an ostomy ‘too ugly’ is just heartbreaking.  We all have that horrid little voice in our heads, you know the one that tells you that you’re too ugly, too fat, too stupid, too (insert shit feeling here)… Seeing a TV show like this just makes me feel like everyone thinks that about me too.  The idea that it is a question makes me think “Do people think I am too ugly for love??”

As someone who had an ileostomy bag and now has a lot of scarring including large keloid scars, I hit two of their categories.  A little voice inside me thought ‘Blimey, am I doubly ugly?’

And that is when the anger struck… I am a confident woman who does this for a living, I write about body confidence, self esteem and chronic illness and so I KNOW there are so many people out there who feel crap about themselves because of illness, scarring, surgery and more.  I am so furious that there will be people out there now questioning YET AGAIN (because believe me, we do it ALL THE TIME) how people judge them.

I haven’t watched the show and I won’t be.  I know some people will argue that I shouldn’t judge a show that I haven’t seen.  But really, I can’t bring myself to watch it, I know for a fact that when they were asking people to apply they didn’t say “Do you want to be on a show called Too Ugly For Love?”  It just feels like a way to point at the people different to you, it is that sympathy porn of The Undateables, making struggling people easy fodder for the masses and it doesn’t sit well with me.

This line in the TV show’s bumpf gets me straight away…

“follow the singletons through the ups and downs of the dating game as they adopt different strategies to hide their conditions.”

I understand the feeling of wanting to hide your illness/disability away, but that is a negative thing.  To hide something means to be ashamed of it and not want the world to see.  Surely we should be helping others to learnt to accept the thing they want to hide, as a society shouldn’t we be saying ‘we are all different and that is a wonderful thing’ not watching people adopting strategies to hide their conditions!

And so I wanted to write about it, I have had so many messages on Facebook, twitter, instagram and email from people who are just disgusted by TLC UK.  I hope TLC will take on board the comments from people all over the UK who they have upset and offended by the title of this show.

And my message to anyone reading this who is less than perfect (that would be all of you!) is this…

We are all so different, some of us slim, some muscly, some obese, some carrying a few extra pounds.  There are those of us who have had surgeries that alter us in some way, who take medication that changes the way we look, there are those of us in wheelchairs, with ostomy bags, with scars.  Some of us have very visible diseases and illnesses and some have ones that are entirely invisible but make our heads and hearts hurt with the struggle…

Beauty is not perfection.  Ugly is not imperfection.

Our bodies are the only ones we have and they are with us for life, we need to learn to accept, love and celebrate the body we are in, no matter how poorly or broken it is.  I always think of my scars as the hieroglyphs of my journey, they don’t show weakness, they show what I battled through and that I came through the other side a lot stronger, wiser and filled with so much more empathy and kindness for others.

If you are surrounding yourself with people who question your physical appearance, or there are people in your life who believe you are ugly, it is not yourself you need to change, it is the people around you.

Nice, kind, good people won’t judge you for your difference.  Your true friends will love you for being you, your physical appearance means fuck all to the right people.

The person you want to fall in love with is out there, and they don’t care about whether your body is perfect, they care about whether your heart is true, your laughter genuine, your nature kind and your soul happy.  If you have to hide away who you really are, they aren’t the one.

We are all amazing beings and we need to learn to celebrate and love one another not point fingers and question their perfection.

If you are looking for perfection, you will have a long wait.  Every one of us has so many delicious imperfections that make us the person we are.

Fuck perfection.  Let’s celebrate the best parts of us and know that we are all a little broken.

I would LOVE to hear your opinion on all this, please leave comments.


Peace and Love


Sam x



12 replies
  1. dpawson
    dpawson says:

    Which side was it on Sam? That’s where your beef should be? The programme maker is earning a living from whatever they think will sell? Both ITV and BBC have a responsibility to the public, which includes the word fair.
    Ed your blog to add the complaints dept of the broadcaster please?
    (Another good piece, even if you were … angry)

  2. Thaila Skye
    Thaila Skye says:

    I love my body now a lot more than I did before my ostomy surgery. And that’s not just because of what Crohn’s disease did to it, but waaaay before that. Now, though, I respect my body for what it’s been through (illness and surgery) and I love it for it’s uniqueness. As I’ve already mentioned on your FB post, I didn’t even watch the TV show purely because of the title of the show. I agree, I’m sure the people who were featured on it were lovely people, and they probably had really interesting stories but, quite frankly, TLC can shove it. I highly doubt I’ll watch any of their drivel on TV again (not that I did before, but I’ll make bloody sure of it now).

  3. Frieda
    Frieda says:

    I saw the previews on TLC from South Africa and I decided it wasn’t a show for me. I have a number of food allergies and had a benign pituitary tumour removed and nuked. People are very unforgiving if you upset their routine or plans. “Just a little won’t hurt.”… yeah right, you aren’t with me 8 hours later when I feel like a balloon that feels like it’s going to explode as the gas loudly dribbles out! My scar is really hidden as it goes into my nose so people don’t even believe me. I am so grateful for your blog on helping people like me know there are others that actually do understand!

  4. songbird
    songbird says:

    I don’t know how I got here but this post made me cry. I’ve been hating on my eczema riddled skin for far too long. Hiding scars and covering up everything out of shame and fear of being seen as “ugly”. Thank you for reminding me of what beauty really is. baby steps baby steps… but thank you my dear. I wish you well.

  5. Heather
    Heather says:

    Having watched the show the people aren’t trying to hide it from their dates, but as you say, some of these issues aren’t obvious at first glance, and it’s hard to tell someone at the right point. If there’s no connection with someone you don’t want to let people in on your most personal issues, but if after a couple of dates you feel something is a possibility, it’s getting the timing. Too soon and people can be insensitive and hurtful, too late and they feel you’ve hidden a massive thing that they maybe can’t deal with. My condition is fairly open as I need crutches to walk or a wheelchair, so people ask up front. However, the ins and outs of needing help to use bedpans, to be moved, of have to cancel plans at the last second because of paralysis that can last for 5 mins or two weeks at a time, well, you can see the way someone’s attititude can change. My ex fiancé just left because he couldn’t handle the help I need at times – and he was my friend for 23 years before we got together, so knew the ins and outs before we even started dating or he proposed!! It doesn’t fill me with confidence for finding love – it was pretty impossible before I was disabled, now, well, I’ve just given up. So these people still trying and not giving up – which they shouldn’t, they give me hope. The title of the show may be awful and crap, but the people are great and it’s inspirational to me. Maybe one day I’ll even try again myself…..

    • Marcia
      Marcia says:

      I’m so glad you understood the concept although the name was awful. We were not told the name of the programme until months into filming. I wish you all the best and hope you find love again one day.

      Best wishes

      Series 1
      Too Ugly For Love

  6. Joanna Sefoi
    Joanna Sefoi says:

    I’m about to undergo a full proctectomy, permanent colostomy and major reconstructive surgery which involves full dermis grafts from healthy buttock tissue to replace fistulation wounds as a result of Chrons disease. it took months and a nervous breakdown to come to terms with this.
    after watching Abbie, I was terrified by the scarring and amount of leakage she experiences and I had to rationalize my fears by thinking she must be either a very new ostomate or has a high output due to losing so much intestine.. I have been told how much better life will be by so many people who have stomas.
    I dont think I will watch anymore.

    • sam
      sam says:

      Some people have more leaks and issues than others. It is hard when you are one person talking about your own experiences as you don’t want to scare people or to sway their own medical journeys. For me, I am glad to have my ostomy, it has been 5 weeks since I had my jpouch removed and my permanent end ileostomy put in place and it has really been a life changing experience in a positive way.

      Best of luck with you surgery x

      • Joanna Sefoi
        Joanna Sefoi says:

        Thank you Sam. I’m glad you are recovering well. As you know, having Chrons is a hot mess of pain, anger and guilt a lot of the time, and thats just emotionally! I’ve come to look forward to my sphincture, I’m so incontinent and messed up from so many fistulae… It cant possibly be any worse than crapping yourself when you cough or sneeze, though I’m doing much better diahorrea wise since becoming vegan, something I thought would never be possible. My GI doesnt know how its working, but I am off all the immodiums buscopans and metoclopromides since changing diet

      • Fiona
        Fiona says:

        I am opposite Sam – really happy with my ileostomy but preparing for a J-Pouch – am I mad – I am so conflicted about the decision. Seems to be one of these things that when the internal pouch works its great and no regrets but they seem to fail …. a lot…… If you have any insights would love to hear them.

        Joanna – was sorry to see Abbie get a leak – Its a real rarity for me – so don’t be put off. – I fly all over the world, long haul, the lot and have no worries about anything leaking.

  7. Sthe
    Sthe says:

    I don’t know why I watched the show because it made me cry and I’m still thinking about everything I saw, even now It’s 00:17 in the morning (In South Africa), but I still can’t sleep.

    The body-builder on the show has a beautiful smile, he seems to be a nice person and it makes me sad that he lost his love because of a mere pouch!

    I wish I can give all of them a big hug and tell them they are beautiful, because they really are!

    I will no longer watch the show because it’s disturbing me emotionally, however, I hope the participants will have a happy ending!

  8. Marcia
    Marcia says:

    I was on series 1 of Too Ugly For Love and I can 100% assure you that I decided to take part to raise awareness of my condition and show how sometimes its a tricky subject to raise on a date! No one knew what the name of the programme was going to be until months into filming and I for one was mortified when told and stressed that they were going to offend so many people! I am in no way ashamed of my body or my condition. I’m very proud of my scars and what I have been through. I am not afraid to admit I have Crohns and certainly not going to hide it.

    I agree the programme makers were extremely insensitive with the name but the decision had been made and sadly we could not do a thing about it!

    Best Wishes


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