Since Love Island first hit our television screens in 2015 it has become a cultural phenomenon. The show has launched the careers of a number of household names within the influencer industry. That being said, the show has not been without controversy. A handful of contestants have gone on to commit suicide after appearing on the show leading to heavy criticism of the show’s after-care procedures and allegations of a toxic culture.
As we enter the second week of this year’s series, I take a look at the history of the show and specifically what has happened to the influencer status of those that go on it. For some it has launched careers in television, YouTube, and even music, however, for others, it proved a harmful experience that ultimately did a lot more damage than good. There is no doubt that appearing on Love Island will give your social media presence a massive boost but at what cost?
The Love Island effect
As mentioned above Love Island will give your social media presence a boost, but the term boost is a bit of an understatement. The show has quite literally propelled contestants from small-time Instagrammers to the big leagues with millions of followers and the ability to make their Instagram their full-time job.
To give you an idea of the boost it can give you here are some of the biggest rises seen in the history of the show.
Demi Jones (@demijones1)
Demi Jones, a Love Island 2020 star, had a massive rise on social media thanks to her appearance on the show. You may think that Love Island contestants come into the show with a large following already. Whilst many contestants do already have a healthy following Demi came in with a very low social media profile.
Before the show she had just over 5000 instagram followers and was a style advisor for a fashion boutique. However thanks to her time on Love Island she gained over 1 million followers (that’s 50 times bigger than when she went in) and has since launched her own loungewear brand and a plumping kit with Project Lip. Through Love Island she has been able to make social media her full time job.
Amber Gill (@amberrosegill)
Amber Gill may not have won the 2019 series of Love Island but somehow I don’t think she’s that bothered as the show has propelled her to influencer fame. Whilst Amber may have come into the villa with 30,000 followers on Instagram already she was far from a full-time influencer and instead worked as a beauty therapist in Newcastle.
After appearing on Love Island her Instagram has ballooned to over 2.6 million followers and in 2019 it was reported that Amber Gill could receive up to £8,000 per sponsored post on her Instagram. That being said, it seems that the influencer lifestyle didn’t particularly appeal to her. After leaving the show she stated that she planned on continuing to work in her aunt’s Newcastle salon as she tried to figure out where to go next. Since then she has gone on to sign a book deal for a series of romance novels with publisher Mills & Bloom and also launch her own fitness brand Amber Flexx.
Wes Nelson (@wes.nelson)
There seems to be no record online of how many followers Wes Nelson had before his appearance on Love Island in 2018 however it’s fair to say the former nuclear systems design engineer made the most of the Love Island effect.
In the year following his departure from show he amassed a following of over 1.8 million on Instagram and became a millionaire at the age of 21. Since leaving the Love Island Villa he also launched several business ventures including property investment, modelling and a solo music career, all of which are booming. In March, he announced he had signed a new record deal with Universal Records after the success of his first single ‘See Nobody’ and has just under four million monthly listeners on Spotify.
A poisoned chalice?
A alluded to in the introduction, Love Island has not been without its controversy. Sadly, a handful of contestants and a former host of the show have gone on to commit suicide with many blaming a lack of support and aftercare from Love Island for those involved in the show.
Perhaps the most notable and high profile of these tragic deaths was that of Caroline Flack. Caroline, aged 40 at the time of her death, was the original presenter of the show back when it started in 2015. This would all change in 2019 after her arrest for allegations of assault which meant she had to step down as presenter. Less than two months after her arrest and departure from Love Island Caroline Flack was found dead in her London home.
Following the news of her death, people began to question Love Islands support (or lack thereof) for those that appear on the reality show. Sadly, Flack was not the first person linked with Love Island to commit suicide after the deaths of former contestants Sophie Gradon, 32, and Mike Thalassitis, 26.
Many have called on the producers of Love Island to take more care of contestants and identify mental health issues that can occur in the celebrity spotlight. It seems that these calls may have finally been answered.
Ahead of this year’s series, ITV published duty of care protocols for contestants, who will be offered “comprehensive psychological support” and a “proactive aftercare package” on their return from the island. This aftercare package is reported to include therapy sessions and training on the impact of social media, “how to handle potential negativity”, as well as financial management.
Sadly, we’ve already been reminded of just how needed this support is after Lucy Burrows reported receiving numerous death threats following the ‘re-coupling’ on Wednesday night’s show. Burrows chose to recouple with Aaron Francis, leaving Shannon Singh single. The move resulted in Shannon departing the dating programme, causing people to send threats to Burrows online, with some encouraging her to kill herself.
This kind of hate is sometimes considered part and parcel of being in the public spotlight however hate and death threats should never be normalised and it’s vital that contestants on the show receive sufficient support. It seems like Love Island have at least taken steps this year to try and provide better support for contestants although time will tell whether it is enough.
Love Island this year – emerging stars
We may only be at the end of the first week of Love Island this year but already we’re seeing some stars emerge.
Liberty seems to have captured the hearts of many with her likeable personality and easy-going nature. The 21-year-old student from Birmingham, who studies marketing, would normally be found working in Nandos however I dare say she won’t be going back to working at the chain once her time in Love Island is over. Her instagram is already at 156,000 followers with her posts garnering over 35,000 likes when, pre-Love Island, she’d typically get less than 900.
Liberty has declared she has feelings for another islander who has also been gaining quite a bit of attention on social media already. The islander in question is 24-year-old water engineer Jake Cornish from Weston-Super-Mare. Jake hasn’t been getting attention for his smooth pick up lines or seductive charm, instead he has been very open about his love of toes. Whilst the feet-fetish has proved one step too far for some he seems to be a popular figure and has already amassed just over 55,000 instagram followers.
Brad McClellan is another islander who’s instagram is popping since appearing on the show. His follower count now stands at 165,000 as he seems to be catching the eye of many in the nation as well as in the Love Island Villa.
So is going on Love Island worth it?
As previous contestants of Love Island have shown, the show is unrivalled in its ability to churn out influencer stars in such a short space of time. Love Island is like the X-Factor, but for influencing, and has granted numerous contestants lives of brand partnerships, overnight-fame and even music careers. But the fame the show gives those lucky enough to be picked to appear on it also comes at a cost. The sad truth is that fame doesn’t come cheap and can easily prove too much for some. Love Island have promised that they’ve learned from their mistakes and are providing contestants with more support than ever before – but is it enough?
Whether the cost of being on Love Island is counted by hate messages online, sleazy tabloid articles or just the pressure that comes with maintaining an online presence, managing the fame that comes with the show is not easy. If a friend of mine was considering going on Love Island I would urge them to think about it long and hard and ultimately make the decision of whether it’s worth it or not themselves.