By Eve Mustin
Another year, another Love Island. And this January it’s the Love Island All Stars – for those contestants who didn’t find their soulmate the first-time round. Although my friends and I have been tuning in every night for our daily hit of reality TV, I have questioned the motivations of the returning Islanders. Are they really there to find love?
If you’d asked me the same question in 2015, I might have said yes. But since the show’s meteoric rise to the British culture hall of fame in 2017, the incentive to enter the island has become more strategic. The social status garnered by a stint on the show can be leveraged to cultivate a long-lasting career, as demonstrated most successfully by season five runner-up Molly-Mae Hague, who has built a multimillion-pound beauty and fashion empire. Other Islanders have gone on to snap up high-paying endorsement deals, star on Broadway, and launch a rap career. But how many of them are still with their partner from the show?
The stats aren’t promising. From all the 295 Love Island contestants, only 30 are still in their couple, which is just over 10%. Meanwhile, 71 have separated, and 194 left the show without a significant other. Interestingly, most of the couples that have gotten married or engaged are from the earlier seasons, which arguably starred more contestants searching for love rather than a brand deal. On average, most of the separated couples ended their relationships within a year. Despite it being called off three months later, All Stars contestant Hannah Elizabeth actually got engaged to Islander Jon Clark on season one of the show. Although this on-air proposal symbolises the true essence of Love Island, her return to the villa this year reflects its failure to establish long-lasting partnerships.
So, what’s to blame for the slew of break-ups? On one hand, the unusual format of the show. The Islanders are isolated from the rest of the world in a villa where their every move is filmed. They don’t know what the time is, and can’t bring in phones, books, or magazines. Ultimately, the contestants are encouraged to speak to one another. And this unnatural way of getting to know somebody is perhaps the reason that most of the relationships rupture. Once the Islanders leave the confines of the villa, they’re hit with the reality that enduring romances aren’t built on constant companionship – time apart is equally as important as time together. The Island creates a false sense of real-world living, where the sun shines every day and grown-up responsibilities are absent. Since many Islanders live on opposite ends of the country, they take the risky decision to live together straight away, which seems a logical step considering their time in the villa. But how many relationships have you heard of with this trajectory? Apart from the rare lockdown success story, none. Frankly, it’s downright odd, and certainly not the basis for finding your soulmate.
After the viral success of previous seasons – and the subsequent brand deals – love isn’t the only reason to enter the Island. Love Island offers contestants the opportunity to leave their mundane day jobs behind and become ‘influencers’, having already amassed millions of followers before reaching the final. And the longer the contestants are in for, the more followers they gain. However, the recent social media ban imposed by ITV on contestants’ accounts has made this prospect less likely, as their platforms receive less engagement. Although this ban was implemented to “protect both the Islanders and their families from the adverse effects of social media”, according to ITV, it may also deter contestants who are wishing to become public figures.
The future of Love Island is unknown: each season is unique, as is each contestant. But as the show continues to draw in fewer viewers, the promise of leaving the day job for a glitzy influencer lifestyle is turning into a pipe dream. The influencer market is already oversaturated with hundreds of Islanders competing for the same endorsements. And with the airing of Love Island Games and Love Island All Stars, stars of the upcoming season will find it even more difficult. But perhaps this is a good thing. Perhaps the show needs to go back to its roots, seeing that it has lost the authenticity that made it so successful.
Illustration credit: Hayleigh McLean