Love Island fame is fame like no other.
Celebrity culture has undergone many changes in recent years.
The title of celebrity was once reserved for pop stars, actors and models, but during the 2000s, reality stars took their place in the pantheon, and thanks to the social media boom, influencers followed suit. their tracks.
Existing at the intersection of reality TV and the world of influencers is the cultural phenomenon that is Love Island. The British reality show has propelled Molly-Mae Hague, Maura Higgins, Amber Rose Gill, Mille Court, Chloe Burrows and now Ekin-Su Cülcüloğlu onto the world stage, setting them up for worldwide fame.
Love Island stardom exists on a plateau of its own, not because it’s a better way to fame, but because it’s separate from any other route. Take for example the banality of it all. While some candidates have influencer experience or celebrity connections, many don’t. We’ve seen plumbers, paramedics and fishmongers enter the villa and leave with larger audiences than their professional influencer counterparts.
In order to maximize that fame overnight, the Love Islanders must play the game. The ever-present threat of being jettisoned from the island forces the stars of the series to optimize their time there. What ensues are tactical couplings, savvy social media handlers and repetitive taglines that they hope will stick. Moreover, to extend their stay, they must endear themselves to the public. They should appear likeable and genuine without any feedback on how they are perceived.
But the eight weeks of Love Island are only part of the machine. What happens when the islanders leave the villa is a whole different story. For many, their stay is short-lived and they return to their normal lives and work, albeit with a slight increase in their social media followings. But others find themselves in the limelight, with more than a million followers, many of whom are happy to declare them a new national treasure.
Competitors leave the villa with new fame, but it’s fame that exists mostly online. The post Love Island career circuit is supported by club appearances, brand deals and campaigns. Their social media platforms are replacing TV cameras, and the pressure is on them to maintain the momentum they’ve gained on the show by developing parasocial relationships with their fans. This following, in turn, makes them profitable for brands, and they are able to earn a living from their simple likeability. The cameras may have stopped rolling, but they still have to perform authenticity.
A possible exception to the post Love Island career circuit is the show’s latest winners, Davide and Ekin-Su. While the former reportedly signed with Oh Polly, a major fashion retailer, the couple also landed a TV gig, in which they will travel to their homeland of Italy and Turkey. This path signals a move away from the social media industry and firmly into the realm of entertainment, which could see them becoming true TV personalities, rather than just influencers. Indeed, their post-Love Island career already seems to be taking a different path than the other alums, and it could be down to their sheer likability. After all, they won over 60% of the public vote. However, it could also signal the sheer power of Love Island and the massive change seen over the various years. This year’s season was among the most watched, and perhaps fans have an appetite for the show’s stars that can’t be satiated by brand deals and Instagram posts.
Love Island stardom exists in a celebrity category of its own. The show generates overnight fame for its contestants, and while we’ve seen the ups that can come with that, we’ve also seen plenty of downs. Participants have experienced online abuse and harassment after being put in the spotlight, and the impact of this can be devastating. Viewers of the show know all too well the tragic loss of Caroline Flack, Sophia Gradon and Mike Thalassitis, and over the years viewers have called for greater protection for the show’s vulnerable cast. After all, many of these people are regular people who entered the show without anticipating how famous they might become in the future.
Love Island is a star-maker like no other, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. While the show has been transparent in recent years about the level of mental health support it provides at its expense during filming and after they leave, Love Island is more than the show we see on TV. This year, it was reported that upon leaving the villa, the islanders will receive a minimum of eight therapy sessions and the producers will stay in contact with them for 14 months after the show ends, offering support as needed. The following of the series has become more extensive over the seasons, reflecting how big Love Island has become. Indeed, it is a massive cultural phenomenon and it is hoped that after finding instant and overwhelming fame, its competitors will also be supported by the outside world.