Gather round the fire pit and grab your personalised water bottle: the summer of Love Island is finally upon us. After an 18 month pandemic-imposed hiatus, the ITV2dating show is back on our screens from Monday, promising eight weeks of coupling up, breaking up and laying it on Factor 50 thick.
In case you’ve somehow managed to avoid this tanned, toned reality behemoth for the past six series, you’re in for a treat best enjoyed with an Aperol Spritz in one hand, the other free to trawl Twitter for the best memes to bestow upon your Whatsapp groups. After lockdown has left most of us starved of gossip, there’s arguably never been a better time to get caught up in the show’s uniquely addictive cocktail of tentative romance, brutal rejection and second-hand embarrassment.
Right now, a brand new cohort of unfeasibly good-looking singles are ready to decamp to a villa in Majorca in pursuit of finding someone who is 100 percent their type on paper - or at the very least, gaining millions of Instagram followers and landing some lucrative #spon. In Monday night’s opening episode, they’ll have to pair off based entirely on lust at first sight. From then on, there’ll be dates, deep and meaningfuls and dumpings as our genetically-blessed twenty-somethings try to find the one.
Prepared to sign away your social life and become painfully over-invested in their personal lives? Good. Get ready for two months of hard graft and heartbreak with our guide to the new series...
The most anticipated starting XI since Gareth Southgate unveiled his team for England’s first Euros fixture comprises six girls and five guys (meaning one gal will likely be left single). The new Islanders’ day jobs span everything from modelling (22-year-old Shannon Singh) to managing lettings (26-year-old Faye Winter, who says she tries to make her property viewings “as Selling Sunset as possible”) to the Civil Service. 25-year-old Sharon Gaffka, a former beauty queen, has had an “intense year” working on Brexit policy after a stint in the Department of Health rolling out Covid testing kits. Sounds like she deserves the all-inclusive jaunt to Majorca.
This year’s line-up also features Love Island’s first contestant with a disability. 24-year-old Hugo Hammond was born with a clubfoot and has played cricket for England’s physical disability team. These days, he teaches secondary school PE - meaning some of his pupils will inevitably be watching (and, let’s face it, making TikToks about) his villa debut.
24-year-old Londoner Aaron Francis is a high-end events host who worked at the royal weddings of Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice. Every series has its resident name-dropper (remember the summer that Primark released a load of white t-shirts emblazoned with “I used to be in Blazin’ Squad?” in tribute to contestant Marcel Somerville’s teen rap career?) and Aaron looks poised to take on that mantle this year.
Many of these pretty young things (the oldest among them is - whisper it - a positively geriatric 26 years old) say they’ve signed up for a summer in the villa because the cycle of lockdowns has made it hard to meet people face to face. In a touching show of faith in the power of reality telly, Toby Aromolaran, a semi-pro footballer who plays for a “very social media focused” team called Hashtag United, has declared: “If Love Island can’t find me a relationship then no one can.” Has he, erm, seen the show’s success rates when it comes to lasting love?
The most relatable reason for joining the series, though, comes courtesy of 26-year-old Brad McClelland, who wants “to be in a nice villa in a hot country for a while.” Same, babes.
In the dark days of winter lockdown, as question marks loomed over international travel, there were whispers that the show’s producers were considering a UK location for the first time (Love Isles of Scilly, anyone?). Luckily, Spain opened up its borders to Brits in May, allowing production to go ahead in the usual luxury villa in Sant Llorenç des Cardassa, Majorca.
It’s been two years since this neon-hued love nest graced our screens, so naturally it’s getting a little spruce up ahead of the new series, with construction vehicles pictured outside earlier this month. ITV are yet to unveil images of the interiors, but if past years are anything to go by, the aesthetic will be a living, laughing, loving monument to all things cheugy, complete with pink neon lights, slogan prints and random pineapple ornaments. Bring it on.
Laura Whitmore made her Love Island debut in 2020, presiding over the show’s first winter edition in Cape Town, and is now set to host this year’s Majorcan extravaganza. She’s also slated to present spin-off show Aftersun from London (which sounds like a logistical nightmare, tbh). Her husband Iain Stirling will be back on voiceover duties, dishing out the usual cheerfully snarky commentary.
Will there be queer Islanders?
Over the course of six series, just a handful of bisexual Islanders have appeared on the show. In the spring, it looked like producers were recruiting queer contestants using adverts on Tinder, which appeared on the profiles of gay and straight users. Since then, though, ITV commissioner Amanda Stavri has spoken about the “logistical difficulty” of plans to include LGBTQ Islanders.
“It goes without saying that we want to encourage greater inclusivity and diversity,” she said. “In terms of gay Islanders, I think the main challenge is regarding the format of Love Island… although Islanders don’t have to be 100 percent straight, the format must sort of give [them] an equal choice when coupling up.” It’s fair to say her comments didn’t go down too well, especially not during Pride Month, with many fans calling out the show for failing to evolve beyond its heteronormative set-up.
Life after Love Island
The show’s duty of care guidelines have come under increased scrutiny in recent years, after the suicides of former contestants Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis and host Caroline Flack. All of the new Islanders will undergo medical and psychological assessments before appearing on the show, and mental health professionals will be on hand throughout the show. When they leave, they’ll be offered training to help them manage their new fame, from dealing with social media (it’s worth noting, too, that this summer ITV has released a statement urging fans to think before they post about the Islanders on social media) to financial advice, along with a minimum of eight therapy sessions. The show’s support team will then keep in touch with the Islanders for 14 months after the series ends.
Will it change because of Covid?
Although much of the show’s production team will be working from the UK rather than Majorca for the first time, they will be working hard behind the scenes to make sure this series of Love Island looks like any other, despite the pandemic. The US edition of the show went ahead last summer with cast and crew isolating beforehand to form a bubble, so the UK Islanders will probably follow a similar protocol. In fact, some form of pre-show ‘lockdown’ has long been part of the Love Island process, with new contestants holed up in separate hotels with little contact with the outside world, to stop them finding out about their prospective love interests.
The Love Island lingo
If someone’s putting in some work to win over a love interest, perhaps by pulling them for a chat away from the rest of the group, they’re grafting - but if they start trying too hard, they’re in danger of laying it on Factor 50 thick, which might just give their crush the ick (that hard-to-explain feeling when someone you previously fancied starts to make you full-body cringe). As soon as an Islander who’s happily coupled up starts claiming that their head’s been turned by a new arrival, their partner is in danger of getting pied off (ie. ditched, usually in a brutal manner). That’s why it’s good to not put all your eggs in one basket and keep your options open. Struggling to keep up with the drama? Just use the villa’s catch-all term ‘it is what it is’ and be done with it.
QUIZ: What’s your Love Island persona?
1. What’s your game plan?
A. Get the girls or guys on side first
B. Turn as many heads and ruffle as many feathers as possible
C. Enjoy the free holiday
D. Lock down ‘the one’ fast
2. A new arrival turns your head, but you’re already coupled up - what next?
A. Pull the newbie’s current partner for a chat before making moves. Girl/guy code is important.
B. Crack on and publicly ditch your soon-to-be ex at the recoupling ceremony
C. Start ignoring your partner by pretending you have to make everyone a coffee
D. Na babes - new Islanders come and go, but I’m sticking with my Day One
3. You’re leaving the villa for a date. What will you wear?
A. Jeans and a nice top, hun
B. With pheromones as powerful as these, it doesn’t matter
C. Whatever goes best with extreme sunburn
D. His and hers matching co-ords
4. Which moody acoustic cover version will be your LI soundtrack?
A. I’ll Be There For You - The Rembrandts
B. Scandalous - Misteeq
C. Dancing On My Own - Robyn
D. Love At First Sight - Kylie
Which past contestant are you most like?
A. Amy Hart
B. Megan Barton Hanson
C. Dr Alex George
D. Dani Dyer
MOSTLY As: The loyal babe
You wouldn’t dream of sacking off your mates for someone you fancy, so you’ve landed in Majorca ready to spread the gospel of girl/guy code. We know it’s Love Island, not Friend Island, but your loyalty will definitely go down well with viewers at home.
MOSTLY Bs: The rogue element
You’ve rocked up late, branded wheely suitcase in tow, and you’re ready to unleash pure chaos. A Machiavel wearing Boohoo bodycon, you’re not afraid to do whatever it takes to get what (or who) you want - and god, it’s entertaining.
MOSTLY Cs:The fish out of water
There’s always one contestant that seems a little adrift in the villa, who keeps getting relegated to the friend zone. The good news? The public will embrace you with open arms - especially if your awkward antics generate some decent memes.
MOSTLY Ds: The nation’s sweetheart
Aren’t you just lovely? You’ve been lucky enough to settle down quickly with your villa soulmate, becoming the couple that other Islanders look up to and viewers root for. Together, you’re the Prom King and Queen of the class of 2021.
Love Island begins on June 28 at 9pm on ITV2 and ITV Hub.