This article was originally published in 2019.
While we’ll still yet to be properly introduced to the Islanders, their reality TV “journeys” – as they’re so often called – began quite some time ago.
While things are undoubtedly working differently in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we previously asked former Islanders Eyal Booker and Malin Andersson to give us their insight into what it’s usually like for the contestants in the days, weeks and even months before their arrival in the villa...
One Month Before
Eyal found out he’d be going on the 2018 series “about a month” before the villa doors officially opened. Like many of the show’s contestants (including Malin), he was scouted on social media, receiving a series of Instagram messages from producers.
But he tells HuffPost UK that “just because you get scouted doesn’t mean you’re not going to audition like everyone else”.
For Eyal, this meant attending numerous casting sessions held by producers, the first of which involved “just filling out forms and questionnaires”.
“If you get past that round, you got into another with 30 or 40 people and you’re sat in a room… and you have to fill out more questionnaires,” he explains. “And then you go in and meet someone for a quick chat.
“Then if you get past that round, you meet more people to do with the show and then more people, and then you wait quite a long time.
“Someone will either get in touch and say we’re really thinking about having you on the show or you just wouldn’t hear anything back.”
Despite the numerous, busy audition days, Eyal didn’t meet anyone else who made it onto his series.
“It was such a mixture of people,” he says. “I was sat there thinking, ‘I’m not sure I’m going to get this’. There were other guys I was expecting to get it.” Why him then? “I’ve honestly got no idea,” he laughs.
The questionnaires require hopefuls to reveal all sorts of things, including basic information about their lives – place of birth, schools, jobs – and, of course, relationship history.
Much of the information disclosed, Eyal explains, will later be used if they make it onto the show, which requires some swift decisions about how open you should be.
“There were some things where [on the show] people’s big secrets got revealed, and they would say, ‘Oh my god, my dad will have seen that’, but it was their choice to tell their biggest secret,” he says. “I gave as much of myself as I wanted to give in order to be on the show, and that worked for me.”
With his place confirmed, the former model set to work on the serious amounts of life admin needed before what could be up to two months away from home.
“I live on my own with my two brothers so I’ve got my own responsibilities,” he points out. “I have a dog so I had to sort that.
“I guess you start subconsciously shopping for things to wear on the show and preparing close friends and family.”
But not everyone has that much time to prepare.
Malin found out she’d be a Love Island 2016 participant around two weeks before the show started, which was just one week before she jetted off to Spain.
“I was the last to audition,” she tells HuffPost UK. “They called me in and I only actually had one audition.
“I stood in front of a camera and I think there was a producer and a casting producer, and I had to talk about myself. They asked me about the guys I was into et cetera.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly then, she describes the run-up to the show as a “blur”, adding: “It happened so quickly with me. I’m quite glad that it was quick.”
While the soon-to-be Islanders get their lives in order – Malin did a “huge online haul” of summer clothes to wear, and the obligatory “surreal photoshoot with loads of inflatables” – they’re in constant contact with a producer who helps ready them for what’s to come, covering everything from what you can and can’t take into the villa to the all-important social media cleanse.
The packing is pretty simple, though Eyal was surprised he couldn’t take a watch, and Malin left her Bible at home. Yes, really.
She explains: “I was very religious at the time but I wasn’t allowed it. I don’t know why I wanted it, I think I was scared as fuck, I thought it would help me in some way.”
But time and time again, contestants suffer at the hands of the press before things have even begun, thanks to questionable – or sometimes outright offensive – old posts.
Eyal was a step ahead and had a “tidy up” of his online presence. “You can’t be stupid to the fact you are going on one of the biggest shows in the UK and you are going to exposed in every single area of your life,” he says. “Make sure that there’s nothing stupid that would… you could be caught out for something that isn’t intentional.
“Thankfully I’m not really a terrible person so there’s nothing for anyone to catch me out on,” he laughs.”
And Malin went one step further, deleting “everything that wasn’t great or good”. “Any past tweets, any Facebook posts, Instagram,” she lists. “Any photos I didn’t like, I deleted. Then I gave my friends my passwords and they took over my accounts.”
Accounts handed over, it’s time to head to Spain.
One Week Before
Each Islander is assigned a chaperone for the week leading up to the show’s launch, and Malin met hers when she arrived at her house to help her pack.
“Then we left to go to the airport,” she says. “She took my phone off me when I got to the airport and that was it.”
Flight over – usually on a budget airline, alongside regular passengers off on their holidays – it’s time for “lockdown” to begin.
In order to keep the Islanders’ identities secret from the public and each other, they’re all kept in different hotels in Mallorca, with no phones, social media or contact with family and friends.
“It’s basically like going into the villa before you do,” Eyal says. “You’re kind of just chilling, I just sunbathed every day because you can’t really venture anywhere on your own, outside your hotel.
“You get to know your chaperone, I read a book and a half, it was pretty relaxing.
“But you don’t really have too much to take your mind off the fact you’re about to go into a villa full of people you don’t know. You’re sat around waiting for that so it’s a long week.”
Keeping the Islanders apart, Eyal says, “is like a military operation”. Which is perhaps why Malin was less impressed with her week of “chilling”.
“It was so annoying,” she laughs. “[The chaperone] was there all the time, seeing if I had a secret phone, seeing if I was up to anything.
“She’d follow me to the toilet in a restaurant. It was so boring, I thought I was going to go mental. It dragged so much.”
Part of the chaperones’ role is to ensure the welfare of the Islander too, looking out for their mental state and making sure they’re prepared – but checks on this begin far earlier.
Malin can’t recall exactly when it took place, but she remembers having a compulsory psychiatric evaluation, which she says took no longer than an hour.
“It was really obvious what the correct answers were,” Malin says, claiming one question was along the lines of ‘Are you suicidal?’. You’re not going to say yes.
“Or ‘Do you suffer with any [mental health] problems?’. You’re not going to say yes because you want to get on the show. So it wasn’t as in depth as it could have been.”
Following a six-month review by ITV, there have been numerous well-documented changes to the care participants receive before and after taking part, and this year’s Islanders will have undergone a more thorough evaluation than the one Malin describes.
Last month, ITV gave a thorough overview of what this will entail, stating that there will be “pre-filming psychological and medical assessments including assessments by an independent doctor, psychological consultant and discussion with each Islander’s own GP to check medical history”.
“Potential Islanders are required to fully disclose any relevant medical history that would be relevant to their inclusion in the villa and the production’s ability to provide a suitable environment for them,” the spokesperson added, stating they’ll also receive “detailed explanations both verbally and in writing of the implications, both positive and negative, of taking part in the series”.
Love Island’s duty of care protocols were also updated for the 2021 series.
One of the implications is press attention and Islanders get a taste of this before the show too, when reporters fly out to see the villa and grill participants before they head into it.
Malin’s first interviews were part of a roundtable discussion with “about eight” journalists from various outlets. “They were just throwing questions at us,” she says. “To have them in your face was a bit like ‘woah’.”
Did she feel prepared? “You get a tiny bit of guidance... they told us how to answer and be careful what we say,” Malin says. “[I was] slight savvy, I’ve always been quite switched on. I don’t think I would have done anything differently.”
On The Day
“It’s pretty fucking nerve-wracking,” Eyal laughs, when asked to sum up what the first day in front of the cameras is like.
The morning begins with an early wake-up call, and while each series has seen the first set of Islanders kick off the show in slightly different ways, the basic premise is always the same, including the first coupling up.
In order to pull this off, the boys and girls are traditionally kept in separate groups – or on their own individually – for as long as possible.
“Obviously, they’re filtering people in so all the girls were in there lined up and they guys were coming in one by one,” Eyal says. “So they were holding us in different areas surrounding the villa.
“You were waiting an hour or two, maybe longer, just chatting to your chaperone who is trying to take your mind off the fact you’re about to walk in there.”
Malin did her own hair and make-up for her big entrance, which was then touched up by ITV’s professional team.
Of the two of them, it sounds like she got the raw deal on a tough first day, as for her series, the Islanders were shown quad-biking in.
“I sat in a tent with headphones on and a blindfold for about three and a half hours,” she laughs. “While someone was giving me drinks to sip. And I was literally listening to music, so I couldn’t see or hear anything that was going on.
“I took my headphones off slightly and I remember hearing Sophie screaming and cheering but when it was my turn I didn’t really know what was going on.”
Walking into the villa itself requires detailed directions from the crew, and Eyal reveals that he was told when to pause, how quickly to walk and which way to go, just before making his way in.
“You hop out into the garden... but there’s a very long walk that you don’t expect down to the grass area where you’re waiting for and she then leads that process,” he explains.
How will this year’s contestants be feeling today then? ”You’ll be super excited and then you’ll have a wave of nervousness and then you’ll get yourself back out of that and you’ll wonder what kind of people will be in there. And just... I guess how you’re going to be perceived, what’s already going on in the media.
“So a whole bunch of emotions to be hottest, but they’ve probably had quite a nice time chilling in the sun in Spain right now.”