GROUPIES, FREE­BIES & £1M RICHER What hap­pened to the losers of Love Is­land

...BUT ONLY IF THEY CAN STAY TO­GETHER For many of us, the ITV2 show was the sum­mer of 2017, mak­ing overnight celebri­ties of the cou­ples it cre­ated. But what hap­pened to its stars when the cam­eras stopped rolling? Josie Cop­son played third wheel for a mon

Cosmopolitan (UK) - - Contents - Pho­to­graphs SARAH BRIMLEY

I reach my left arm through a set of prison-style bars at Sugar Hut. Dave Read, a re­al­ity-star agent, hands me what I’ve been long­ing for since I ar­rived at this Es­sex club an hour ago. Ac­tu­ally what I’ve been long­ing for since the Love Is­land villa flung open its doors once more. A VIP band to stand in the midst of peo­ple who, three months ago, I would have walked straight past in the street.

I leave be­hind about 150 girls (and the oc­ca­sional boy) all crowded around two small booths. No­body is drink­ing. No­body is danc­ing. No­body is even in­ter­act­ing. Ev­ery­one is just star­ing. Star­ing and wait­ing with their phones poised for a selfie with an ‘Is­lan­der.’ No one here at the un­of­fi­cial ‘re­union party’ even made the fi­nal. No one lasted longer than a cou­ple of weeks, yet here we are in awe of th­ese celebri­ties. I se­ri­ously think that even if Madonna walked in, ev­ery­one would be like, “Yeah, I mean, she did some cool stuff in the ’90s, but Muggy Mike is do­ing meet-and-greets.”

Love Is­land, which sees at­trac­tive peo­ple com­pete in swimwear to find eter­nal love, has been sim­mer­ing be­neath the sur­face for the past cou­ple of years, but this se­ries it reached its peak – 2.9 mil­lion view­ers tuned in to ITV2 for the fi­nal to see who was crowned ‘The most in love, but also like­able’ cou­ple. This was an all-time record for the chan­nel. So­cial me­dia came to life be­tween 9pm-10pm as #LoveIs­land took over. A-lis­ters such as Adele, Stor­mzy and Liam Gal­lagher con­fessed their ob­ses­sion with the show. Even Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn en­dorsed Mar­cel for the win. Next year’s in­stal­ment has al­ready had so many ap­pli­cants it is now of­fi­cially harder to get on Love Is­land than it is to get into Cam­bridge Univer­sity.

But, as I sit watch­ing white-jean-clad women fawn for pho­tos with th­ese TV demi-gods, I re­alise I want to know more about what re­ally hap­pens when the cam­eras stop rolling. That’s why, the next week, I find my­self stand­ing in the car park of a record­ing stu­dio wait­ing for Mar­cel Somerville and Gabby Allen (or ‘Gar­cel’ as they are af­fec­tion­ately re­ferred to), the cou­ple who came fourth. I’m go­ing to spend a month fol­low­ing their ev­ery move as they carve out new ca­reers in the sat­u­rated world of post-re­al­ity re­al­ity.

The real deal

For those that didn’t watch the show, Mar­cel came to the Is­land al­ready hav­ing had his five min­utes of fame. He used to be in Blazin’ Squad, the band that brought us Cross­roads (clas­sic) and Flip Re­verse (leg­endary). Gabby, how­ever, was a first-timer. A former PT, she was the girl who made me bawl my eyes out when she cried about not feel­ing as good as the other girls in the villa. She was me on a girls’ trip to Ma­galuf in 2011 when I re­alised my thighs were at least triple the size of all my friends.’ She made me sob so hard when her mum came into the villa and told her how proud she was that she hadn’t had sex on TV. I fell for the two of them and their – for lack of a bet­ter word – ‘jour­ney.’ Agent Freddy White, who owns White La­bel Mgmt (he rep­re­sents Gabby, as well as Olivia Buck­land, a run­ner-up from last year’s show, and Nikki Gra­hame of Big Brother ‘Who IS she?’ fame), later tells me she was picked for the show as she was the “re­lat­able one”.

When the car pulls up, Gabby piles out with three bags burst­ing with clothes. She’s wear­ing a two-piece cov­ered in lemons that she got sent ear­lier that week, and ev­ery­thing she’s car­ry­ing has also been ‘gifted’ to her. We head for lunch, and in the fiveminute walk to the lo­cal Ital­ian they get stopped over 10 times. I play pho­tog­ra­pher as women, men and chil­dren of all ages con­fess their love for them and ex­claim in anger about the cou­ple miss­ing out on the

crown. Mar­cel looks at me. “You should count how many times peo­ple say we should have won and put that in your ar­ti­cle,” he says, then flashes a sheep­ish smile. (It’s 27, FYI.)

“I knew the show would give me ex­po­sure, but I didn’t re­alise to what level,” Mar­cel ex­plains back at the stu­dio. He’s been out in the ‘real’ world for three weeks at this point, and has al­ready bagged a book deal (Dr Mar­cel’s

Lit­tle Book Of Big Love), a mod­el­ling job for, a col­umn on Cos­mopoli­ (#no­taspon) and the chance to re­lease mu­sic again.

His al­bum will, of course, fea­ture a song about Gabby. I’m there to wit­ness it be­ing writ­ten (with my pen) – it’s called Me And You, and later Gabby lays down some vo­cals for his EP (yeah, I just dropped some mu­si­cal lingo). This track will un­doubt­edly be one of the rea­sons the fans will down­load Mar­cel’s al­bum. And all the deals the pair have se­cured so far may not have hap­pened with­out the pub­lic­ity that be­ing to­gether brings. Freddy has al­ready told me that cou­ples who stick to­gether are set to make a lot more cash than those who come out sin­gle, so it’s no sur­prise that the ca­sual ob­server might think this is a ‘faux­mance’ for fi­nan­cial gain.

But half­way through record­ing, the pair go out­side for a cig­a­rette and, un­be­known to them, there is a se­cu­rity cam­era di­rectly above them. I watch (for the sake of jour­nal­ism, not voyeurism) as they in­dulge in an in­tense make-out ses­sion – from where I’m stand­ing, it’s the real deal.

Back in the stu­dio, Mar­cel stops pro­ceed­ings and asks his girl­friend, “Can you get a photo of me with this golden pro­tein shaker?” He stands up against the only plain wall in the room and smiles down at the con­tainer. Gabby sug­gests it might look bet­ter if he sits back on the stool.

“Yeah, that’ll look more nat­u­ral, in­nit?” he says, as he takes a sip from the empty con­tainer. He then changes and re­peats the process. Gabby, too, takes con­stant breaks through­out the day to do spon­sored posts in a yel­low Bahimi bikini and a pair of flared, flo­ral trousers from Missy Em­pire. I ask what per­cent­age of the clothes she likes wear­ing.“I like the ones when I’m chang­ing for bed,” she jokes.

At 4pm, a car ar­rives for Gabby, and I jump in. It’s tak­ing her to ITV stu­dios to film a pi­lot show with Judge Rin­der. Af­ter a quick prac­tice run, Freddy asks Gabby, con­cerned, “That was just your re­hearsal, right? That wasn’t full en­ergy?” Freddy is the man who took Olivia Buck­land from “the girl who had sex on TV, to the girl next door. I won’t say ex­actly how much she’s earned, but the fig­ure that ev­ery­one says [more than a mil­lion]

might be true.” And he’ll be tak­ing a fat per­cent­age of that – and what­ever any of his clients make (all blonde, all slim… all look good in a high­legged bikini).

He won Gabby as a client be­cause they went to col­lege to­gether, fight­ing off a num­ber of other agents who had pound signs in their eyes. (“This se­ries has turned peo­ple into an­i­mals,” he says.“[Other agents] were des­per­ate.”)

I ask him how much she’s set to earn. “Af­ter a year, I hope she’s earned enough so that if some­thing ever hap­pened to her and she couldn’t work, she’d be OK,” he tells me. I press fur­ther, “So, like, £200,000?” “A house with­out a mort­gage, a car and nice hol­i­days.”

“£300,000?” I per­sist. “I’d say half a mil­lion,” he fi­nally con­fesses. “Not just Gabby. I think all the fi­nal­ists could make that money.”

But only if they play this first month right. At the mo­ment, com­pa­nies are vy­ing to work with her, and the de­ci­sions she – or, rather, Freddy – makes count for how the pub­lic will con­tinue to see her.

“It’s about es­tab­lish­ing her as a busi­ness,” says Freddy. “We get up to 150 brands a day email­ing us ask­ing to work with Gabby. A lot of them are teeth-whiten­ing com­pa­nies, but we won’t do that. Some emails go straight in the trash. Some I dis­cuss with Gabby. She gets the fi­nal say, but I give her my ad­vice,” he tells me. “She gets around 10 gift pack­ages a day, too. When they come out of the villa, they don’t have to buy a thing. Peo­ple also email ask­ing for dates – I once got of­fered £40,000 for a date with Olivia.”

But with the prospect of hundreds more hope­fuls want­ing to jump into her fringed pink swim­suit next year, surely there’s a time limit on how long com­pa­nies will want Gabby’s name be­side their prod­ucts? Be­cause for ev­ery Olivia, there’s a Rachel (from 2016’s show), who went back to her day job as a nurse.

“Their ca­reer longevity de­pends on how long I can keep them rel­e­vant. As long as they keep re-in­vent­ing them­selves, there doesn’t have to be an end to their time,” he ex­plains. “They can get years’ worth of work out of those eight weeks in the villa.”

Play­ing the game

If you want to know what it feels like to wear a cloak of in­vis­i­bil­ity, head to a party full of re­al­ity stars. De­spite stand­ing painfully close to Gabby all night, not one per­son looks me in the eye. This is our sec­ond party of the evening, and Gabby is al­ready on her third out­fit change.“There’s no point go­ing to an­other party in the same look. You don’t get the press,” she says, as she wrig­gles out of her se­quinned dress in the back of a taxi. Freddy uses her phone to post an In­sta­gram of her out­fit – writ­ing the cap­tion and choos­ing the fil­ter. As we exit the car, pa­parazzi form a cir­cle around her.

When Mar­cel ar­rives, I’m once again pushed to the side as fans jos­tle each

“I get stupid mes­sages from girls, but I trust Mar­cel”

other for a snap of the pair. Watch­ing them, it’s clear that their re­la­tion­ship has be­come a prod­uct to be placed.

“I don’t like to think of it like that,” Gabby says. “We try to just be a nor­mal cou­ple.” But there’s noth­ing ‘nor­mal’ about them. A nor­mal cou­ple might be pressed for when they plan to marry by well-mean­ing (read: an­noy­ing) rel­a­tives at a wedding. For th­ese two, it’s a ques­tion posed by jour­nal­ists ev­ery day. When I first met them two weeks ago, they in­sisted they weren’t think­ing too far ahead. Tonight, she has re­vealed their plans to get a place to­gether be­fore Christ­mas.

Then there’s the risk of groupies and cheating scan­dals. “When he goes out on his own, I get stupid mes­sages off girls say­ing that he’s given them his num­ber or some­thing, but I trust Mar­cel.”

I de­cide to see for my­self how well-be­haved Mar­cel is by fol­low­ing him to his next club PA. Th­ese are meet-and-greets in night­clubs across the coun­try, in which club­bers (usu­ally fe­male stu­dents) pay the venue for the priv­i­lege of meet­ing their lat­est crush, and the club, in turn, pays the ‘star’ a huge amount for pack­ing out their dance floors. To max­imise the cash he makes (he won’t tell me how much, but some dig­ging around tells me it’s around £2,500 per ap­pear­ance), Mar­cel will do two in a night. Tonight we’re in Leeds, just three hours af­ter he did the ex­act same thing in Wake­field.

Cross­roads be­gins to play and Mar­cel is brought out onto the stage, be­fore it’s an­nounced that you can meet him up­stairs. There, groups of no more than four at a time are led in to meet Mar­cel. Women strain at the rope, and as soon it’s un­hooked, they leg it across the floor scream­ing. They’ve queued for a good por­tion of their night to meet a guy they only just found out ex­isted. They want long hugs and, ide­ally, kisses. Mar­cel sticks to pecks on the cheek. He’ll re­peat this most nights for the next three months. Gabby will join him oc­ca­sion­ally, but will rarely do a PA of her own – guys don’t re­ally pay to meet girls.

The next week­end I find my­self con­vinc­ing a door girl that I’m not one of th­ese wild scream­ing fans. I’m at V Fes­ti­val, and Gabby and Mar­cel are roped off in a VVIP area – and this is just the first step. I then have to climb a white picket fence to get into an even more ex­clu­sive corner of this makeshift club in the mid­dle of a field. Here all drinks are free, but af­ter just a month of be­ing fa­mous, Gabby al­ready seems slightly un­ex­cited by the perks. She tells me she’s tired. She tells me this a sec­ond time when she poses with some free fries, and re­peats it a third time as she emerges from the toi­lets af­ter a fan prac­ti­cally hy­per­ven­ti­lated when she found Gabby at the sink.

Ev­ery­thing that us norms pay to do – eat, drink, go to fes­ti­vals, wear clothes – is now an op­por­tu­nity to make money for the cou­ple. This has al­ways fas­ci­nated me – and when I found my­self fac­ing un­em­ploy­ment last year I filled out a Love Is­land ap­pli­ca­tion form. So what if I sleep in a brace? I could be some­one’s type on pa­per; I could party be­hind ropes. Get­ting a job as a celebrity jour­nal­ist didn’t erase th­ese crav­ings, as I’d get so jeal­ous writ­ing about th­ese stars mak­ing mil­lions for sim­ply ex­ist­ing.

But Gabby isn’t be­ing paid just to live her life. Ev­ery­where she goes, she’s work­ing. A story about her re­la­tion­ship is pub­lished ev­ery day, and more than a mil­lion peo­ple fol­low their ev­ery move on In­sta­gram. “We chose that life, though,” she shrugs. “Be­cause peo­ple saw how our re­la­tion­ship started, they think they get to see how it con­tin­ues…” And fame, she says, has never been the thing she sought out. Along with Mar­cel, she was scouted for the show. “It was a free hol­i­day with po­ten­tial to meet a boyfriend. I quit my job to go in, so I just lived in the mo­ment,” she says. Now she hopes to com­bine her old life with her new – by build­ing a fit­ness em­pire.

V Fes­ti­val marks the end of my month with Gar­cel. And as Jay Z takes to the main stage, and I jump back over the white fence, I feel like I’m say­ing good­bye to friends who are about to move to an­other coun­try. I worry I might never see them again. But then I remember that they are Gabby and Mar­cel from Love Is­land and that I’ll be able to watch their lives play out in the same way ev­ery­one else will: from the com­fort of my sofa. What I won’t be able to see is how much they’re ac­tu­ally en­joy­ing it.

GABBY, 25 Will now earn enough to be set for life…


Al­ways try­ing to get Gabby in the nude

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