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
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 Boohooman.com, a column on Cosmopolitan.com/uk (#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