A revamp of a much maligned ITV celebrity dating show of the noughties, the first series of the civilian Love Island opened to a fairly small audience and much critical derision in 2015.
- Love Island’s Kem Cetinay says schoolfriend Soph Piper would be a great addition to the villa
- Who’s going to be on Love Island 2019?
- How to be cast on Love Island… according to former Islanders
Fast-forward four years, however, and the reality show in which a selection of perfectly preened singletons crack on and mug off in a Majorcan villa is now a cultural phenomenon.
While the second run proved more popular than its debut, it was the third series of Love Island that saw the show go stratospheric, making an overnight star of Love Island 2017 winner Kem Cetinay thanks to his tumultuous relationship with Amber Davies (the pair split just six months later) and bromance with Chris Hughes.
But despite having won the hearts of the nation and used the show to launch a showbiz career (he’s since starred in his own ITV2 show with Chris, hosted segments on This Morning, released a single and placed fourth in last year’s Dancing on Ice), Cetinay, 23, says he would not have considered taking part in Love Island if he had waited until 2019, and would be worried that he “couldn’t deal with the pressure”.
“I wouldn’t go in now,” he tells RadioTimes.com. “There’s too much hype around it now. It’d stress me out. I think I’d bottle it last minute. It’s too much of a big show, I couldn’t deal with the pressure. I don’t know how people deal with it.
“When I went on it not everyone really knew about it, it just blew up when we were on there.”
The show has since changed its procedures, stating that it will take more “proactive” measures in checking in with Islanders after the series ends.
Cetinay admits he struggled adjusting to his newfound fame after Love Island. While he comes across on screen as bubbly and excitable (and that’s also evident when we chat to him) the former hairdresser says he’s actually more naturally reserved than people may first think.
“It was really hard, honestly. I just didn’t really know how to deal with it at first,” he says.
“I can get quite shy sometimes, and can curl up into my shell and spend a few days at home.”
He adds that keeping a sense of normality in his life (he still has the same group of friends from before the show “and we still all go to the same chicken shop”) is what has kept him so grounded.
“It’s really important [to have a good support system],” he says. “Or you can get caught up in the whole thing.
“I kind of just look at it like a job and a passion. But at the same time when I come home I still enjoy the same things I’ve always enjoyed.
“Why should things change? I still do the same things with my friends like going to brunches and getting cocktails – which isn’t the most ‘lad’ thing to do, but it’s what we like!”
Having entered Love Island aged just 21, Cetinay feels his time in the villa matured him, and helped enable the success he’s having on the showbiz circuit today.
“My mum cried when she heard I was going into Love Island,” he says. “She hated every idea of it, but she said she was so glad I didn’t listen to her and decided to go into the show because it’s made me grow up.
“I felt I was very babied by my family before. Love Island helped me be a bit more of a man and made me take control of my life.”
But while he is now more confident in his ability to stand on his own two feet, he remains incredibly close to his family – with his fashion designer mother Figen heading to Dublin to help him create his new clothing range with Primark, and family from Cyprus flying in to celebrate along with him.
“This Primark thing has been a huge dream as I’ve always been into my fashion,” he says.
“My nan’s been over from Cyprus for the first time in a long time – she’s really old now, bless her – and for her to be able to go to the shop windows and see it is something that she’ll remember forever. It’s been a really amazing moment for us.”
For Cetinay, it’s just the icing on the cake of a career that shows no signs of slowing down.
“I went into Love Island with no expectations, and I’m really proud of where I’ve come to,” he says.
“I feel like I’m living the dream and I’m loving every minute of it.”
The Primark Man x Kem collection is available in all Primark stores
Love Island launches on ITV2 this summer