Love Island: Are ITV supporting their stars enough?

Let’s talk about micro-celebs. The new breed of famous faces who start life on shows like Love Island or Ex on the Beach and grow into social media influencers through their curated Instagram pages and tactical relationships with brands. When all goes smoothly, a few savvy individuals can create huge empires out of their personal brand. Take Megan McKenna for example who, through stints on Ex on the Beach and Big Brother, landed a role in TOWIE. By consistently popping up in our favourite guilty pleasure shows, the 26-year-old was able to fast track her way to a career in the country music industry, releasing her debut album Story of Me in 2018.

Despite Megan’s success story, many individuals do not take to overnight fame in the same ‘duck to water’ fashion. Love Island’s contestants live in the secluded villa for several months with no contact or knowledge of real-world events. In this bubble, they have no idea of the media whirlwind that surrounds their name or how the producers of the show have chosen to craft their identities through tactical editing. Everyone likes a bit of drama and if it’s not happening organically, producers must step in at the expense of an unlucky few contestants to create some. On top of this, these new-fangled celebs must cope with being role models on a huge scale as well as battling the trolls who will constantly pick apart each aspect of their lives. Serious mental health issues can arise in these scenarios which are multiplied by the façade that perfectly edited Instagram posts create. The worst cases can even lead to suicides such as that of 2017 contestant, Mike Thalissitis who died last month aged just 26. 

In cases like these, most people turn to look at what the creators of these shows, in this case, ITV, are actively doing to support their stars once they’re back in the real world.

Previous contestant, Dom Lever tweeted that "You get a psychological evaluation before and after you go on the show but hands down once you are done on the show you don't get any support unless you're number one", with Jonny Mitchell, who competed on the show in 2017, adding that he and his peers were "left to their own devices to deal with [their baptism  of fire] when the sun set on the season." In light of these comments and Thalissitis' death, the Health Minister Matt Hancock has called for more to be done by the show's creators to understand the level of responsibility they have in the subsequent fate of the TV personalities they are manufacturing. He said, "I think that it is a duty on any organisation that is putting people in the position of making them famous overnight, that they should also look after them afterwards."

Despite the allegations from contestants and MPs alike, ITV still insists that 'care for our Islanders is a process the show takes very seriously... We ensure that all of our contributors are able to access psychological support before, during and after appearing on the show...We also discuss...how their lives might change and they have access to support and advice with this.'

It appears that, regardless of the severity of the situation, ITV are still yet to learn that the support they provide is not sufficing. Creating these micro-celebs has proven to be a successful side-earner for ITV who plan to take 10% of all contestants' earnings for 3 years after they leave the show from now on. The least the network can do with their extra revenue is to invest that into ensuring that young stars are not driven into a place so dark that they can’t go on living. So, how many more suicides will it take for responsible corporations like ITV to smell the roses and realise that continued support should be standard in the age of the micro-celeb?

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