Former Love Islander Eyal Booker has spoken out to stand up for the show over the issues of diversity and support for contestants that have made headlines in recent weeks.
The reality star, who appeared in last year’s Love Island alongside Dani Dyer, Jack Fincham, Megan Barton Hanson and Dr Alex George, told Sky News he could not fault producers for the care he received both before and after his time in the villa.
It comes after the series, which started its fifth season on Monday, promised to increase the level of support following the suicides of two former contestants.
The dating show, which sees young singles partnering up while spending the summer living in a villa in Majorca, has also faced criticism about diversity, or lack of it, when it comes to casting people of different body sizes and races.
Speaking about support and aftercare, Booker said: “I don’t have a bad word to say because I have been supported before the process, during the process and after the process up until now, and I will continue to be supported.
“I think that as a show progresses, as it grows, as it builds, [the producers] start to put more in place because you realise that it’s needed. I can’t fault it for my own experience.”
Booker said producers had been back in touch with him “every couple of months” since he left the show.
He also said that no matter what support measures are in place, “I don’t personally believe anything can prepare you for fame”.
“Somebody can talk to you as much as they want about trying to prepare you but everybody is different…
“I think the show tries to prepare you as much as possible but it’s all kind of… you can’t believe it until it happens so there’s no preparation.”
Following his stint in the Love Island villa, Booker has remained on TV, appearing on Celebs Go Dating last year.
He is currently working on a new documentary which he says will “spark a lot of conversation” and get people “to question themselves and others around them”, but would not give any further details.
He said his experience of fame has been mainly positive.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a journey,” he said. “There were some amazing points and there were some low points and then I’ve kind of refound myself and I’m doing better than ever. But that’s the journey of life, not every day’s a good day.
“I think it just takes some getting used to, and having good family and friends around you who continue to support you and remember who you are as before the fame.”
Booker said the initial experience after leaving the villa was “kind of overwhelming and also a lot of fun”.
“You know all of a sudden, you’re walking through the airport and everyone in the airport knows who you are…
“As long as people are nice, they’re respectful, they appreciate the fact that you’re a human being and you’re not just some cardboard cut-out that doesn’t have any feelings then I think it’s quite easy to deal with.
“At times maybe it gets a bit much but then you just make sure you’re not going to the busiest place and you’re not being in the thick of it. You just remove yourself from it slightly.”
He said that after Love Island he had not felt the need to take up the offer of support from producers “because my family and friends are incredible and they continue to support me, they continue to keep me grounded and they continue to remind me of the person I was before all of this fame”.
Addressing the issue of diversity on the show, he said he believes the series “showcases diversity at this moment in time” but people need to remember Love Island is a dating show.
“The original line-up is a diverse line-up [this year],” he said. “We have to remember that isn’t how it’s going to stay. There’s probably about 30 people that are going to walk through the doors of that villa within the season. We’ve got to give them a chance to showcase diversity.
“And I also believe that it’s a dating show. You know there’s an element that they have to showcase diversity but it’s also they’re no more than what they’re saying they are, which is a dating show and the point is for people to go in the villa to couple up, sleep in the same bed and hopefully create a relationship.
“There’s a diverse line-up but it’s not the show’s responsibility to showcase diversity throughout society. It’s for them to show dating and how we date as millennials.”