Luca Bish entered the Love Island villa on day one and lasted right until the very end. He became the villa’s prankster, sporting ‘fish-flops’ and was unafraid to voice his opinions. Viewers followed his whirlwind romance with soon-to-be girlfriend Gemma Owen, and they finished the show in second place. However, Luca’s time in the villa wasn't plain sailing. The 23-year-old fish monger from Brighton was a controversial Islander during his stint on the ITV2 dating show and was the talk of social media. Whether viewers loved him or hated him - they were certainly talking.
After three weeks adjusting to life outside the villa, his world has completely transformed. With 1.4 million Instagram followers and the nation’s eyes on him – his new reality still hasn’t sunk in. ‘It’s been surreal - I’m just a normal bloke going into this crazy world,’ he says as he sits down on the sofa with a suitcase in one hand. 'I've been living out a suitcase since I've left. I'm going back to Cheshire with Gemma tomorrow,' he says.
But with the overnight fame and hectic schedule, has he had time to watch the show back? 'I've watched bits. I really wanted to after seeing what people were saying,' he says. The dominant narrative surrounding Luca’s time on the show was his controlling behaviour towards Gemma. 'Watching it back, I can hold my hands up and agree with that – I was,’ he admits. ‘There are parts where I'm thinking this is not how I behave on the outside world. Why did I do that?’
He explained that constantly being put into compromising positions due to the nature of the show had its effects. 'When you feel so strongly for someone and then you're still getting put in situations because they [producers] are making us do challenges, throwing new people in there to play with your emotions and your feelings - I'd genuinely just had enough of it.' He continued, ‘When you're falling in love with someone you don't want to see another boy come in and talk to them and vice versa. Obviously, your emotions would be heightened and everything’s so intense in there.’
Luca tells Grazia that he has spoken to Gemma about his behaviour since leaving the show, 'She’s a strong woman so she would never let herself be in a situation like that. However, a lot of those moments where I lost it came at the end of the show and by that point, my emotions and everything - I was drained of it all.’
There's certain situations I just can't justify. I know I was in the wrong.
Luca says his feelings for Gemma have only grown since leaving the villa and exclusively tells Grazia that the long-awaited girlfriend proposal has been meticulously planned and is just days away now. ‘I've never been happier with someone and being outside the villa has done us the world of good,’ he says with a huge grin. ‘I’m punching,’ he reluctantly admits. He recently went on holiday with Gemma and her family to sunny Algarve, Portugal but has he got her dad’s approval? 'I think so! He's actually followed me back on Instagram, that must mean I'm in, right?' he joked.
The dressage rider’s dad is none other than former England footballer,Michael Owen. Many thought Luca only perused Gemma after finding that out about her famous family. He laughs in disbelief, 'Listen, I've been to their house and seen all his trophies - they date back to before I was born. Besides have you seen that girl? I couldn't of care less about all that.' He revealed, ‘I actually wanted to pull Gemma from the start but they [producers] kept holding me back so I could focus on the connections I had at the time.’ (Which at that point was Paige Thorne and Tasha Ghouri).
Falling in love with Gemma was certainly a high point in his journey but some of his low points came from the last few weeks on the show. Luca’s family responded to the growing backlash against him after he flew into a rage during the controversial 'Mad Movies' episodes. Viewers called him out for his behaviour as he watched Casa Amor bombshell Billy Brown flirting with Gemma.
Responding to his behaviour in a statement they expressed, ‘We as his family don’t condone his behaviour’ and that he would be ‘embarrassed and deeply apologetic’ when he watches it back. After doing just that, he tells Grazia that is exactly how he felt. Luca explains that his anger towards Gemma was misplaced. ‘I was more annoyed about how Billy went around things. I ended up getting wound up and taking my frustration out on Gemma - which wasn't fair, he admits. ‘I don't think this was shown but I apologised and said sorry for that. Billy said he was 'confused,' about Gemma intentions but everything I've seen is black and white. There's no chance you should have been confused.’
Luca says as the show came to an end he struggled being in the same environment.' The last few weeks took it's toll on me. I didn't feel like the Luca I was before. Everyone that's close to me - my parents and friends - could see the last two weeks in the villa I wasn't myself and that’s why certain situations, like Movie Night, got the better of me.’ He revealed that it was a process adjusting to life outside, 'Even when I first came out I still felt like that so, when it comes to all the hate desperately I just wanted to get back to feeling like myself so it was best to ignore it.'
The last two weeks took it’s toll on me. I didn’t feel like the Luca I was.
Another Islander Luca clashed with throughout the show was dancer and model Tasha Ghouri. Luca alluded to her ‘playing a game’ with fellow Islander Andrew Le Page. Luca admits to Grazia that he ‘took it too far,’ with her. He reflects, 'With my controlling behaviour it took me watching it back to realise what I had done but with the Tasha situation, I realised I took it too far whilst I was still in there.’ Luca continues, ‘When you've got a girl crying, I realised I was wrong. For once in my life, I thought - you need to shut up now, your opinions aren't needed.’
‘When my parents came into the villa and told me I was wrong in my approach - nothing's hit home or affected me before like that.’ Luca says he has apologised to Tasha again since, ‘I told her I was sorry for how I behaved. We've made up and we have a double date with Gemma and Andrew coming up. I'm glad it hasn't affected our friendship.’
Although the show has come to an end, with the nature of social media, the storylines only continue. Luca appeared on an Instagram Live with Islander and close friend Jacques O’Neill. During their conversation they discussed fellow Islander Remi Lambert. Remi later labelled them ‘bullies’ for 'mocking' him in a now deleted scathing statement on Instagram.
Luca tells Grazia that despite Remi's statement, he still has ‘nothing but respect for him.’ He says, ‘Nobody wants to be called a bully and it's not a nice word to be called at all. I think it was guilty by association because if you watch the live video back, there was no insults from me. Adding, 'But it's his opinion at the end of the day, and if that’s how he feels I can only I can only respect his opinion.’ He says, ‘Obviously it's all there for everyone to see that him and Jacques had issues and didn't see eye to eye, but I thought I was brought into that was a way to boost it up or something. I've never had a problem with Remi.’ He has also reached out to Remi privately to talk things through.
Now Luca can step back and reflect on his whole experience does he have any regrets? 'There are certain situations that I definitely regret,' he admits. I know I was in the wrong at times. It's there on TV for all to see, there's no getting away from it. However, I've learned from them and now it’s going to mould me into a better person.'
As he looks towards the future outside the shows bubble, Luca says he knows the door’s Love Island can open, but isn’t in any rush, ‘I don't want to be the first one to take every deal. I want to be quite selective with what I do. If this world is not right for me and I am skint - then I'll be back in that fish market quickly!’