As we prepare for Amy Hart’s photo shoot, the former BA cabin crew turned series five’s breakout contestant is watching her Instagram followers soar up in real time. She went into the villa with just under 3,000; five weeks later, she’s just shy of one million. As we watch the numbers rise, David Walliams slides into her DMs.
Amy has found herself very much in demand. I meet her just after she’s appeared on Good Morning Britain, where Piers Morgan declared her one of the only likeable Love Islanders ever to exist (‘I had him on one of my flights from Antigua, I was very nice to him,’ she says by way of explanation). The 27-year-old has already won over most of the six million viewers of the ITV2 reality show in her emotional final episode, when she decided to leave the Mallorcan villa, heartbroken, to allow her first ever love – professional ballroom dancer Curtis Pritchard – to move on with Maura Higgins.
During the show’s most emotional storyline yet, Curtis had suddenly ended things after the series’ now infamous ‘Casa Amor’ week. After weeks together (‘720 hours – we worked it out on a calculator,’ says Amy) their romance dissolved into nothing but tears for Amy. Her decision to leave was ‘self-preservation’. ‘If your place isn’t in the villa, you shouldn’t be there any more because it’s a very lonely, harrowing place,’ she explains. ‘Imagine if I’d stayed, shouting at Maura, shouting at Curtis, crying all the time, everyone having to look after me. No one wants to watch that, it’s not entertaining.’ Her decision didn’t serve her badly and, while she says her best friend who ran her social media while she was in the villa was fielding death threats two weeks ago, she’s now receiving ‘20 fan messages per hour’ telling her she did the right thing.
Despite regularly being seen in pieces on screen, in person Amy is composed and as detachedly friendly as you would expect an on-duty flight attendant to be. She also doesn’t seem at all disconcerted by her life now, which involves being mobbed at airports and receiving so many deliveries of new clothes that she has replaced everything in her wardrobe with ‘brand new stuff’. But that just goes to show how tough things can be inside the villa. The experience of returning from Casa Amor to discover Curtis’s feelings had changed, and he had attempted to couple up with Jordan Riane, was so deeply ‘humiliating’, says Amy, that it caused her to not recognise herself as she went through some very dark moments.
There were days when she desperately searched her own personality and behaviour to explain why she’d been dumped, including asking Curtis for feedback (he, savagely, told her he didn’t want to marry her or have kids). In retrospect, Amy says that while she wasn’t really aware of the term ‘gaslighting’ before she went into the villa, she realises none of this was quite right, and that she and Amber (who blamed herself for Michael Griffiths’ decision to dump her for Joanna Chimonides) shouldn’t have been questioning themselves. As thousands of viewers pointed out, they should instead have questioned supposed ‘nice guys’ Curtis and Michael and their apparent willingness to blame their exes for the breakdown of past relationships.
See Amy's Full Video Interview With Grazia Below...
‘Yes, 100% we shouldn’t have blamed ourselves. But I was willing to hear all of that and work on myself to make it work,' she says. ‘I did feel humiliated.’ Now, she is more conscious of Curtis’s role in all of this. She says, ‘We’ve seen two different people in that villa, the Curtis that I knew and the Curtis now. I don’t know which one’s real, because they can’t both be.’ Amy has decided not to watch Love Island, although she knows Maura and Curtis got together just days after her exit. Maura, she says, definitively does not follow Girl Code. ‘The thing with Maura is that she has an ever-changing definition of Girl Code. She constantly moves the goalposts to suit her situation. And then suddenly she decided we were never friends. And I will maintain this forever: we weren’t best friends but we did have a close friendship.’
Would she be happy for Maura and Curtis if they won? ‘If I say no that will be the headline!’ she says. ‘If he’s happy I’m happy. If he’s happy and they win that’s fine. No one will beat Tommy and Molly, though I really want Anna and Jordan to win.’
While Amy says what happened is still quite raw, she doesn’t regret leaving. ‘When you’re thinking rationally you’d think this was all so stupid but it’s such a pressurised environment in there. [Before leaving] I just sat there and thought, “There are 17 other people in this villa but I am so lonely.” I went to the Beach Hut and just sobbed.’ It was then that producers became concerned about Amy because she had stopped eating, bar a ‘bowl of cherries for lunch and dinner’. Regular sessions with the psych team provided by ITV had begun to help Amy realise that perhaps the villa wasn’t the right place for her any longer. ‘When I was having my worst week, I told the psych I felt like I didn’t want to be there any more and she said, “Well, you don’t have to be here.” At that point I was still in the mindset of I didn’t want to waste that opportunity where 130,000 people had applied – how stupid would I be to give it up? I gave up my job to go on the show.’
Amy had never had therapy before, but is now committed to the process having been allotted a psychotherapist for the next year, as part of Love Island’s improved aftercare process. ‘I’ve got 14 months of therapy guaranteed, but if I need it afterwards I can still have it,’ Amy says, adding that she has been given the tools to deal with anxious thoughts (she says she had struggled with anxiety before joining the show). The run-up to this series of Love Island, the fifth and most successful yet, had been fraught with criticism and concern over the ethics of reality TV. is was following the suicides of previous contestants Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon. ITV reviewed its aftercare policy with mental health expert Dr Paul Litchfield, increasing its provision for the fifth series.
Amy says that all the contestants were very aware of those tragedies and what they were getting into when they began the Love Island process. She is, however, fiercely supportive of the team. ‘I can’t fault the support. People have had a lot of bad things to say about them and they might have upped the aftercare, but it’s the same team who’ve worked on the show for five years. I don’t agree with the criticism – they are amazing.’
The bubble inside the villa is one thing, but the pressure of your fame when you leave is another level. Amy says they were briefed early on about how things might play out afterwards and were given the option to walk away at any time. ‘They told us, “You might be a star, but you might not,” “Be aware you won’t be able to go back and work at Tesco afterwards because everyone will know who you are – your work life will change.” We were all very aware.’ While an early Love Island contestant’s aim may have been simply to find love – or at least have a paid-for holiday – today’s participants are very conscious of the fame that awaits them. You increase your Instagram following and, therefore, opportunities for ambassadorships with car air-freshener and charcoal tea companies or, if you’re more popular, clothing brands such as Boohoo or Pretty Little Thing.
This series, contestants have been given social media training to teach them how to maximise their opportunities and deal with trolls (Amy, a size 8 and beautiful, says she had to block the words ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’ from appearing on her feed). A successful contestant’s earning potential is mind-boggling: last year’s winner Dani Dyer is already worth £1.7m. However, Amy is adamant she went on the show solely to find love. ‘I literally went in there to find love. I had a job I loved, I thought I’d go in there, get a decent amount of Instagram followers, and thought I’d be able to go back to work.’ Was that naive in retrospect? ‘Yes,’ she says simply. But she adds, ‘I’m from a small town [Worthing], where no one else is like me. I’m a bit extra, a bit weird, so I knew that going in there I’d meet a certain kind of person who’d be more like me. And I did: Curtis. I wouldn’t have met him in Worthing. Also, making friends. I do have amazing friends at home but not a lot of people get me. People didn’t always want to be my friend.’
According to viewers who tweeted in their thousands, it looked like Amy was the ringleader in excluding Lucie Donlan from the group when she admitted she was more of a guy’s girl in week two. Does that feel hypocritical considering what she’s just told me? ‘It wasn’t that she was excluded, she didn’t want to be included. I just wanted to be her friend and suddenly I was public enemy number one,’ says Amy, who has since seen Lucie at the recording of Aftersun and things are just fine between them.
Amy insists she hasn’t been put off finding love again, because she was ‘so happy’ for the four weeks she was with Curtis. She’s also got a famous fan, thanks to her attitude to love. ‘Derry Girls’ Nicola [Coughlan] said that Richard Curtis, creator of Notting Hill, texted her saying, “I never believed in the saying it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, until I watched Amy leave Love Island.” The king of romantic comedy! I made him believe in love.