THE course of Love Island romance never did run smooth. What appears rock solid in the Majorcan bubble so very often falls apart once the cameras stop rolling amid the endless parties, freebies and teeth whitening deals.
Sure enough, just 24 hours after our cover shoot with Amber Gill, it’s announced that she’s been dumped via text by Greg O’Shea, the Irish rugby player who was cast as her knight in shining armour in the series that saw them both crowned winners.
The news prompted some of Amber’s fans to demand latecomer Greg give their girl his share of the £50,000 they’d split (“We voted for her, not you!” they cried, with some justification). But when we put this to Amber a few days later on the phone, she laughs.
“Nah, he can keep it. I needed someone else to win and we won it together. I don’t hate him, I’m just disappointed in him, really.
“All I’d wanted was a little bit of effort on his part to come to London or Newcastle to see me, and we’d had a discussion about that a couple of days before. And then he texted me on the day I was supposed to fly to Ireland.”
She adds: “I think in the future I’ll look back on this as a blessing in disguise. I can focus on work and spending time with my family and friends.”
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If Amber seems sanguine about their split, it’s not really surprising given that during our interview before the announcement she hadn’t exactly been burning with desire when the conversation turned to Greg.
They were just over a month into their relationship (which was never made “boyfriend-and-girlfriend-official”), and this should have been the honeymoon period, but her near indifference was rather telling.
When asked if there was a future for them, she said something vague and non-committal about “seeing how things pan out”, and that you never truly get to know someone inside the villa. The “real test”, as she put it, is when you come out.
“I don’t know what people were thinking but it was always the case that he was in Ireland and I lived in Newcastle,” she says. “Did people expect him to move there straight away or me to move over to Ireland? That was never possible and we both have opportunities to focus on.”
“You don’t need to be in a relationship at all. I think if you’re going to be with somebody they have got to enhance your life, otherwise there’s no point. Being by yourself is amazing – it is powerful.”
Powerful indeed. Since leaving the island, Amber has hired a top management team and has just signed a deal with fashion brand MissPap worth a reported £1million. She’s currently weighing up several other lucrative offers before making her next move. If she plays her cards right, the former beauty therapist will surely elbow her way on to our Reality TV Rich List next year.
“I always knew I’d be a millionaire!” she laughs.
She’s only half-joking.
It was never about being famous. Rich, yes, but not famous
“My family say I always used to expect big things for myself, like: ‘I’m gonna do this, that and the other, I’m gonna have my own businesses,’ and all that. But it was never about being famous. Rich, yes, but not famous.”
Nevertheless, she can’t quite get her head around the amount of money, freebies and opportunities being bandied around.
“Like, it’s mad. You just have to not think about stuff for too long because it’s…”
She mimes her mind being blown.
The things people want to pay you to do, it’s crazy
“You know, the things people want to pay you to do, it’s crazy. I used to work long hours for not even half as much.
"I’d tell myself I’d order just one dress or whatever, and now I’ve suddenly got loads of clothes from all over sent to me for free, and I don’t know what to pick.”
Amber, 22, may not have been the bookies’ favourite to win, but it’s clear why she did. People voted for the fairy tale, her triumph over adversity.
Viewers watched her arrive at the villa full of sass – she was feisty and stand-offish, a self-proclaimed “diva”, and was borderline hostile to Callum Macleod, 28, the hapless first guy she was, by default, coupled up with.
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But when Michael Griffiths, 28, so cruelly ditched her after hooking up with Joanna Chimonides, 22, in Casa Amor, we saw her crumble. Suddenly the ice queen was human and hurting – it was genuinely heartbreaking watching her desperately trying to hold it together.
Yet throughout what was a public humiliation, she conducted herself with complete dignity. By the time Michael came crawling back asking for a second chance (so brazen, so predictable), she’d sent him packing in that nail-biting recoupling showdown where – thank goodness! – she chose Greg, 24, and a nation cheered.
That was probably the moment she won the show.
“Somebody was awful to me and everybody was expecting me to react really badly and I didn’t, and I think that shocked people,” she says. “But I thought: ‘I’ve been shown what you’re like, I don’t need to do anything more, can you just get away from me?’
“I could have screamed till I was blue in the face, but what would be the point? He’d still have done what he did. Leave him to do his thing, I’ll do mine.”
Their paths haven’t crossed since coming out of the villa.
“I go to good events,” she says pointedly, with a flick of that fabulous hair. “I don’t think he gets invited.” Ouch!
“Eeh, that’s terrible!” she laughs, mock-scolding herself. “But no, he’s not been in touch. I don’t think I’m the easiest person to approach if you know I don’t like you.”
“I’d say: ‘Thanks, hun, for making me win the show.’ I’ll not be mad – there’s nothing to be mad about now because the outcome couldn’t have been better for me. When I came out people were like: ‘You’ve been such an inspiration and a role model for girls,’ and that was lush for me. If someone does you wrong just get rid of them. It works out better for you in the end.”
The duty of care producers have to the stars of the show has been of paramount importance since the suicides of former contestants Sophie Gradon, 32, and Mike Thalassitis, 26.
Amber says that while the Michael furore was rumbling on, bosses made sure she had time out of the villa and away from the cameras to speak to a counsellor every day, whether she felt like she needed it or not.
“At the time I was like: ‘Maybe I don’t need it,’ but they said to just go and do it. And actually, it was always good to get outside of the situation and just talk without it being in the villa and [Michael and Joanna] being, like, two seconds away from me. Just being in a safe space to talk helped.”
Since leaving, all the contestants have had compulsory therapy as well as social media training and expert advice on how to manage the mind-boggling amounts of money thrown at them by brands.
“I think it’s eight [therapy] sessions we have to do, and then if we want to continue we can. We also got social media training and financial training as soon as we left the villa and I don’t think that was optional either. We got told about everything that was in the press and how to handle it. They have definitely looked after us well.
“You’ve got to stay in touch with your friends and your family that were there beforehand and not get caught up in everything that’s going on.
“And you’ve got to have somebody who wants to look after you and not just try and make a bunch of money from you as quickly as possible before the new contestants come out. It’s who you surround yourself with and being careful.”
I want to be honest about things rather than just sell something for a bit of money
Amber is being choosy about what offers she accepts, preferring to take time before she decides which direction to go in.
But the fact she’s been relatively quiet on social media since winning – sometimes going several days between posts – and didn’t announce a major fashion deal as quickly as some of the others caused some people to question what she was “doing”.
She told one worried fan on Twitter to “be patient” and that she would always do “the most”.
“I was never the loudest on social media before all this and I find it a struggle to post all the time because it’s not me and I want to be authentic. I don’t want promote something I don’t love and I think it’s very easy for people to promote things they don’t actually use. I’ve got nearly 3 million followers who are interested in me, and I want to be honest about things rather than just sell something for a bit of money.
“I understand why people do it, but I think people liked that I was a girl’s girl and how I was strong, real and honest and I’ve got to keep that up. But I’m not sitting around doing nothing. That would be stupid! I’m making moves, I’ve just got to keep it quiet for the minute.”
There were reports earlier this month that she’d lost her Dancing On Ice place to Maura Higgins, 28, who finished fourth on Love Island with Curtis Pritchard, 23.
“I didn’t realise I had a place to lose to be honest,” she says nonchalantly. “I think a few Islanders from this series went to ITV and had a chat about Dancing On Ice, but it’s a super-huge commitment and I went away from that meeting thinking it was probably a bit much, training constantly. I went to see them, though, because I think you have got to find out what something is before you just say a flat-out no.”
Surely there must be competition between the contestants? They have a limited window in which to make the biggest impact until the new kids on the block come snapping at their heels. And with a winter version of the show due to launch in January, this time there’s even less opportunity to make their mark.
“There’s definitely no competition on my part,” Amber says. “I’m totally different from everyone else. If I get picked for things, great, but if somebody else gets picked, that’s fine. I’m my own person and I’m on my own path. I think there’s enough room for everybody.”
Out of all this year’s contestants it’s Amber and Maura who were the standout stars, so it figures there might be some rivalry between them.
Much has been made of Maura’s reaction when Amber and Greg were announced as winners over Tommy Fury and Molly-Mae Hague, both 20, with her obvious shock being interpreted by some as contempt. Amber magnanimously gives her the benefit of the doubt.
“I’m not sure if her reaction was more because Ovie was so super-excited. If you watch it – and I’ve watched it back – Ovie screams his head off and Maura looks up at him like: ‘What’s going on?’
“She was shocked, but everyone was, so it would be unfair for me to [criticise] her for that. If you look back on the other seasons it’s always the couple who have been boyfriend and girlfriend from the beginning who win.
“It’s never been the girl with the guy who showed up like, two days ago, so we had all ruled it out.”
Asked if she likes Maura and there’s a pause. Quite a long one.
“Umm, yeah. You know what? I do. When she first came in I thought: ‘Oh my god she’s come in to steal Tommy from Molly.’ She didn’t care and we were all like: ‘Who is this girl?’ But as the time went on I grew to like her because she did have a softer side. I haven’t spoken to her that much since leaving, though.”
Ask her where she sees herself in a year’s time and she says the plan is to return to her roots. That doesn’t mean going back to work in her auntie’s Newcastle beauty salon – she hopes to use her expertise to forge a high-profile career in the industry.
“I’ve always said that I want get back to beauty – it would be a waste of the knowledge I have to not use that. I’m just seeing what opportunities come up and what I like best.
“It feels like the past couple of months have been years, and my feet haven’t touched the ground yet. But I’m enjoying it!”
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