‘Joey Essex might be older than the normal cast… but he doesn’t act it’: Love Island insiders defend placing 33-year-old veteran reality TV star into house of 20-somethings- as they pin hopes on him reviving the ‘tired’ format

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One is a fading reality television star, the other a failing reality television show.

Both are arguably past their heyday. So in many ways Joey Essex and Love Island are the perfect match.

When Joey, catapulted to fame by his naïve charm on The Only Way Is Essex, walked into the Majorcan villa on Tuesday, he stated he was there to find love.

Arguably, he is also there to revive his career and the fortunes of ITV’s flagship dating programme after years of controversies and, more recently, accusations that it has become boring.

Bosses at the network are thrilled with their signing, which has put the show back on the map after several series that not only struggled with ratings but also failed to dominate the TV conversation as it did for the first four years since its launch in 2015.

Love Island insiders have defended placing 33-year-old veteran reality TV star Joey Essex into house of 20-somethings after his shock arrival on Monday's show

Love Island insiders have defended placing 33-year-old veteran reality TV star Joey Essex into house of 20-somethings after his shock arrival on Monday’s show 

Joey is currently coupled up with 26-year-old makeup artist Samantha Kenny after he was given free rein to pick any of the girls he wanted after arriving as a 'bombshell'

Joey is currently coupled up with 26-year-old makeup artist Samantha Kenny after he was given free rein to pick any of the girls he wanted after arriving as a ‘bombshell’ 

The 2019 finale drew an audience of six million, compared to just one million for the Love Island All Stars finale earlier this year.

‘It was a proper light bulb moment,’ an ITV insider tells me, of the decision to recruit him. ‘Joey is a friend of the channel and it is well known that he was looking for love so a brainwave came.’

Fans were divided by Joey’s surprise entrance, some called it ‘iconic’ while others argued that the dating show should be for ‘normal people’ and not existing celebs.

In particular, it prompted discussion because, at 33, he is significantly older than the other contestants. 

In previous series participants have been as young as 19, though this year’s crop is slightly older, with the youngest male 21 and the youngest female 24.

Fans say that at the age of 33, he is ‘way too old’ to be in there. Many are asking why he would want to be on there because ‘he’s closer to 40 than some of the other contestants are to 30’. 

One said on social media: ‘Transfer him to [reality dating show] My Mum Your Dad immediately.’

But as a TV insider pointed out: ‘Joey is older than the normal cast but he doesn’t necessarily act or seem 33. But the one thing is that he is very good television, he’s game and he is a laugh.

‘He has got people talking about Love Island again and he has also put himself back on radar.’

As many will remember, Joey entered the national consciousness in 2011 when he joined the cast of TOWIE (pictured with Lydia Bright, Lucy Mecklenburgh, Billie Faiers, Joey Essex, Lauren Goodger, Sam Faiers and Jessica Wright)

As many will remember, Joey entered the national consciousness in 2011 when he joined the cast of TOWIE (pictured with Lydia Bright, Lucy Mecklenburgh, Billie Faiers, Joey Essex, Lauren Goodger, Sam Faiers and Jessica Wright) 

As many will remember, Joey entered the national consciousness in 2011 when he joined the cast of TOWIE.

He became known for his catchphrase ‘reem’ – meaning ‘good’ or ‘cool’ – and for an impressive lack of general knowledge. Once asked what country borders Wales, he answered London.

Certainly, Joey has got form when it comes to dating reality television co-stars. Unfortunately, it usually seems to end in heartbreak for him.

Entering the Love Island villa he described himself as ‘extremely single… I’m praying that I’m going to walk out of the villa hand in hand with the love of my life, that’s my main aim and all I care about.’

Most recently, he found love last year on another ITV reality show, Dancing On Ice. Partnered with pro skater Vanessa Bauer they began dating soon into their training.

One insider on the show said that they were ‘inseparable’ for months and Joey thought he had found The One. They did well and came second in the contest but there was no fairytale ending.

‘Joey was enthralled with Vanessa,’ said a friend of the star. ‘He was pretty heartbroken when they split up, it just didn’t work out.

‘He was very disappointed, he is really keen to settle down and find Mrs Essex. It all came to a sudden end with Vanessa after they got to the final so going into Love Island gives him another opportunity to find love.

‘Joey is a lovely guy and his friends are rooting for him to find a girlfriend, and of course win the show.’

Most recently, he found love last year on another ITV reality show, Dancing On Ice. Partnered with pro skater Vanessa Bauer they began dating soon into their training (pictured last March)

Most recently, he found love last year on another ITV reality show, Dancing On Ice. Partnered with pro skater Vanessa Bauer they began dating soon into their training (pictured last March)

But it was his two-year romance with his TOWIE co-star Sam Faiers between 2011 and 2013 which broke his heart 'beyond comprehension'

But it was his two-year romance with his TOWIE co-star Sam Faiers between 2011 and 2013 which broke his heart ‘beyond comprehension’

Before Vanessa, Joey was linked to former Love Island star contestant Maura Higgins but their relationship didn’t take off.

Previously he had dated Brazilian model Brenda Santos for five months, and there was Mexican beauty Lorena Medina whom he met while appearing on ITV’s Ex on the Beach in 2019.

Joey also dated model Sabreena Diamond, another Love Island star Ellie Brown, stylist Georgie Purves, Stephanie Pratt who starred on Made In Chelsea, and former Miss Universe Amy Willerton, whom he met on I’m A Celeb.

But it was his two-year romance with his TOWIE co-star Sam Faiers between 2011 and 2013 which broke his heart ‘beyond comprehension’.

They were one of the golden couples of the show and loyal viewers will remember him proposing to her in 2012, only for her to turn him down.

‘Sam broke Joey,’ said a friend. ‘He was so in love and wanted her to be his wife, imagine if she had said yes, his life would have been very different.’

As well as the prospect of finding his soul mate, another plus of going on Love Island is cash, not that he’s short of money. He’s said to have a net worth of £8 million.

The Love Island job is though to be a canny move to secure future earnings, rather than a big cheque for going on.

There are conflicting claims over whether the Joey has been paid a huge fee to join the show.

It was reported this week that he isn’t being treated any differently to his fellow Islanders who are said to get just £375 a week in expenses for appearing on the show, while the winners share a £50,000 prize.

In an interview, Joey said that he applied of his own accord and hadn’t been approached by producers. However, showbusiness insiders are very sceptical.

The Love Island job is though to be a canny move to secure future earnings, rather than a big cheque for going on. There are conflicting claims over whether the Joey has been paid

The Love Island job is though to be a canny move to secure future earnings, rather than a big cheque for going on. There are conflicting claims over whether the Joey has been paid

Joey, whose manager is one of the industry’s longest-serving in the industry, Dave Reed, is known for driving a hard bargain.

‘Joey will be one hundred per cent be getting a fee for his time on Love Island, though it won’t be a massive pay day,’ said an insider. ITV declined to comment on what Joey was getting paid for confidentiality reasons.

The insider added: ‘He could once command huge fees for appearances and television work but things have gone quiet for him over the last couple of years.

‘There are some lucrative social media deals to be had so his time on Love Island will massively boost his earning potential.

‘What Love Island will do is bring new, young audience to Joey. He has done pretty much every reality show going.’

Indeed he has. Starting out with TOWIE in 2011, he starred on the fly-on-the-wall soap for two years before landing a place on another ITV show, the diving competition, Splash!

Later that year he signed for I’m A Celeb where millions of viewers were stunned at his confession that he couldn’t tell the time, his stupidity endearing him to the British public.

Next up was Channel 4’s ski show, The Jump, then E4’s Celebs Go Dating, Celebrity Masterchef, Celebrity Ex on the Beach and in 2022, he took part in the Australian version of I’m A Celeb. In the same year he jetted out to the US to appear in American reality show, All Star Shore.

It's fair to say reality television has been financially kind to Joey over the years (pictured on I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! in 2013)

It’s fair to say reality television has been financially kind to Joey over the years (pictured on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! in 2013)

Just a fortnight ago he posted a picture of himself posing in a sky blue £200,000 Lamboughini Eras, unsurprisingly, looking rather pleased with himself

Just a fortnight ago he posted a picture of himself posing in a sky blue £200,000 Lamboughini Eras, unsurprisingly, looking rather pleased with himself

Most recently he moved to Dubai and spent some time in Los Angeles but he decided against relocating to either.

It’s fair to say reality television has been financially kind to Joey over the years. Just a fortnight ago he posted a picture of himself posing in a sky blue £200,000 Lamboughini Eras, unsurprisingly, looking rather pleased with himself.

Home is a sprawling mock Tudor mansion in Chigwell, Essex which is just a stone’s throw from Brentwood where TOWIE was filmed. Joey bought it back in 2015 for £1.5 million though it is thought to be worth double now.

The five-bedroom house boasts a swimming pool and a tennis court.

Not bad for a cheeky Essex chappy whose start in life was simply tragic.

His mother Tina had suffered depression and took her own life when Joey was just ten years old and his older sister Frankie – who also starred on TOWIE – was 13.

Joey and Frankie were then brought up by his older cousin Chloe Sims – another TOWIE stalwart.

He attended West Hatch High School in Chigwell which he left in 2006 with three GCSEs: a U in Drama, C in Art and a D in Design Technology. He once said that he ‘didn’t really know what GCSE stands for’.

Then along came TOWIE. He was a supporting member of the cast in the second series but was so popular that he was made a main player for the following season. 

Indeed, his catchphrase Reem became so popular that he launched his own hair care range, D’Reem.

The term fizzled out when TOWIE became less popular but if there is a word which will be at the front of Joey’s mind while he’s sunbathing in Majorca this summer, it surely will be Reem.

Because if he plays his cards right, Love Island could not only bulge his bank balance but ensure he finds Mrs Essex too.

And as for ITV… ‘Well, we hope he stays in until the end,’ says an ITV Love Island insider. ‘He has brought the viewers with him, he’s a dream islander.’

They can only hope it turns out well in reality.

LOVE ISLAND 2024: MEET THE CONTESTANTS

NAME: Mimii Ngulube

AGE: 24

FROM: Portsmouth

OCCUPATION: Mental Health Nurse

WHY LOVE ISLAND? The pool in Portsmouth is not giving. I’ve tried dating, speaking to people on social media and it just hasn’t been successful. Applying was a spontaneous thing, I didn’t expect to get here! 

WHAT WILL YOU BRING TO THE VILLA? My girls are my rocks and I’m theirs so I’ll be a good friend as well as going in there to find a man. I like dressing up so I’ll bring style, and I’d like to think I’m quite funny so I’ll make people laugh. Bringing honesty as well – I’m good at picking up on people’s personality traits and side-eyeing those who might be a liar.

 

NAME:  Patsy Field

AGE: 29

FROM: Orpington

OCCUPATION: Office Administrator

WHAT DO YOU WANT THE ISLANDERS TO KNOW? I’ve got something very special about me which is my disability, it’s a condition I was born with called Ebs Palsy. It doesn’t define who I am , but it makes me a little different, although I’ve learnt to get on with it and it’s never held me back. 

HOW WOULD FRIENDS/FAMILY DESCRIBE YOU? My friends would say that I’m the loudest person in the group, I’m the one who’s always up for doing a dare, the life and soul of the party. My family would say that I’m bossy and that it’s always my way or the highway, they’d say I rule the roost.

 

NAME:  Sean Stone

AGE: 24

FROM: Hertford

OCCUPATION: Sweet Salesman

WHY LOVE ISLAND? I’ve always been one for relationships and when you have found someone you want to be with it’s the best feeling. Now is the perfect time, the one thing that is missing is my soulmate. 

HOW WOULD FRIENDS/FAMILY DESCRIBE YOU? Very loving, caring and thoughtful. I’m the kind of guy that if you broke down on the motorway and needed your tyre changed, I’d be there at any time of night. 

NAME: Harriett Blackmore

AGE: 24

FROM: Brighton

OCCUPATION: Dancer & Personal Shopper

WHAT WILL YOU BRING TO THE VILLA? I’ll bring the entertainment for everyone in the Villa, whether that’s making the girls laugh or making the boys turn their heads, I’m sure that I’ll bring the drama. 

CLAIM T0 FAME? Being a bit of an IT girl in Brighton, I’ve done personal shopping for the rapper Arrdee and one of my best friends is Saffron Barker the YouTuber. 

NAME: Ayo Odukoya

AGE: 25

FROM: Canning Town

OCCUPATION: Model

WHAT WILL YOU BRING TO THE VILLA? I think I’d bring excitement and joy. I think people would have someone to come to and talk to and feel comfortable being around or to have a laugh with. I think I’m somebody everyone would take to.

WHY SHOULD SOMEBODY DATE YOU? I feel like the way I carry myself is very respectful and I think people take to that and once you show who you are to somebody you get it back tenfold. The way I am gives off a good enough energy for people to feel comfortable around me. 

NAME:  Samantha Kenny

AGE: 26

FROM: Liverpool

OCCUPATION: Makeup Artist

WHAT WILL YOU BRING TO THE VILLA? I think I will definitely bring some fire, I’m very opinionated and wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m really bubbly too so I’ll definitely have a laugh as well as bringing some scouse glamour.WHY ARE YOU SINGLE? I don’t get out enough, I work weekends and tend to not go out in Liverpool anymore. If I want a night out I go down to London as I love the boys down south. Tall, dark and cockney is my type.

NAME:  Munveer Jabbal

AGE: 30

FROM: Surbiton, Surrey

OCCUPATION: Recruitment Manager

WHY ARE YOU SINGLE? I haven’t found the right girl, I’m quite picky and have high standards. Dating in London is horrible. You don’t know who’s single… but now you’re putting me in a place where everyone’s single so there’s no issues around that. CLAIM T0 FAME? I’m mates with Spencer Morgan (Piers Morgan’s son). We met when I moved to Fulham in 2018.

NAME:  Nicole Samuel

AGE: 24

FROM: Aberdare, Wales

OCCUPATION: Accounts Manager

WHY ARE YOU SINGLE? I’ve been enjoying single life and the attention of different boys, it’s fun. I’ve enjoyed being able to go on holiday with the girls and not having to worry about someone back home. All the girls are there texting in their room and I’m out till 4 in the morning living my best life.

WHAT IS SOMETHING NOT MANY PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT YOU? I became a world champion dancer in 2011, not many people know that. I was a professional street dancer. 

NAME:  Ronnie Vint

AGE: 27

FROM: South East London

OCCUPATION: Semi Professional Footballer

WHAT’S YOUR TYPE ON PAPER? I want someone that’s family orientated, caring and career minded. Lookwise, I like blondes with nice boobs but am partial to a brunette too.

CLAIM T0 FAME? Bradley Dack is my best friend and he and Olivia are a big part of my life. I call Olivia my big little sister, she always looks out for me.

NAME: Jess White

AGE: 25

FROM: Stockport

OCCUPATION: Retail Manager

WHY ARE YOU SINGLE? I don’t underestimate the fact that I’m hard work. I know what I want and I’m not easily pleased. When you’re a loud, outgoing woman, sometimes it can intimidate men – men don’t always want that.

WHAT’S YOUR TYPE ON PAPER? I love a set of white Turkey teeth but a good set of Turkey teeth. I would say personality traits, you have to be family orientated. You have to be tall, you can’t be shorter than me, I can’t be having to question whether I can wear heels around you and what height of heels I can wear. If you’re vertically challenged, it’s not for me.

NAME: Ciaran Davies

AGE: 21

FROM: Pencoed, South Wales

OCCUPATION: Surveyor

WHAT’S YOUR TYPE ON PAPER? Obviously looks but humour is a big thing for me, I’m a bit of a wind up so I want a girl who can give it back. Loyalty is another one for me, I think that’s the most important thing to look for in a relationship.

CLAIM T0 FAME? When I was in Malia on a boys holiday I pretended to be Liam Reardon from series 7 to get into a club because they wouldn’t let us in. It worked and we ended up getting a private booth and free drinks all night.

NAME: Uma Jammeh

AGE: 23

FROM: Islington, north London

OCCUPATION: VIP host / model

WHY ARE YOU SINGLE? I feel like I’ve been so unlucky in love! It’s all been underwhelming so far. I don’t know what the reason is, I think it’s them, as it can’t be me!

CLAIM TO FAME? I was born in a closet in the hospital! There were no rooms left, my poor Mum!

NAME: Joey Essex

AGE: 33

FROM: Chigwell, Essex

OCCUPATION: Reality star

CLAIM TO FAME? The Only Way Is Essex 

FAMOUS EXES: Joey was in a relationship with fellow TOWIE star Sam Faiers from 2011 to 2014 with the pair getting engaged before they split. He has also been spotted locking lips with former Love Island stars Ellie Brown and Maura Higgins. He also dated his Dancing On Ice pro partner Vanessa Bauer.  

NAME: Omar Nyame

AGE: 25

FROM: Croydon, London

OCCUPATION: PE Teacher

WHY ARE YOU SINGLE?  People always assume that I’m a player and a flirt but really and truly that’s not me.

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