Posh people are good at a lot of things – hoarding generational wealth, skiing – but there’s also an awful lot they aren’t good at, Love Island being one prime example.
When it comes to characters and plot arcs, Love Island is as reliable as an Elizabethan revenge tragedy. There’s always the woman scorned, peeling off tear-soaked lashes after a Casa Amor recoupling, or the Machiavellian mischief-maker, telling the Beach Hut cam he has “no regrets” after snogging someone else’s girl.
You can also count on there being at least one person from the upper-middle classes who will inevitably struggle to find love in the villa. But why is this the case every year? Why are posh people consistently so bad at Love Island?
Danielle Pyne / Screenshot: BritBox
Posh Islanders: Danielle Pyne (lasted 14 days), Chris Baxter (three days)
The precedent for posh people performing poorly on Love Island was set during the show’s first season in 2015. The first ever villa saw two poshos - Danielle and Chris - walk through its doors, only for them to make their exit within days of arrival.
Chris’ demeanour ruffled feathers from the word go. “I’m telling you now, I won’t get on with him. I don't think he’ll get on with anyone here,” islander Luis Morrison asserted. Danielle was quick to identify Luis’ issue with Chris: “It’s probably because he’s posh.”
Love Island started as it meant to go on: with Danielle and Chris paired up on day 11, they were dumped together by day 14.
Dan Lukakis / Screenshot: BritBox
Posh Islanders: Tina Stinnes (lasted 20 days), Dan Lukakis (15 days), Rachel Fenton (eight days)
Season two welcomed three posh islanders: student Tina Stinnes, model Dan Lukakis and nurse Rachel Fenton. If you’re struggling to remember these three, there could be a class-based reason.
“Audiences remember contestants who’ve demonstrated heightened emotional performances – think Anna Vakili losing her cool with Jordan Hames,” says Dr Martin. “These hyper-emotional performances sit outside of dominant middle class sensibilities, which audiences tend to associate with restraint and politeness – undeniably more forgettable attributes.”
Camilla Thurlow / Screenshot: BritBox
Posh Islanders: Camilla Thurlow (52 days), Montana Rose Brown (50 days)
Every theory has its anomalies. Season three of Love Island is unusual in that both of the villa’s resident posh people were well-liked and successful during their respective stints on the show.
As the public takes a liking to one lucky posho once in a blue moon (The Lady Di Effect), Camilla captured the nation’s hearts and emerged as the People’s Princess of Love Island 2017, coming in second place.
“Camilla, with her social awkwardness and dating mishaps, became an underdog – who the British public loved to root for,” says Dr Martin.
Eyal Booker / Screenshot: BritBox
Posh Islanders: Eyal Booker (last 25 days), Charlie Brake (17 days), Frankie Foster (11 days), Charlie Fredrick (five days)
By Love Island standards, season four had a lot of posh contestants: secret millionaire Charlie Brake, rugby boy Frankie Foster and future Made in Chelsea star Charlie Frederick. But poshest of them all was Eyal Booker, a man who gave off the exact same vibe as a “totally waved” Leeds Uni student at an afters.
Eyal was dumped by Megan Barton-Hanson because “things were missing” in their relationship. While Eyal and Megan struggled to put their respective fingers on what exactly made them incompatible, could it have been a difference in social class?
Ryan thinks this is a distinct possibility: “Perhaps there is a lack of applicants from the ‘upper’ social class for this kind of show, meaning there are less contestants from those circles. This could mean that they struggle to find common ground and connection with people.”
Arabella Chi / Screenshot: BritBox
Posh Islanders: Stevie Bradley (lasted four days), Arabella Chi (seven days)
Season five saw two posh people make it into the villa. Stevie was a bombshell who essentially entered Casa Amor, kissed Lucie, then got dumped after failing to couple up with any of the OG girls.
Arabella lasted a touch longer and succeeded in stealing Danny from Yewande - but public opinion was quick to harden against her. While it’s possible for a girl to “steal” a man and go on to win over the public (see: Kaz and Josh, Molly and Callum), it seems Arabella struggled partly due to her poshness – and her whiteness.
“With Arabella, the producers definitely capitalised on class and race-based tensions within the group, which were heightened when Arabella ‘coupled up’ with Danny and ‘sent home’ Yewande,” says Dr Martin. “Arabella’s whiteness and her social class fuelled the sense of injustice felt by other contestants – and the audience – when Yewande had to leave.”
Ollie Williams / Screenshot: BritBox
Posh Islanders: Ollie Williams (four days)
Season six’s token posho was Ollie Williams. In his VT he announced: “I’m Ollie, I’m 23 and I’m heir to Lanhydrock estate in Cornwall. When my dad dies I’m going to be a Lord. My next door neighbours are famously Prince Charles and Camilla. I definitely would describe myself as wealthy, but don’t like to brag about it.” He added that his dream girl would own a “grouse moor”, prompting a producer to ask, “Sorry, what?”
Dr Martin notes that Ollie’s background might have alienated viewers and fellow contestants. “Because society tends to associate working class identities with authenticity, and because middle class and upper-middle class contestants are in the minority in Love Island, their class differences are heightened,” she says. “This can make them seem less relatable, even to audiences who are themselves middle class.”
Then came the photos of Ollie posing next to dead big game animals (he later denied being a big game hunter), prompting nearly 600 Ofcom complaints and 40,000 signatures on a petition calling for his removal from the villa. Shortly thereafter, on day 4, Ollie dramatically left the villa after confessing his undying love for his ex.
Hugo Hammond / Image: ITV
Posh Islanders: Hugo Hammond (still in the villa), Sharon Gaffka (lasted 19 days), Chuggs Wallis (two days), Georgia Townend (two days)
Season seven is potentially the most middle class series yet, with four posh Islanders gracing the villa this year. Poshest of the lot has to be Chuggs, based purely on the fact he entered the villa using a silly nickname.
Chuggs’ fate was similar to Stevie’s in season five - both were dumped after failing to win over the heart of a villa girl - and it seems Hugo might soon befall a similar fate after failing to truly connect with any Casa Amor girls (I don’t buy him and Amy).
Ultimately, Love Island is a game show with a £50,000 cash prize and millions more to be made via sponcon and brand deals. For some, the show provides the opportunity to win a truly life-changing amount of money. But what’s £50,000 to a contestant with a trust fund?
“There’s definitely an element of ‘who is deserving’ when the British public vote for the winners,” says Dr Martin. “I think it goes beyond just the 50k and also speaks to the perceived lack of options for working class success in contemporary Britain, after a decade of austerity and post-pandemic. Becoming an influencer or getting a major clothes deal can be life changing for a young working class person from a small town, whereas the middle classes have always had access to the education and resources which would allow them to succeed in a range of professions.”
Of course, individual gains aren’t enough to redress the social inequality that is rife in the UK, and Love Island isn’t exactly socialist praxis. Still: seeing beauticians and pen salesmen win life-changing amounts of money – and find love – will always make great, heart-warming telly.