As the saying goes, the only certainties in life are death, taxes, and Love Island, the latter now back for its second winter instalment (the first took place in 2020 and, as we now know, was a harbinger of untold doom). As of Monday, eleven sexy and hot singles were once again locked in a luxury villa in South Africa and forced to endure what appear to be gale force winds, for the chance of winning £50,000 and, secondarily, “finding love”.
This season of the show features two major changes: the first is the transition to the show’s new and rightful host, charisma machine Maya Jama, and the second is its ban on contestants having active social media accounts while the show airs. This is a move which has been brought in to stop the usual trolling aimed at participants and the loved ones in whose hands they leave their accounts while they’re on TV, and while I’m sure it won’t stop the unpleasantness on social media entirely (grow up and get a group chat, for Christ’s sake), it does seem to be a net positive move.
What it does mean, however, is that rather than being full of crap screengrabs and island emojis (“please vote for our girl to stay in!!!!”) the contestants’ Instagram pages are all but blank canvases (canvii?), featuring little but the type of heavily posed grid photos that make people look both gorgeous and lobotomised (this is a compliment).
But do these fairly empty pages hold any secrets within? Are there any clues as to characteristics that may help these Islanders emerge victorious? I scoured the 11 OG contestants’ grids to find out.
Tanya Manhenga, 22
One of the standout contestants for me so far is biomedical student and part-time influencer Tanya, not only because she is beautiful but because of her incredibly funny description of the sex position she calls “backshots.” While Tanya’s social media presence is clearly ready for her inevitable one million followers and an influencing career, however, that is not what we are judging here: What we are looking for are clues as to whether she has what it takes to win.
The most noticeable thing on Tanya’s page is that Love Island fans love a fashion girlie – Molly-Mae is the most successful Islander ever, after all – and Tanya certainly fits that bill, with a number of cute little outfits on her grid. If she can keep them up in the villa, alongside the main character energy she’s already shown, she’ll probably go far.
Tanyel Revan, 26
Tanyel’s social media presence is pretty stripped back, with lots of captions like “Sunset state of mind” which is cute but doesn’t really tell me much. She does have the nicest hair of anyone who has ever set foot on Love Island (Shannon Singh it is time to pass on your crown), however, which alone basically guarantees my vote.
Will Young, 23
TikTok farmer Will is probably the best known of this year’s Islanders, but unfortunately his massive social media reach will probably hinder him – LI viewers like an underdog. What they also enjoy, however, is funny guys, so Will is in with a shout, though without a) a girl to couple up with, and b) a sheep as a prop, it’s not yet clear how long he’ll manage to stay sadly.
Lana Jenkins, 25
The third photo on MUA Lana’s Instagram grid tells me all I need to know. In the photo, she is drinking a mimosa and is wearing the patented hun topknot (I would be surprised if this image was not captured at a bottomless brunch), which suggests that while we have not seen a huge amount of her just yet, she is probably going to give hun Instagram a field day, potentially even surpassing winter Love Island’s previous highest height, the patented Shaughna Phillips post-Casa Amor “congrats hun” (as hun lore has it, Katy Perry once commented “hun” on @loveofhuns’ Instagram post of this moment). This, paired with her already very cute coupling with Ron, seems to shore her up for a possible win.
Ron Hall, 25
Ron only has a few posts on his Instagram grid, but what is noticeable about all of them is that they mostly genuinely seem to show him having fun with his mates rather than posing – just a guy, living in the moment! This sort of makes me think he’s not necessarily in it for the post-show influencer pipeline, and because viewers can generally sense that type of thing a mile off, he’s the type of “authentic” presence they tend to like. If he and Lana manage to go the distance I think the win is probably theirs to lose, though it’s very early doors.
Olivia Hawkins, 27
Liv’s New Year’s Eve post is captioned: “Here’s to 2023… and the reality that I was actually sat on the sofa eating Camembert last night.” This sense of humour will do well for her in the villa – putting her in the lineage of other sexy agents of chaos (don’t ask me why but she does just have that vibe doesn’t she?) such as Maura, Ekin-Su, and of course, another famed Olivia – and as such, it’s likely she’ll be a fan favourite if not quite a winner.
Shaq Muhammad, 24
The big takeaway from Shaq’s Instagram is that: he is a sincere little sweetie!!!!! He’s posting holiday dumps and grad photos (“Too many people to thank for this achievement but by Gods grace I done it! Class of 2020”) like a boyfriend mums everywhere would love. If he and Tanya manage to hang on til the end – it tends to be a couple formed early that takes the win – they’re definitely in the running.
Kai Fagan, 24
Kai has a photo on his Instagram at Slug and Lettuce Cheshire which ultimately makes me want to go on a night out with him starting with 3 for £15 sharing plates at All Bar One and then onto Vodka Revs. Not sure what bearing this has on him winning the show but it does mean he’s a laugh.
Anna-May Robey, 20
Anna-May’s grid is populated by a number of photos where she dressed up with her mates, which suggests that she will be the girls’ girl of this year’s villa, which is a very powerful position to occupy in terms of the fandom – also largely made up of girls’ girls. While she’s probably missed the boat in terms of being in an early couple that captures hearts and minds, if she can stick around for the long haul, she’s probably got a decent chance of doing well. And if not she’ll make a killing in hair extension sponsorships, so win/win.
Tom Clare, 23
So far this batch of contestants seem very game, and footballer Tom is my early favourite due to the shagger energy he exuded when he described Tanya as “fucking sick” at snogging. His social media presence is mostly fairly boring gym shots, though there is a “get the badge in” joke in one of them, so I was right to suspect him of sumptuous banter.
Haris Namani, 21
Boxer Haris’ grid is giving big “catch flights not feelings” male Islander vibes, which means he’s well prepped for life post-villa, but it sadly doesn’t say much for his potential for good craic, though the clip of him fastening Olivia’s dress in a bow is so far the funniest bit of the season (tied with Shaq doing the orgasm dare in Tuesday night’s challenge) – so it just shows you can’t judge a book by its cover.