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How do reality TV shows care for their stars?


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L-R: Mike Thalassitis, Sarah Goodhart, Jonny Mitchell

Today’s reality TV gives its stars so much instant influence that you don’t even have to wait until the next morning to be an overnight success.

Millions of social media followers and lucrative brand deals await the stars of shows like Love Island and The Only Way is Essex.

But the death of 2017 contestant Mike Thalassitis has sparked debate over whether there is enough support for the people who go from ordinary to celebrity in a matter of hours.

A number of reality stars have spoken out in the wake of his death, including TOWIE’s Mario Falcone, who said “Love Island have got to open their eyes” and former contestant Zara Holland, who added the show left her anxious and depressed two years on.

ITV, which broadcasts Love Island, has promised to provide more support in the wake of Thalassitis’s death.

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Mike Thalassitis was found dead in a park in north London on Saturday

In a statement, the broadcaster said it would “extend support processes to offer therapy to all Islanders and not only those that reach out to us.

“We will be delivering bespoke training to all future Islanders to include social media and financial management.”

Former contestant Olivia Attwood, who dated Thalassitis on the show, has defended Love Island, suggesting there were several factors in his death and not just the pressures of fame.

“People are angry and they want someone to blame,” she told The Sun.

“Mike was in turmoil and a lot of his problems weren’t to do with Love Island at all.”

But Jonny Mitchell, who appeared on the show alongside Thalassitis, is one contestant who says the lack of aftercare is a problem.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live breakfast, he said: “I’m not here to discredit the show but one of my friends has died so I’m here to tell the absolute truth.

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Jonny Mitchell says he did not receive enough after care when he left Love Island

“As far as aftercare goes.. when I came off the show I was trolled ridiculous amounts, as a lot of people were, but I had a particularly bad time of it.

“The only time I ever had a call off that show offering any kind of counselling or help was yesterday [the day after Thalassitis’s death].

“Obviously after Mike died and they’ve said ‘If you need to talk to anyone…’ and to be honest I found it almost quite laughable.

“I just thought: ‘How am I getting this phone call now? This is too little too late.'”

‘A thorough process’

However, a contestant on last year’s Love Island, Adam Collard, praised the team behind the show, saying they “really have your best interests at heart”.

The 23-year-old says that before appearing, he had a psychiatric assessment and spoke to a doctor, describing it as a “thorough process”.

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Adam Collard says he was looked after by Love Island

“I know they obviously want to make good TV but the main priority is always looking after you,” he tells BBC News.

“When I left the villa the chaperone I lived with the week before I went in came to see me and we became good friends.

“Even when I broke up with my girlfriend, who I met on the show, I think I got a text or phone call from every single one of [the Love Island] team, including the runners and producers.”

The former personal trainer from Newcastle received a lot of hate on social media whilst appearing on the ITV2 show, as his late entry caused friction between existing couples, and he also faced accusations of gaslighting.

However, Collard says he was made aware by producers in advance of how he was going to be portrayed.

At the point he entered the villa, the other islanders were coupled up, and Collard was told it would essentially be his job to shake up the existing romances.

“I knew from day one that everyone was going to have their back up with me,” he explains.

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Adam says having ex-girlfriend Zara McDermott around during personal appearances helped him

“They [the producers] sat me down and said ‘how are you with pressure, because you are not going to look the best in the situation you’re going into, but if you can handle it, it will be a very good storyline for you'”.

When he left the villa, he was then informed of the public reaction to him by the press team, so he would be “prepared” for every possible situation.

When it came to life outside the villa, Adam followed a route similar to Thalassitis, doing several personal appearances (PAs) at night clubs across the UK, on what is a well-trodden path for attractive male reality contestants.

“PAs are very heavy, but at the same time I was asked on multiple occasions [by my management] how much I could do per week.

“Everything was presented as a job offer and nothing was forced on me really.”

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Sarah Goodhart appeared in series 14 of Geordie Shore

Love Island isn’t the only reality show to have faced scrutiny for the treatment of cast members.

Sarah Goodhart, 24, was on series 14 of Geordie Shore and says she had prepared herself for a life of fame but instead was plunged into debt and depression after being dropped from the MTV show.

She told Radio 1 Newsbeat that she felt “trapped” on the show and her requests for help were overlooked.

“I just felt very neglected. I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone about it because the schedule was so tight there was no time.

“I brought up a few times that I needed to speak to someone because I was losing my head a little bit but I was very rarely granted that chance.”

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Sophie Kasaei is represented by Joanna Leeson

Joanna Leeson, whose all-female talent agency represents Geordie Shore’s Sophie Kasaei and Love Island’s Kady McDermott, says she prioritises her clients’ mental health and financial situations to make sure they don’t feel stressed or overwhelmed.

Leeson says she has always been happy with the way Kasaei has been treated by Geordie Shore, and says when things get a bit hectic it’s something they “are able to identify” to ensure “there’s not too much pressure on the client”.

“We check in with the girls daily and as an agency we have regular contact with the TV production companies – when Sophie is filming Geordie Shore we speak to them a handful of times a day,” Leeson says.

“If we are ever concerned about our girls we reach out to check if everything’s OK.”

In light of Love Island’s promise to help its contestants with financial advice, Joanna says this is something her agency already does.

“When we take on every girl, we sit down and go through everything they need to know – to live, to pay their bills and we make sure as agents that we actively go out and achieve our targets to make sure they don’t have any financial stress.”

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Contestants like Sam Bird and Jack Fincham did PAs after the show ended

Collard says that, while he felt he had a “realistic understanding” of the pressures involved, the sudden fame still takes its toll.

“[The tours] are a lot of pressure and it’s quite a lonely time too,” he says.

“You’re jumping from city to city and 3,000 people are watching you and then you’re back to your hotel room by yourself.”

Collard adds that having that lifestyle can be difficult, but “doesn’t think anyone’s to blame” for the burnout reality stars can feel.

He adds that “there is a stereotype with young men especially, who feel like they can’t speak to anyone”.

“The girls [from Love Island] are very supportive of one another, they comment on each other’s pictures on Instagram and big each other up – it’s quite nice.

“But you rarely see the boys do that, it’s like you’ve almost got too much pride to speak out because you think ‘oh well I shouldn’t be feeling like this, I’ve got all this fame and money, why should I feel down?'”


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