Love Island’s Irish contestants: Maura the villain, Yewande the heroine
One is half of the island’s cutest couple, the other is a ‘homewrecker’ – and reality-television gold
It’s 9pm. You’re out for a few pints with pals when suddenly you are overcome with worry: you won’t be home in time. You fire off a text with the urgency of a wartime telegram. “Can you tape Love Island, please?”
Yes, it’s the time of year when the reality show takes over your life. The fifth series, which kicked off on Virgin Two and ITV2 two weeks ago, has already burrowed its way into public consciousness: viewers chat about contestants as though they were lifelong acquaintances.
The concept is simple. A group of beautiful twentysomethings are marooned in a Majorcan villa, where their job is to couple up. Some of the partnerships are romantic, others purely strategic. Contestants are eliminated each week; new islanders are regularly parachuted in to create drama and ruffle feathers. At the end of the series the public vote for their favourite couple, who walk away with £50,000.
For Maura it was love at first sight. Rather than play it cool, she opted to lay her cards on the table and come right out with the fact that Tommy gave her ‘fanny flutters’
This season is of particular interest to viewers here, as shimmering in the sea of Callums and Antons are two young Irishwomen, Yewande Biala and Maura Higgins. They aren’t the first Irish people to take part. Two Dubliners, Rob Lipsett and Shannen Reilly McGrath, appeared on the show in 2017, but neither lasted a wet day, and they were promptly dismissed. Yewande and Maura have already made a lasting impression, however.
Yewande has been a fixture on the island since day one. The 23-year-old from Enfield, Co Meath, works for a pharmaceutical company. “I wouldn’t say I’m Ireland’s most glamorous scientist, but I’m up there,” she joked on the season opener. On that first episode Yewande was picked last – she was paired with a Liverpudlian firefighter named Michael – which led to accusations of racism and colourism; one former contestant, Marcel Somerville, from the third season, tweeted: “Black guy, black girl and mixed race guy all left unpicked. Mad!!!”
For the first week Yewande received little to no screen time, prompting viewers to mock up missing posters and send tweets asking where she was. Fortunately the producers listened. Yewande has at last been given a share of the limelight – and emerged as one of the most likable characters in the villa. From spitballing about her fear of “small holes” over breakfast to clumsily knocking over a glass while flirting with a potential paramour, she is the closest thing the show has to a wholesome romcom heroine.
Yewande is currently loved up with Danny, a River Island model (a Love Island profession if ever there were one). On Friday night their fellow islanders whooped and cheered as they shared a little kiss. She said afterwards it was her first for a while, as she spends most of her time at work or in the library. Cue millions of hearts melting.
This year’s second Irish contestant entered the villa on Wednesday. “Maura Higgins from Longford” sounds like the sort of contestant Marty Whelan would pick from the tombola on Winning Streak. So it makes sense that the Ballymahon model has gone into the show like a Winning Streak competitor playing on an elderly relative’s behalf, with the promise of a share of the winnings. She is ruthless, calculating and determined to spin that wheel, baby.
Seemingly threatened by Maura’s presence, the other women jeered and did their utmost to spoil her dates. Not since Brexit had the Irish caused this much trouble for the Brits
Upon strutting into the villa Maura was given the opportunity to choose three islanders to date. She made a beeline for Tommy, younger brother of the former world heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury. For Maura it was love at first sight. Rather than play it cool, she opted to lay her cards on the table and come right out with the fact that he gave her “fanny flutters”.
She later confided in a fellow islander that she wished she could wrap her legs around his head. Tommy was immediately interested. The only problem? He was already romantically involved with a contestant named Molly-Mae.
The other women looked on from the balcony as Maura went on two more dates. Seemingly threatened by her presence, they jeered and did their utmost to spoil her dates. Not since Brexit had the Irish caused this much trouble for the Brits. She responded by suggestively feeding a banana to a male contestant. Her logic: If they’re going to talk, why not give them something to talk about?
Afterwards she did all she could to woo Tommy. From trying to kiss him at bedtime to sucking on an ice lolly while making eyes at him, she left no stone unturned. In the end, however, Tommy opted to stay with Molly-Mae. Not to worry, though: Maura is going on a date with a new islander tonight.
In just a few days the Longford woman has won praise for injecting some much-needed drama into the show and cemented her Marmite status. You might find some of her tactics off-putting, but you can’t help but have begrudging respect for someone who comes right out and asks “Do you want to share a bed with me?” within moments of meeting someone. A little brazen? Yes. Reality-television gold? Most definitely.
Love Island is a fickle game that can change in the blink of an eye. So far, however, things look promising for the Irish contestants. Yewande is sitting pretty as one half of the island’s cutest couple. Maura is gleefully embracing her role as resident villain. Bring on the next six weeks.