Who is Joey Essex, Love Island’s first celebrity bombshell?

Riyah Collins,BBC Newsbeat

ITV Joey Essex in a press shot for his Love Island reveal. Joey is a 33-year-old man with cropped brown hair, blue eyes and a muscular build. He's pictured shirtless with his arms folded across his midriff. He smiles at the camera and is photographed against a wooden fence painted yellow.ITV

Joey Essex has previously appeared on multiple reality and dating TV shows

Joey Essex has become the first celebrity to enter the Love Island villa on the ITV reality dating show.

In a cliffhanger during Monday’s first episode, the 33-year-old was introduced as the series’ first bombshell.

Fans were divided by the revelation – some called it iconic while others argued the dating show should be for “normal people” and not celebs.

But in an interview with The Sun newspaper, Joey claimed he had applied of his own accord and hadn’t been approached by the show’s producers.

Several major betting firms quickly backed him to win the series, which will broadcast over the next eight weeks.

Who is Joey Essex?

Joey first made a name for himself in 2011 when he appeared on The Only Way is Essex (TOWIE).

He became known for his catchphrase “reem” – meaning “good” or “cool” – and for his sometimes surprising lack of general knowledge.

Since then, he’s appeared on a number of reality shows including Dancing on Ice, Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins and I’m A Celeb.

Love Island isn’t his first reality dating show – he’s previously appeared on Celebrity Ex on the Beach, Celebs Go Dating and its spin-off Celebs Go Dating: The Mansion.

In 2021, he made a documentary for the BBC exploring grief and how he was affected by the death of his mum, who took her own life when he was 10.

When it comes to romance, Joey’s been rumoured to have had some high-profile relationships including with Rita Ora and former Love Islander Maura Higgins.

He’s also been engaged twice before to TOWIE cast mate Sam Faiers but told The Sun he’s “extremely single” at the moment.

ITV/ Shutterstock Joey Essex entering the Love Island villa. Joey is pictured from the back as he walks through a multi-coloured heart-shaped arch. He wears a white short-sleeved shirt and is pictured outside the villa at night, lit by festoon lighting. ITV/ Shutterstock

Joey claims he applied to be on Love Island and wasn’t approached by the show’s producers

Walking into the Mallorca villa, Joey said he was “king of Essex” and “ready to find [his] queen”.

“This isn’t my first rodeo,” he said. “Boys you better watch out – I’m coming for your girls.”

Monday’s Love Island ep launched the eleventh series of the reality show following an All Stars edition earlier this year which saw previous contestants return for a second shot at love.

Viewing figures have been dropping since the series’ heyday in 2017 to 2019 and the finale drew in just over 1 million viewers, down from a peak of more than 6 million in 2019.

But ITV says Monday’s opener provided the show’s best ratings in two years with about 2 million people tuning in – up from 1.3 million in 2023.

A social media ban was brought back for this series, meaning the islanders’ friends and family will not be able to post on their behalf while they’re in the villa.

BBC Newsbeat understands the rules are the same for Joey, who already has 1.8 million followers on Instagram and almost 3 million on X, and that his socials have been paused.

‘Iconic’ bombshell?

Former islanders have been reacting to the announcement, including Kai Fagan, the winner of last year’s winter edition, who called it “madness”.

“Essex, First Dates, Celebs Go Dating, I’m a Celeb and now Love Island. This man has completed reality TV,” said Kai, who recently announced his engagement to Sanam Harrinanan, who he was coupled up with on his series.

Joshua Ritchie, who appeared on the show in 2015 and returned for All Stars earlier this year, said the lads in the villa had “zero chance” against Joey and “may as well call it a day”.

Series eight islander Tasha Ghouri seemed in favour though, calling the bombshell announcement “iconic”.

Joey’s arrival wasn’t the only twist of the new series with producers also mixing up how couples were matched for the first time.

Rather than choosing who they found the most attractive, the contestants ranked each other based on who was the most boyfriend/ girlfriend material.

They were then matched with the boy or girl who were placed in the same position as them.

The episode was also broadcast on ITV1 in a first for the main summer edition of the show.

However, for its second episode on Tuesday, it will return to ITV2 and ITVX while ITV1 hosts a leadership debate between Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

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