It’s somewhere around episode seven that reality stars begin to lose the plot. In the Big Brother house, someone’s used another contestant’s stock cube and they’re crying about it over a cigarette. It’s a few degrees too cold but instead of putting on a jumper, they’re in the diary room saying they want to go home. Meanwhile, on Love Island, after hearing the villa’s new entrant say they “want to get to know everyone equally”, an Islander is seductively eating a popsicle on their partner’s knee.
Pre-corona, one might have laughed at these people – thought of them as “characters” picked by producers because of their tendency to exaggerate and start fights. A few days into quarantine and you have probably realised: these people aren’t mad, staying inside is mad.
Before you start counting your bathroom tiles, we asked reality stars what they learnt about themselves while stuck inside. Maybe it'll make you feel better knowing they learnt something along the way.
Josie Gibson, Big Brother (2010)
“When you are kept inside for long periods, you go back to being a child again. I fell in love very quickly, I got angered by things that wouldn’t usually annoy me, I even started sucking my thumb again! Things wind you up so much more when you can’t leave. For instance, someone might use the plate you laid out for lunch and it becomes the biggest deal when normally you wouldn’t even notice. I always tried to be upfront with people when something was upsetting me, otherwise, I would explode. It’s different in quarantine now, it’s just me and a two-year-old. So right now, I would kill for some people to interact with! When we were allowed back out into the real world, I didn’t like it at first. I think it’s because you start to become a bit institutionalised. The first night, I left my hotel room and went for a walk at about half three in the morning. It was really daunting but I just needed to prove to myself that I was free. You can become quite attached to the safety of staying inside.”
Dr Alex, Love Island, (2018)
“If you are quarantined now, you can still read books, play instruments, watch TV etc, but on Love Island we didn’t have access to any of that. In some ways, it was good, because we had to get more creative with ways to entertain ourselves. We ended up making a fake football with paper and duct tape and we had entire matches with it. On Love Island, it was especially hard to keep a structure because the producers wouldn’t tell us the time and there were no clocks. Exercise helped. So did making sure to get three meals a day. The main thing I missed was going to the pub with my mates for a pint, and my car actually. I developed some weird habits while on the show, I made so much tea and coffee. I’m talking every half an hour. I didn’t even want one, I just needed something to do so I would just sit around drinking coffee and eating biscuits. Because I’m a doctor, I’m not quarantined at the minute. I am very proud of the work the NHS is doing. We trained as healthcare professionals because we wanted to help people and I am able to do that more now than ever before.”
Anthea Turner, Celebrity Big Brother (2001) and Celebs In Solitary (2018)
“There are two things you need to focus on when you’re in a confined space for a long period of time. The first is perspective and the second is structure. It’s difficult when you have to stay in the same place with your family, we all know what it’s like at Christmas, you end up driving each other up the wall. So accept early on that you’re going to annoy each other and focus on communicating how you’re feeling as clearly as possible. On Big Brother, someone would drop a towel or use the wrong tea bag and we’d be arguing for hours. Ask yourself: why is this annoying me so much? Remember, this is a short term thing. We’ve not been bombed out of our houses. We’re not at war. This will end. On Celebs in Solitary I made sure to keep a structure, I would shower, put lipstick on, I would always eat food at the table. I spent a lot of time doing the jigsaw I brought in as a luxury item, also crocheting. I think it helps to have a goal, my aim at the minute is to focus on exercise and eating properly. One thing you learn when you’re isolated is that humans are a lot more adaptable than you think. I thought I would go mad without toiletries, a phone, but it didn’t bother me. We underestimate ourselves and our capacity to cope.”
Georgia Harrison, Love Island (2017), Ex on the Beach (2020)
“When I got anxious on these shows, I would meditate for long periods of time. I’ve had proper moments of clarity where I’ve come out of it feeling pure happiness, sometimes crying. For the lockdown, I’ve come back to my mum’s house and she’s already driving me insane. I was unpacking my suitcase and she was like, ‘Look at all this mess!’ I just put my headphones in, loaded up a meditation track and went and sat in another room. I normally put on about a stone every time I go on reality TV. You’re so bored, you just end up snacking on all the chocolate and crisps they give you. And also making food in the kitchen is also always a good place to flirt with guys, so you’re in there more than you usually would be. At the minute, I am feeling OK about the quarantine. I get such bad FOMO (fear of missing out) and now I can relax without worrying I am missing out on anything. I go to so many events and mum is always like, ‘You’re burning a candle down at both ends.’ I’m taking a big, deep breath.”
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies