I’ve watched Love Island on and off for years, but I’ve never had a strong opinion on the final: who wins, who loses, who might finally steal the £50k prize money for themselves. But then again, I’d never met this year’s undeniable Most Valuable Player (MVP), Ekin-Su.
I say “met”; I think anyone who watched even half of this eighth season would have a fangirl meltdown were they to find themselves in the physical presence of the show’s self-declared “Turkish delight”. As many before me have observed on Twitter, Ekin-Su is the moment. She is that girl. She is the stiletto-boosted embodiment of Main Character Syndrome. For me, it’s no contest: of course this glorious woman won the final.
And not just the £50k, shared with buff partner Davide Sanclimenti – she must now also win brand deals, entertainment contracts; perhaps even a Pride of Britain award for services to Wednesday night LOLs.
During the first few days of her time on Love Island, I observed that Ekin-Su seemed little too slick for a show famously dominated by “real people” and idle chat. “It’s like a presenter has wandered on to set and started chatting up the lads,” I pondered on Twitter, confounded by her clearly delivered full sentences and no-filter flirting style, on a show where one of the contestants once wondered aloud if Brexit meant we “wouldn’t have any trees” (a show on which this season’s arguable oratorical highlight was Andrew’s immortal line, “I licked her t*t or whatever”).
But soon Ekin-Su’s clear-cut, “Do you fancy me or what?” manner became an asset to the show’s drama. This woman somehow instinctively knows what a jaded eighth-season audience craved from their favourite chaotic dating show – and boy has she delivered.
Crawling all fours onto the terrace to kiss Scottish bombshell Jay; challenging modelesque newcomer Natalia to a pancake cook-off, then showing up in top-to-toe black and massive sunglasses, flanked by two “bodyguards”; thinly veiled euphemisms about craving “long, creamy” cannelloni.
She stormed off countless times in an immaculate body-con dress, a tornado of Bambi lashes and coiffed caramel hair, despite having nowhere to go but across the villa gardens. A former soap star, Ekin brought us Dynasty vibes, she brought us Footballers’ Wives vibes, and yes, occasionally even a touch of Crossroads.
The women on the show didn’t immediately warm to Ekin-Su. Indeed, she quickly declared that she “wasn’t here for seasonal girlfriends” – she was here to find the love of her life. But as relationships and drama unfolded over the show’s eight weeks, she took on a mother hen role, often assembling the girls around her for a morning cuddle and debrief, and delivering more than one pep talk to a crushed Tasha, Danica and Coco.
Even after being proclaimed “an actress, a liar!” in one of the most memorable fights in Love Island history, she bounced back to win not just Davide’s heart, but those of the entire villa – and, I’d suggest, the nation.
Ekin’s innate talent for creating TV gold has led more than one superfan to wonder if she is, in fact, a Love Island producer. There is something of the drag queen to Ekin-Su Cülcüloğlu. Who could forget her coolly delivered soundbite when one irate competitor asked, “Ekin who?”: “I’m Ekin-Su, babes, and there’s only one of me.”
She’s so fabulous that even her brother is becoming a celebrity after approximately 24 words uttered over four minutes of Love Island screen time. This, surely, is only the beginning. She has created a diva so vivid, so compelling that the drama cannot possibly stop at 10.35pm, 1 August 2022.
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I have never rooted so strongly for a reality star to have a career after their five minutes of fly-on-the-wall fame. I firmly believe Ekin-Su should replace Laura Whitmore on Love Island and its sibling show, Aftersun. I want her to have her own Oprah-esque chat show, where she helps couples hash out their problems in her unique, no-nonsense way. I want her to represent us at Eurovision 2023 (she was in a Turkish pop duo, don’t you know).
I want her and Davide to have a peak-Beckham-style wedding with thrones and matching outfits, and perhaps some sort of Italian-Turkish traditional dance off.
Having seen her pageant speech to the other contestants in last week’s talent show, I sincerely want her to take on the Queen’s Speech duties after Her Majesty can no longer fulfil them. What can I say? I’m not a royalist, but I believe in power of Ekin-Su to unite, inspire and above all, entertain. It’s what she deserves, and nothing more.
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