‘I wouldn’t wish it on any parent’: The mothers whose daughters went on Love Island

She went from being a ‘fun bubbly girl to someone who didn’t want to get out of bed’


For some parents, their children going onto Love Island can be “a father’s worst nightmare”, as put by Michael Owen whose daughter Gemma is currently on this year’s show. However, for some, the true extent of their son or daughter going on the reality show is never truly known until they’re back home away from the spotlight. Love Island star Savanna Darnell’s mother had to experience her daughter suffer from depression following her time on the show, and she advised parents whose children want to go on the show, “don’t be in a hurry to be supportive.” Season five’s Arabella Chi’s mother Eunice Denny has warned parents to not “fall for the hype” of Love Island.

Speaking with Daily Mail, both mothers detailed what it was like watching their daughters on the show and the trolling they faced because of it.

Savanna Darnell

Savanna Darnell was a contestant on the hit dating show in 2018. She was part of the group of girls in Casa Amor. Her mother, Karen Smallwood has shared what it was like watching her daughter on the show, and the effects it had on Savanna after she left the villa.

When preparing for her daughter’s appearance on the show the two went out shopping for bikinis. Karen said: “I was so naive; I didn’t know what could go wrong. If I knew then what I know now, we’d have had a very different conversation.” Karen says she wouldn’t wish someone’s child going on Love Island on any parent. Savanna went from being a “fun, bubbly girl to someone who didn’t want to get out of bed.”

Pictured is Savanna Darnell who experienced depression after Love Island

via Instagram @_savannadarnell

After being on the show, Savanna admits that it left her depressed as she faced death threats from people online. While watching the current season of Love Island, Savanna’s mother was horrified to see what those online have been saying about the Islanders. She said: “When they get out, they will read it all. Maybe they will be able to brush it all off, but how do you know? I thought my daughter would be strong enough, but she wasn’t. I can’t tell you how horrible it is to walk into your child’s bedroom and discover they have been up all night crying because a stranger has said they are the ugliest ever contestant.”

Prior to Love Island, Savanna had everything going for her. She attended a performing arts college where she graduated with a distinction, she had a role in the Thriller tour and was part of the Aladdin cast with Will Smith. It was in March 2018, when Love Island producers approached Savanna when it all changed. They had told her she was going to be an OG or the first bombshell, following this a talent agency had reached out and wanted to sign her for when she got out of Love Island. However, two weeks before filming was meant to start, Savanna returned home as she was told “they didn’t need her yet”.

via Instagram @_savannadarnell

Karen said: “The programme people kept phoning asking, ‘What do you think of him? Who do you fancy?’ – trying to assess where she would fit in the show.” Savanna says she didn’t know what to do with her life during that period because she was “meant to be on standby”. Eventually, the call came, and Savanna flew back out to Mallorca to be part of the Casa Amor girls. Her mum said she was so nervous to watch.

She said: “It’s way worse than sending them off to school for the first time. I think she came across well, but she seemed so far away.” After her stint in the Casa Amor villa, Savanna “sobbed” all the way back home, after not being picked to go to the main villa. “I picked her up. She was disappointed obviously but at that point she seemed to be putting a brave face on it. I did my best to be positive. But at that point she didn’t realise how little airtime she’d had. She kept asking, ‘did you see this bit’ and I’d say, ‘no'”, Karen said.

While on the show, Savanna had a connection with Wes Nelson. They were giggling and laughing all night and had to be told to go to sleep, but this never made the final cut as it “it didn’t fit with the story they had planned for Wes”, Karen said. According to her mum, Wes had told Savanna he was going to take her back to the main villa.

After her time on the show, Savanna was offered counselling but said she didn’t need it. Karen said: “Once she got back, she started to look online at what was being said about her. One the second day, I came into the bedroom one morning and she was crying. She’d been up all night, scrolling through all the things that had been said about her, criticising her hair, saying she should just die. It was horrendous.” Her mum “insisted” on Savanna calling her new agent for help, but nobody took her calls. “She phoned and messaged, and no one would contact her. She had been ghosted. She was in shock, and so was I to be honest.”, she said.

Since the show, Savanna has had therapy and rebuilt her life. She was approached by her old bosses on the Thriller stage show and was invited back and managed to claw back her career.

Arabella Chi

Arabella Chi was a bombshell on Love Island in 2019. Her mother Eunice Denny said she found it difficult watching her daughter “being treated quite harshly” by others in the villa. Eunice found the trolling Arabella received was “difficult to navigate”, after Arabella picked fellow Islander Danny Williams to couple up with, she began to get trolled on social media.

Eunice said: “Arabella got trolled because of that, and I have to say I found it terribly hard. People can say ‘don’t read it’ but you can’t help yourself. I think I found it harder, as a mother, than Arabella herself would have done. It’s your flesh and blood. She got threats and you do find yourself worrying that they will be carried out.”

Arabella’s mother has praised the Love Island production team for being supportive. She said: “They were always on the end of the phone. I can’t speak for everyone, but my experience was very positive.” She has warned parents of any prospective Islanders to not “fall for the hype like we did.”

Featured image credit via Instagram @arabellachi and @_savannadarnell.

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