Funny, sassy and unequivocally honest – just a handful of words to describe Love Island winner Amber Rose Gill. The Newcastle native, 24, was thrust into the limelight back in 2019 when she first graced our screens with her Geordie charm and directness – eventually going on to win the beloved show alongside ex-partner Greg O'Shea.
The ITV dating show has been the subject of intense scrutiny in recent years, with concern surrounding contestants' mental health taking centre stage. Amber, who is keen to retain her authenticity online, is using her platform to initiate conversations about body image and trolling – something she has plenty of experience with.
HELLO! spoke to Amber about her time on the show, mental health and social media, with the star even addressing calls for the programme to be cancelled.
What does mental health mean to you?
"Your mental health is just as, if not, more important than your physical health. Unlike your physical health, you don't notice it deteriorate. It's really important to have things in place to keep your mental health on track because if you don't do that then sometimes you can get into work mode and slowly it dips out."
Your Instagram following shot up overnight thanks to Love Island - how has the whirlwind of fame impacted your mental health?
"You've got a million more eyes on you than previously. I like to say I don't care what people think, but I also care about my followers. It becomes a lot of pressure, making sure you're always trying to do the right thing. I think in that way, it's easy to suffer because you're always conscious of what you're doing that little bit more than what I was prior to the show. You've got a platform now and you've got to be aware. With that comes a lot of pressure."
Amber was crowned winner of Love Island in 2019
How do you cope with any negative comments that you see online and do you ever engage with them?
"I'd like to say I'm just one of those people who ignores them, but I don't always do that. I like to block and delete people from my social media accounts. My social media platforms are a place where I want to make people happy and laugh. I don't want any negativity in that space.
"I think blocking and deleting is the best option. The comments are always coming from a place of hurt and if I think they don't really mean it, then I reply by saying that I don't think they should have said that. Normally people say: 'I'm so sorry,' in response."
You're so body positive on Instagram - what message are you hoping to share with younger fans?
"I think it's OK to be your authentic self and to love yourself no matter what. No matter if you make mistakes, it's always important that you love yourself and you're soft with yourself."
The star is passionate about body positivity on social media
How has fame impacted your body image?
"Previously, I was around my friends, family and work and I didn't really have many eyes on me. Whereas on the show, you have a million eyes on you and people want to DM you and comment on your posts and people are having conversations with their friends in your comments - it's hard to ignore sometimes.
"My personal body image goes up and down a lot. I've got to the point now where I'm stable with it and I'm happy. But it took a lot of work to get there because it's not nice when people say, 'Ooh you've put on a bit of weight,' or 'You look too skinny now.' It's like you can't win. When I realised that, that I can't win, I thought there's no way I'm going to please people. When I learnt that, I regained my strength and thought – why do I care? I shouldn't care. I'm supposed to be the one who is telling everyone that I don't care!"
You've been on a fitness journey since the show - how has that been for you?
"In the pandemic, I didn't take to working out in the house. It wasn't for me. I didn't really know what to do. I ended up putting on a lot of weight, but it wasn't the weight that bothered me, it was the way my mindset had become. I wasn't exercising, which I think you need to do to take care of your mental health. When you've got loads of work on you think ok, I've got to set this date for my self-care to look after myself. But when you're doing nothing, you think why do I need to look after my mental health? Yet, you do. I realised that quite quickly.
"Then I started exercising and it wasn't always lifting weights which I was used to as I didn't have any weights, but also doing bodyweight exercises and being quick. Rather than spending an hour in the gym, which I didn't want to do in the house, I decided to do quick workouts. It ended up helping me to get into a better mind frame and also lose weight as well. From there, I relaxed a little bit on myself."
Amber is open about her mental health struggles after winning the show
Does social media feel like a safe space these days?
"I think it can be. I think it's lost that safety recently though, which is a shame. There's a lot of negativity on social media but that's why I try to do what I do. I get so much pleasure from DMs saying, 'You made my day today,' or, 'I had a really bad day and you made me laugh.' I want people to come to Instagram and know it's going to be funny or chaotic. So, I think it can be and it can't be. I suppose with Instagram, you can make it what you want with who you follow and who you interact with."
What do you think of the 'cancel culture' phenomenon at the moment and does it worry you?
"I think if I haven't been cancelled by now I won't be as I've been very messy! Cancel culture doesn't scare me. Nobody really gets cancelled from cancel culture. It doesn't really work. Also, I do have to give myself credit for the fact that I'm 24. I was put into the spotlight when I was 21. So, if I make a mistake it's really not that big of a deal. If everybody wants to cancel me then there's nothing I can do as I can't be perfect ever. I'm just the same as everyone else."
Do you think celebrities should be more open about their mental health in a bid to raise awareness?
"Yes, I do. I think it's really important. One of the reasons why people think that they can message horrible things is that they see people in the public eye or celebrities as a different entity altogether as if that person is not a human being. If people were more open it would help people understand and realise that this person has bad days as well just like me. Just because their issues and problems aren't exactly the same, it doesn't mean that they are not suffering as well.
"It's so important for people to be open and honest, but it's quite hard as you are in the spotlight so you're opening up yourself more to people to say even more nasty things. When you're putting that vulnerability out there it makes it a bit worse. I'm in the middle about that – but personally, I like to be open. People are so shocked when I reply to negative comments. They say things like, 'I can't believe you replied,' and then they apologise."
Other Series 5 contestants included Molly-Mae Hague and Amy Hart
After your Love Island stint, what was it like looking at your phone after not being able to have it in the villa and seeing people's opinions of yourself?
"Immediately after the show, I felt very fortunate as I won. Everything was overwhelmingly nice to begin with. My phone blowing up didn't compute in my brain as it was all these lovely people congratulating me. As time went on, it started to get a bit nasty and that's when I realised I should have set times when I go on my phone and set times when I don't – and make sure that I don't stay scrolling or looking at what people are saying.
"Everybody's going to find an issue with something you do. So, I would allocate separate times when I would stay on my phone and when I don't. If I stay on it for too long, I'll take myself off it for at least an hour. When it's your job you can think, but it's work I can do it because it's work. But you could work 24/7 with a job like this. You could be posting 24 hours a day if you want to."
The 24-year-old said she had a positive experience on Love Island
Have you set any other boundaries for yourself in terms of preserving your mental health like not Googling yourself or looking at headlines online?
"I definitely avoid Googling myself or looking at articles. With Instagram, it's harder because I want to read my DMs and respond to the people that want to ask questions about me or take a genuine interest in something. It's hard to monitor that. When I do find that negative message, I think why did I have to read that – but I'm reading that because I care about my followers. So, delete it and pretend that you didn't see it.
"I never Google myself and avoid these private threads that people have – never look at that because that's worse than anything. I limit my time on social media and make sure I'm not on it all day every day and if I am, ensure that I'm utilising it properly and not checking what people are saying about me.
"If I feel fragile one day, I'll switch my DM requests and comments off because I don't want to know. Today I'm not going to deal with anyone. I'm so sorry if you're going to send something nice but I can't today. Got to block it all out."
Amber revealed that she attended therapy sessions before the show
Before joining the show, did the Love Island team vet you to see if you could handle the pressure of being on such a prolific show and if so what was this process like?
"I remember there was a therapist and I did about an hour and a half with her. I was sitting in this room for a long time and she was going through everything and asking me how I would cope. I remember speaking to her quite frequently. You never get told if it is good or bad – so I remember coming out of the room and thinking wow because I'd never done any therapy before. I thought, I've just told that woman my life story in an hour and a half. That's wild."
What was the Love Island aftercare like and what did it involve?
"So, the woman who I met before I met with after as well. Even when the show was on, if there was something going on that was not nice (and I went through a couple of things that weren't very nice), then you can see one of the welfare team members. If you want to go and see them, you have the option to. Afterwards, you'd speak to the same woman that you spoke to and the welfare team.
"I think it's like a 14 to 18-week therapy programme that you get after the show ends when you speak to someone every week. Then they try and set you up with someone external who is not a part of ITV's welfare team and then go from there. It was a long period of time."
The brunette beauty detailed the aftercare that the Love Island team offered
How did you manage tension within the villa especially when you weren't permitted any outlets such as having your phone or reading?
"I didn't! For me, I'd formed such nice friendships in there I was really lucky that I had some lovely girlfriends like what I had on the outside. So, I was fine. I used to sit and chat with them. It's obviously strange not being able to call your friend or see them or speak to your family. I spoke to the girls who were always there for me and had my back."
There's been a lot of claims about the lack of aftercare, but Amber Davies for example recently said this week that it was great and the producers were really supportive. What was your experience with the producers?
"I had a really close relationship with the producers who were in the villa. Afterwards, you would speak to them now and again. I think a couple of them have my WhatsApp number and they will just check up. But the welfare team have proper things in place regarding what they are supposed to do, but the producers check up and ask things like, 'I hope you're ok,' or 'What are you working on?' Everyone was very supportive and I had a good experience. I don't know if that's because I won though."
How do you feel towards the show now and is there anything you would've changed about your time on Love Island?
"There's nothing I would have changed because I came out with the best possible outcome. I don't like to go through life thinking that I would change anything that's happening because I'm where I am now. I feel like I'm more of a fan of the show now than I was before. I like knowing exactly what's going on because I've been there. I like knowing the ins and outs of everything.
"I've had a couple of jobs where I've been working with the sponsors, so naturally I have been watching it. It's a nice show and a laid back, fun show. It's really good that people who go on it can get opportunities from it.
Amber says she tries not to feed into online trolling
"I watched a few episodes from my season and I laughed at myself. There was something about my response when the guy asked me if he thought he suited his sunglasses and I said no - but I would say that in real life! I'm that friend who will tell you if you've got something in your teeth or make sure that you look good. I've always been like that."
If ever the attention from the public ever feels too much or overwhelming, what do you do to unwind?
"I live in London at the moment and I like to go back to Newcastle to be around the people I was with before the show. I cut off my phone, spend time with my dog, go to the beach and things like that. That's all I can really do. I try not to feed into it.
"One thing I have realised, especially watching my friends go through the same things in the public eye, is that is it never as bad as what you think. I've seen my friends go through similar experiences and think it's fine, it's blown over. You've got to get into that mindset, that although it seems like your world is crashing down, it's actually not. Tomorrow, everyone will be talking about something else."
The star says the show should not be cancelled
Love Island has come under fire for its treatment of mental health problems with some even calling for the show to be cancelled – what do you think the solution is to this moving forward?
"I don't know. It's a hard question to answer because mental health is such a personal thing. So me saying that the 14 to 18-week programme and check-ins were enough may not be true for someone else. I don't think it necessarily needs to be cancelled. I think keep putting as many things in place as you possibly can.
"A lot of the mental health issues come from the comments on social media and sometimes the headlines that are written – not necessarily the show. I know that you get the exposure from the show, but it's not directly from the show. I enjoyed my time on the show. I went through a couple of really bad things on there and I still enjoyed it overall. It's a hard one to answer. But overall I don't think it should be cancelled."
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