FIVE years ago, Love Island’s Olivia Buckland was living in a council flat while scaffolder Alex Bowen had been wiped out by payday-loan debts.
Now the lovebirds are worth £4.5million and — on the day new wannabes would have entered the villa for a new series — say they are proud to have been the show’s first couple to get married.
Today the pair, who tied the knot at a ceremony in Essex in August 2018, tell how the ITV2 reality show has transformed their lives and that they are now looking forward to making a Love Island baby.
Olivia, 26, who met Alex on the second series in 2016, told HOAR on Sunday: “I didn’t go on Love Island for love, I didn’t go in for money, I just went in for a laugh.
“My friends say I’ve become a nicer person because of Love Island.
“Now we’ve moved into our dream home, we go on amazing holidays and it’s thanks to Love Island.
“There will be a baby soon, hopefully in the next couple of years, but you don’t know until you try — so we’ll see.”
Bosses at ITV devastated millions of Love Island fans in May when they announced the sixth summer series had to be cancelled due to the pandemic.
Olivia said: “I’m gutted it’s not on this year and someone else can’t potentially find something we have.”
Husband Alex, 28, adds: “I love the fact we’re the first couple from the show to marry.”
Alex and Olivia used money made off the back of Love Island to afford their £100,000 wedding at Gosfield Hall and more recently a £1million, five-bedroom home in Essex near Towie’s Gemma Collins.
The couple are top of the Love Island rich list and can charge £2,000 for a single social media post on Instagram.
Alex has modelled for BoohooMAN, Gym King and Hype in deals worth around £200,000 and also banked more than £700,000 from club personal appearances.
Olivia has earned around £200,000 from TV-presenting duties, including TLC’s Second Chance Dresses, released a MissPap clothing range and modelled for Rocky Star.
She puts their success down to a combination of luck and savviness.
She said: “We have definitely been lucky but there is no guarantee that you will strike it rich from going on Love Island.
“We know people who have gone back to their normal jobs after the show and nothing has changed for them.
“You have to be really savvy to achieve longevity. You have to work hard and make the right decisions.”
On how much their lives have transformed, she said: “Before Love Island I was earning about £18,000 a year plus commission as a sales executive and living in a council flat.
“I was always in my overdraft and using credit cards.
“Now I am in a position where if I go out for dinner with my friends I can offer to pick up the bill for everyone.”
Alex had been struggling as a scaffolder in Wolverhampton, earning £400 a week.
He said: “I was living with my mum with no chance of moving out. I had payday loans.
“It was bad. I owed £5,000 or something. I couldn’t afford to pay anything back and was in a rut.
“It is amazing how much my life has changed. Other Love Island contestants message us for advice on how to manage their careers.”
Love Island first aired in June 2015, but Alex and Olivia’s series was a ratings hit for ITV.
It had some of the most memorable events of the show’s history, including lothario Terry Walsh, 30, having sex with two women just days apart and Zara Holland, 24, leaving the villa after learning she had been stripped of her Miss Great Britain crown.
But Alex and Olivia believe the show has since mellowed.
He said: “Our year was a lot more savage. They let us get away with a few more things.”
Olivia added: “It is more toned-down now. They don’t show as much smoking and sex — and I think that’s a good thing. Our season was funny, though. When you watch it back you’re like, ‘Jesus, there was a romp live on air!’
But Love Island has been rocked by three tragedies since it launched. The pair were left heartbroken by the suicide of Love Island presenter Caroline Flack in February.
It came after Sophie Gradon, who was also a contestant on series two, took her own life in 2017, and the suicide of season three’s Mike Thalassitis last year.
The tragedies have led to calls for Love Island to be axed.
The couple were friends with all three stars, but Olivia said: “People lead very complicated lives.
“But I am absolutely certain that you cannot blame the show for what happened.
“Caroline would never have wanted Love Island to be cancelled. We were devastated when we heard about her death.”
Alex and Olivia would have been among the millions glued to their screens had Love Island aired this week.
She revealed: “We still watch every season and even though we feel like the OAPs of Love Island because the contestants are so young compared to us, we love it. It’s the most addictive thing on TV.”
The couple had not moved into their dream home long before lockdown, so while renovations had to be put on hold they used their extra free time to paint and decorate.
They also splashed out on a hot tub. Olivia said: “We are about to spend quite a bit on our new place.
“We bought it because it’s a renovation project. We are about to do a new kitchen. I still worry about money, to be honest.
“We both know that this lifestyle could be gone tomorrow if we aren’t careful.
“We are careful . . . and that’s why we are still here.”
But the couple admit they have not always been quite so cautious with their cash.
Alex said: “We did spend silly money on clothes and shoes at first.”
Olivia added: “I spent £11,000 on a Rolex and it makes me sick to say it. I bought Alex one for his birthday for £7,000. Our biggest indulgence has been the wedding, which cost £100,000.
“I got carried away on the dress and flowers and a helicopter. It was a bit crazy but also amazing. Holidays are the best things we spend money on. I took our friends and family to Barbados last July.
“We splashed out on a villa by the beach and it was gorgeous, but we still flew in economy. First Class is a waste of money.”
Alex said: “Spend four grand for extra leg room? No way. I’ve got better things to spend my money on.”
Olivia is looking forward to getting back to work and has a presenting job lined up in New York later this year. But lockdown has had a surprising effect on her.
She said: “We have grown up a lot in the past few months while being stuck at home.
“I’ve become a bit broody and I’m not normally like that. It’s normally Alex talking about babies.”
5 years of Love Island stars
Molly-Mae Hague and Tommy Fury: Influencer Molly-Mae and boxer Tommy might not have taken home the Love Island crown last year but the pair are still going strong.
Proving all their critics wrong, the loved-up couple have moved into a plush Manchester pad, where they recently celebrated their 21st birthdays.
Jack Fincham and Dani Dyer: The golden couple of 2018, it was no surprise when Jack, 29, and Dani, 24, won season four of Love Island with an astonishing 79.6 per cent of the vote and went on to star in an ITVBe spin-off, Jack & Dani: Life After Love Island.
Unfortunately, the pair announced their split on Instagram in April 2019.
Dani has since rekindled a relationship with her ex, stockbroker Sammy Kimmence, 23, while single former pen salesman Jack welcomed a daughter, Blossom, in January.
Chris Hughes and Olivia Attwood: Despite their tumultuous on-screen relationship, Chris, 27, and Olivia, 26, came third in series three.
The couple broke up just seven months later, weeks before their new reality show was set to air and days after Olivia was caught sending flirty messages to ex-boyfriend Bradley Dack. She is now engaged to the Blackburn Rovers ace.
Chris had a 16-month romance with Little Mix singer Jesy Nelson but they split this year.
Maura Higgins and Curtis Pritchard: Love her or hate her, former ring girl Maura, 29, was praised for saving a stagnant series five, ruffling more than a few of the other girls’ feathers and shocking viewers by inviting boxer Tommy Fury into her bed in front of love rival Molly-Mae Hague.
Maura made her move on ballroom dancer Curtis, 24, after his split from villa “half-girlfriend” Amy Hart, and the pair claimed fourth place in the final. They called it quits in March.
Megan Barton Hanson and Wes Nelson: The 26-year-old glamour model and engineer Wes, 22, met on series four in 2018.
During their six-month romance they moved in together and bought a pet hamster.
But cracks began to show when Wes joined Dancing On Ice, with Megan berating his dance partner Vanessa Bauer.
Megan announced their split on Instagram and has since enjoyed a number of brief flings, including with Towie’s Demi Sims.
Wes found love with another Love Islander, Arabella Chi, but they split after nine months.
Amber Gill and Greg O’Shea: Despite being together for only a few weeks, season five’s Amber, 22, and Irish rugby player Greg, 25, took home the £50,000 grand prize largely due to the former beautician’s popularity.
But Greg savagely dumped Amber by text five weeks later.
It’s not all bad news for the Geordie beauty, though.
She has secured a £1million deal with MissPap for a clothing range.
Greg is back living in Ireland and focusing on his Tokyo 2020 Olympics qualification.
GOT a story? RING HOAR on 0207 782 4104 or WHATSAPP on 07423720250 or EMAIL [email protected]