[This story contains major spoilers from the first season of Love Island Games.]
As singles looking for love returned to the Love Island villa hoping for a second chance at a romantic connection in the new spinoff Love Island Games, they were also met with more drama and intense challenges.
Though Islanders are typically used to public votes determining who gets to stay in the villa, in the new show, set in Fiji, they had to trust in their own abilities as they took on both team and couples’ challenges, games and duels.
Love Island Games also brought together fan-favorite Islanders from various Love Island series across the globe, including the U.S., U.K., Australia, France, Sweden and Germany. Among those was Cely Vazquez, who competed on season two of Love Island USA in 2020.
But Vazquez wasn’t the only Islander from her season who returned for the new show. Her best friend Justine Ndiba and her ex Johnny Middlebrooks also came back, making for another interesting and dramatic time in the villa. While Vazquez initially coupled up with Toby Aromolaran (Love Island U.K. season 7) this season, she later ended up with Eyal Booker (Love Island U.K. season 4), who she made it as a final couple with.
As for navigating the challenges while building a connection with someone, Vazquez said, “It was definitely a struggle, especially for me, because when I tell you my head is in the clouds always, I feel like I was so focused on love and how much fun I was having.”
Now, as seen in Sunday night’s episode, host Maya Jama surprised the final couples (Cely and Eyal, Johnny and Aurelia, Callum and Deb, and Justine and Jack) by bringing back 17 previously eliminated Islanders to determine who stays and who goes. Among those Islanders who returned was Toby.
In an exclusive clip from the finale (below) shared with The Music news, Toby doesn’t hold back on speaking his mind about Cely and Eyal.
Ahead of the season one dramatic finale, Vazquez talks with THR about coming back to the Love Island villa with Justine and Johnny, navigating the intense challenges, what she has learned about herself this season and teases what fans can expect in the final episode.
It’s been a wild season for you, making it as a finale couple with Eyal, but also joined by your bestie Justine as well as your ex Johnny. What was it like being back in the villa with them again?
Oh, my God, it’s such a full-circle moment. And it’s so silly too because like you said, it’s me, my ex and my best friend and we’re like, we’ve made it this far. It’s actually crazy, but I’m just so lucky and so happy to have had the opportunity to come back and it’s such an unnatural thing to even live with your ex. Like, hello (Laughs)? But I’m just so happy that we had the opportunity to kind of put that behind us and try to work on having a friendship, you know. But it was just so much fun, just the best experience and I’m glad that I was able to live with my ex and then be there with Justine again. We said, “Hit the rewind” (Laughs).
How was it meeting Islanders from around the globe from different Love Island shows?
It was so amazing being in the villa with everybody. I like watched Love Island U.K., these are icons that I know of and now they’re here with me. It was so cool. It was so nice. Like swapping languages with each other and … like the way that we speak and stuff, it started to rub off on each other. And now, I can’t stop using my U.K. accent. I can’t stop saying, “I’m fucking fuming” because of Jess [Losurdo] (Laughs). It’s just so nice and I’m just so glad that I made some new besties, international besties.
Since there was more of a focus on the challenges in the new show, did you feel like it was more pressure or less since you didn’t have the public vote to worry about?
I feel like it kind of worked out well for me. Like these were my friends and I got to put myself out of my comfort zone. I mean, we’ve all seen me kind of struggling with the freaking slope and the wall [in the “She’s a Catch” challenge]. But I just did my best and it really pushed me to work a little harder. It is stressful though, I’m not gonna lie, like the alliances and all of that. But I think once you kind of get out of your head and just tell yourself you’re in there to have fun and play the game and do the best you can that it makes it easier. But I will say, it was a lot more pressure. It’s all in our hands and like, you’re voting your best friends out or people that you’re starting to get close to.
What was your favorite game or challenge this season?
I would have to say the Mermaid [“She’s a Catch”] challenge, and I think I’m just biased and that’s the only one that I did really, really well in. So that was the one that didn’t give me a hard time so I really, really loved that one, and me and Ray [Gantt] ended up winning, so it was just icing on the cake, I guess.
The duels were one of the most intense new elements of the season. What was the energy like in the villa during the duels, with so much anticipation?
I’m like, thank God, I have really just flown under the radar in here and haven’t had to do a duel because when I tell you, I feel like it comes off intense, like when you’re watching it, but I feel like it was even more intense there. Just watching them fight for their lives, there is just no words to describe it. It’s so, so crazy and I feel like, because Love Island has so many beautiful, fun colors, with the duel, it kind of makes it a little less intense, but no, it’s so intense. But hats off to everybody because I just would not be able to take that pressure, to be fair. … But I’m a fan of the duel though. I like watching them. It’s just, I like to not be in them.
As you’ve been watching the season back, do you have a favorite episode?
I would have to say the episode that just aired [Nov. 16]. It’s when we finally all got to go back to our couples after the mix-up that Calum [Hole] and Liberty [Poole] did. It was just so cute for all of us to get our people back. We got to have the guys do their recouping speeches and I think that was my favorite episode to watch.
Has it been challenging navigating your romantic feelings and also your competitive feelings with the games?
It’s definitely tough in there because I feel like a lot of us kind of struggled with the balance of it because I feel like I would get so all over Eyal and I’m like, “Oh, my God, this is the best time of my life,” and then it’s like, “Oh, shoot, we have to actually do well in these challenges in order to stay here to continue that romantic connection.” So it was definitely a struggle, especially for me, because when I tell you my head is in the clouds always, I feel like I was so focused on love and how much fun I was having. … I definitely was like, “You know what, I’m just going to have fun because you never know in here.”
How hard was it to see Ray and Imani [Ayan] get sent home so close to the finale, especially since they were one of the original couples this season?
That was such a tough one. I think honestly that was probably one of the toughest eliminations that we had because, obviously, we are really, really good friends with Ray and Imani. So it just was really, really hard to see them go, and even during Jack [Fowler’s] speech and Ray kind of already like knowing what was gonna happen. It was so heartbreaking. But I mean, at the end of the day, it’s a game. You gotta do what you gotta do.
What was it like having Eyal as a partner in the games while also building a romantic connection with him?
Oh, Eyal is the greatest. I really was just so lucky to be coupled up with him because I think he knew that some of these challenges were giving me a hard time, but he was so supportive and always lifting me up and always, you know, cheering me on. And I don’t think I could have been paired with anyone better at this point. Like he just always lifted my spirits and right before going [into the challenges], I felt fully prepared because I knew that he was gonna back me no matter what.
What has been your strategy throughout this season? Were you more focused on the games or building a romantic connection?
My strategy is that I have no strategy (Laughs). My strategy is that I’m just in here hoping and praying for the best. And then I quickly was like, “Oh, people are doing alliances. People are like training every day. I really need to get with it.” But you know what, it worked out because I had a blast again.
I was like, I’m just gonna let it happen because one thing about Love Island Games, there’s just too many twists and turns, there’s too many variables.
Coming back to the Love Island villa years later, have you learned anything new about yourself?
I feel like after leaving season two, and after watching it back, I learned that I could do better speaking up for myself and standing up for myself. And I feel like coming on to this season, I really did that and I was just so proud of myself for that because it’s definitely always been a difficult thing for me. And so having that conversation I had with Johnny in the beginning and us being able to squash things and me really just speaking off like how I felt. It was the growth for me (Laughs), and one thing about Love Island is they’re always going to provide all the growth.
You seemed to have so much confidence throughout the entire season. What is your secret?
I feel like I have a deep understanding that as long as you stay true to who you are, there’s nothing better than authenticity. Like you never have to be looking at what somebody else is doing, you just focus on you, and that’s where the confidence comes from, you know, not comparing yourself to others, just staying true to yourself. And yeah, I feel like that’s where I get all of my confidence from. I’m going to do what I’m going to do and whether you like it or not.
Do you have any comments for your fellow finalists who made it this far with you?
I’m just so proud of every single one of them. … I think that everyone needs to understand that it is not easy in there and it takes a lot to become a finalist.
Can you tease what fans are in for during the finale?
Madness and badness. You know what, intensity and a heck of a finale to an amazing show.
Interview edited for clarity.
Season one of Love Island Games is currently streaming on Peacock.