Naomi Clarke, PA Entertainment Reporter
Laura Whitmore has said she is looking forward to hosting Love Island from a “fresh villa” ahead of the eagerly anticipated new series.
The 37-year-old will return to present the popular ITV dating programme as it moves to a new property in Mallorca after the previous location near Sant Llorenc des Cardassar, in the east of the Spanish island, reportedly become unavailable.
Eleven islanders will enter the villa during the launch episode next Monday, including former England striker Michael Owen’s daughter Gemma, a paramedic and dancer Tasha Ghouri, who has a cochlear implant and is the show’s first deaf contestant.
According to bookmakers William Hill, Gemma and Welsh masters student Liam Llewellyn are the early favourites, both with 11/4 odds.
Whitmore said she was particularly excited about entering the new villa as during the 2021 series she was only allowed into the garden area of the house due to Covid precautions, and the first series she hosted was the winter version in January 2020 which was held in South Africa.
She added: “So I didn’t really know the previous villa in Mallorca. So it’s quite nice to go in with a fresh villa.”
The TV host said the dating show has become so popular because “we just love being part of people’s relationships and seeing people’s journeys”.
She added: “With this show we almost think they are family. Eight weeks seems like a short time in life, but on that show it feels like a lifetime.
“We really become invested in these relationships. The islanders are looking for love and know that the nation will be watching.”
Whitmore admitted she gets “really scared” she might give something away to the contestants, particularly during the ultimate relationship test of Casa Amor.
The annual tradition sees the couples temporarily split as the male islanders head to the rival villa to meet another group of girls while a new cohort of boys enter the main house in a challenge to see if they will stay faithful to their current match.
She said: “I can’t make eye contact during Casa Amor. Even though they all try and make eye contact with me.
“They’re all trying to look at me and I’m kind of keeping my eyes down.
“I have to really go into professional mode and not talk any more than I’m supposed to talk. I have to be unbiased.”
Whitmore will also return to host the spin-off show Love Island: Aftersun on ITV2 from a new set at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire.
The TV host revealed that the show will have a bigger studio audience than last year due to restrictions being lifted, which she feels will help the islanders as they will be able to see a glimpse of the public support once they leave the villa.
Whitmore took on the role of Love Island host in 2020 from the late Caroline Flack, who presented the first five series.
The show returned to Mallorca last year after a summer off due to the pandemic, with Liam Reardon and Millie Court crowned winners.
ITV recently revealed that contestants will receive training and guidance on inclusive language around disability, sexuality, race and ethnicity, behaviours and microaggressions before entering the villa as part of their “extended duty of care protocols”.
Also among the processes detailed for all contributors on the show are “comprehensive psychological support”, “detailed conversations regarding the impact of participation on the show” and a “proactive aftercare package”, the broadcaster said.
Love Island starts at 9pm on Monday, June 6th on ITV2 and ITV Hub.