the island of love competitor Ekin-Su Cülcüloğlu. Photo: ITV Plc
The last two years have been absolutely terrible for the island of love Fans. The show, once a light-hearted comic strip and display of heterosexual antics, was hit with both afflictions of real-life tragedy and serious musings in 2019 and 2021. Viewership numbers have plummeted. Memories of the “good old days” of the island of love – a dazzling, dreamlike year of high drama and low stakes, when the show coincided with the 2018 World Cup – felt more and more like a hazy mirage. But just in time, a single hero saved Series Eight, possibly the entire series, from cultural ruin. Cue the cheers and applause from the audience for: Ekin-Su Cülcüloğlu.
Soap actress and self-proclaimed ‘Turkish delight’ from Essex, Ekin-Su, entered the villa on day three – the moment TV historians will pinpoint when series eight went from a predetermined deathblow to an explosive blow. Literally billed as a bombshell — the term for late-entry contestants whose mission is to stay on the show by any means necessary — she waved her lashes and immediately booked a PT session with a taken man (that’s i.e. straddling his shoulders as he pulled a squat). Like Botticelli’s Venus emerging from its valve, the villa was instantly blessed by a drama goddess.
She quickly conquered the villa’s Italian snack bar and walking Ken doll, Davide Sanclimenti, to begin a sordid romance with Jay Younger behind her back. GIFs of her in bodycon crawl on the balcony to Jay to avoid detection were burned in the island of love lovers’ brains, and thanks to Twitter, regurgitated countless times lest they forget Ekin-Su’s determination to play the dating game.
But that was just the beginning. When news of Jay and Ekin-Su’s date tore through the villa, she was at the center of the biggest event of the year. the island of love even until now, when Davide declared her “liarrrrr; an actress; get the hell out of here”. (The “Davide saying liar” sound has so far increased 12 million views on TikTok.) The best of all? This straight-from-a-telenovela story arc was completed in less than two weeks of *chiefs kiss* airtime.
“Love Ekin-Su. She’s hilarious,” says Mia, a trainee lawyer from London, one of many fans sharing her support for the reality TV star online. Last week, she tweeted: ” Naaah, the producers this season deserve a raise for giving us Ekin-Su and Davide.”
“She doesn’t just go by her looks, which she could very well do,” Mia told VICE. “She really has a personality!” Basically, Ekin-Su “delivers drama but doesn’t do it in a way where she’s looking to pull anyone in,” she adds. “If she’s going male-to-male, it’s just because that’s the nature of the game. Like, she’s grafting.
Probably Ekin-Su’s best moment is when she relayed secret information, only to repackage it to look much worse than it was. With a spray of Paco Rabanne Lady Million she flew to the other side of the villa and told the second she heard Dami Hope predicts Gemma Owens’ head would spin. Importantly, she deduced that Gemma almost said the words herself. With the villa in a frenzy of much ado about nothing, all paths led back to Ekin-Su. Her response: Confusion, disbelief, questions about why she was blamed – not a drop of sweat to be seen on her perfectly contoured face.
There’s something admirable about such feigned or genuine ignorance, especially if your stunts liven up an otherwise boring episode. As Stephane Bertin wrote on Twitter, “Ekin-Su is not just the main character, she’s the antagonist, she’s the producer, she’s the screenwriter, and she’s the curator.” Among the island of love fans, there’s nothing worse than someone who so obviously plays along. Despite this, Ekin-Su is praised for orchestrating entire storylines and her road to the finale. She’s the bad guy; she is the main character; she’s a wild girl even summer, if said wild girl liked imitating Voldemort only to piss off a man.
As fans suckled on the drama’s sweet teat, our anti-hero hottie plotted her next act: winning back Davide, a move impossible for anyone other than Ekin-Su, a queen among pawns – and one she accomplished. in Thursday’s episode, with the pair picking each other amid the tumultuous Casa Amor crossovers. Ekin-Su’s chemistry with Davide has been compared to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Mr and Mrs Smith; or, according to Twitter, “two divorced parents who continue to flirt” and “twin flames that will always be found in every lifetime” (OK, the last one might push it). Will they succeed? Does it even matter? People love what they want and in Ekin-Su and Davide we have found our Boohoo Chuck Bass and Blair Waldorf.
“I think her ‘I’m doing this for me’ attitude surprised some people who might not have the confidence to do what she does,” says a London-based consultant. Chuka, who tweeted last week that “Ekin-Su is that girl you meet in the smoking area that changes your outlook on life.” The 23-year-old adds: “In a way, it’s a breath of fresh air for some while driving others crazy. Either way, it made her a main talking point on the show!”
Being an accomplished girl for girls could be the key to her appeal. After late contestant Danica Taylor – an objectively beautiful woman – was repeatedly rejected by men, Ekin-Su gave her a pep talk any woman hopes for: “You’re a bombshell, remember- You are a bomb. Shell. You came in a shell – but we don’t see the bomb go off.”
Self-labeled “Ekin-Su Mega Fan” Heidi Sinclair says the reality star is “brave, loving and sincere.” “She’s not afraid to get what she wants, no matter the obstacles. From what I’ve seen on the show, she gives girls valuable advice and boosts their confidence.
For Mia, the rise of Ekin-Su-premacy is also personal. As a viewer from the Middle East, she is energized by the sight of a Turkish woman taking center stage the island of love. Ekin-Su, as Mia puts it, isn’t the “stereotypical white English girl” often tipped to win – which makes her all the more exciting. Naturally, comparisons have been made for Maura Higginthe Irish bombshell from season five who was interviewed as the best competitor of all time by Tongue readers.
“She’s the contestant who’s brought the funnest drama since Maura,” says Mia. “Both have a very likable quality. You want to see them react dramatically to things and call men on their BS. But you also want them to meet the right guy who will appreciate the dramatic flair!”
Ekin-Su lives the way we would all like to live: boldly and shamelessly. I too would like to kiss a lot of people and ignore the consequences. Me too, I want to stir shit for no reason. As we all navigate social anxiety while secretly wanting to be the center of attention, Ekin-Su is just Do this. Maybe we all have a little Ekin-Su in us if we silence the voice that begs us to feel shame or remorse. Why not crawl on the ground to your next victim? Why not flirt with someone new in front of your partner? If Ekin-Su was here, she’d probably say it’s your soap opera – everyone’s just an extra.