how love island became friendship island

From Chris and Kem to Ovie and Amber: maybe the ‘friend zone’ isn’t so bad after all?

Hero image in post
photo: Love Island
Hero image in post
photo: Love Island

From Chris and Kem to Ovie and Amber: maybe the ‘friend zone’ isn’t so bad after all?

By Louis Staples06 Jun 2022
5 mins read time
5 mins read time

And just like that… another series of Love Island UK is upon us once more. Tonight, the nation will watch a new set of Islanders set off on their quest for love on ITV2. Soon, we’ll have a fresh array of “icks”, types on paper, and dramas to obsess over. But if you’ve watched Love Island before, you’ll know that romance doesn’t happen for everyone. That’s OK, though, because in the last few years we’ve seen friendship become the real star of the show. When sexual chemistry has been elusive, platonic love has shone through.

As the Islanders navigate the tense environment of the villa and try to work out where their heads are at, a good friend can come in handy: a shoulder to cry on, a strategist, a confidante. It seems like budding couples are always trying to avoid the “friend zone”, but what if that’s actually the best place to be?

Here are some of the sweetest friendships we’ve seen unfold inside the world’s most famous villa.

Chris and Kem: Series 3 (2017)

Let’s start with the big one: Chris Hughes and Kem Cetinay. The mischievous duo both ended up in the final of Love Island 2017 – the series which broke viewing records and cemented the show’s status as a cultural phenomenon. While both ended up splitting from their respective partners after the show (Olivia Attwood and Amber Hughes), Chris and Kem’s bromance continued to blossom. They released a rap song together and even had their own reality show, which saw them travel far and wide across the UK to take on the public in various challenges and test their skills. Kem might have won the series alongside Amber, but his hilarious friendship with Chris was surely the bigger prize.

Paige and Shaughna: Series 6 (2020)

Season 6 was full of cute friendships, but the bond between Paige Turley and Shaughna Phillips won over peoples’ hearts the most. They were sarcastic, loyal and happy to sit and chat for hours with one another. Finn Tapp accepted the fact that Shaughna essentially became a third member of their couple after her brutal Casa Amor dumping by Callum Jones. Although Shaughna left the villa before the end, the popularity of their friendship propelled Finn and Paige to become the winners of the season.

Ovie and Amber: Series 5 (2019)

Ovie Soko and Amber Gills are two of the most popular Love Island Contestants to have ever graced our screens. With Casa Amor completely changing the dynamic in the main villa, Ovie came in and quickly formed a friendship with a scorned Amber, who, like most of the viewers, seemed to appreciate his calm demeanour. After Micahel Griffiths betrayed Amber's trust (and branded her “Chaaaaaldish”), Ovie was the source of zen energy and sound advice. Ovie made it into the final three while Amber won the show – and their friendship was undoubtedly a big part of why the public warmed to them both.

Anna and Amber: Series 5 (2019)

Absolutely everyone deserves a best friend like Anna Vakili, a true icon from series five who had the back of every girl in the villa whenever they were wronged. Amber and Anna had a ride-or-die friendship throughout their tumultuous conflicts with Michael and Anna’s dramatic breakup with Jordan Hames. Although neither of them ended up with their villa romance, their sisterhood remains. (And we really wouldn’t want to end up on Anna’s bad side).

Kaz and Liberty: Series 7 (2021)

Last year’s Love Island was full of high drama, but the most wholesome part of the series had to be the friendship that developed between Kaz Kamwi and Liberty Poole. From day one, there was a definite spark of friendship between them. Although Liberty would experience heartbreak in the end, breaking up from Jake Cornish – one of the most controversial contestants ever – and dramatically leaving the show, Kaz was always there for her. The fans were drawn to their connection, with Kaz eventually coming fourth in the series.

Lauren and Josh: Series 1 (2015)

Now let’s go right back to the start. Lauren Richardson and Josh Ritchie went on quite different paths when first entering the villa. Lauren couldn't seem to find a couple for herself and instead ended up being in plenty of friendships. Josh, on the other hand, fell hard and fast for eventual winner Jess Hayes, before moving on with Naomi Ball. When those couples broke up, Josh found himself in a new “friendship couple” with Lauren. The two hit it off and fans loved the hilarious dynamic that they had going. They made history ultimately by becoming the first friendship couple to make it to third place on Love Island, which was a pretty cute tribute to platonic love.

Alex and Samira: Series 5 (2019)

Who remembers Doctor Alex George? The contestant who, despite plenty of attempts, just couldn’t seem to find that romantic spark. Sometimes, it seems like being a little bit posh can be a bit of a hindrance in the Love Island villa. But all was not lost: Alex sparked up a very cute friendship with co-star Samira Mighty, after she was similarly unlucky in love. One of Samira’s most endearing qualities was her crusade to stop Alex from burning, like a classic Brit abroad, in the sun. (That was one battle she wasn’t going to win). Samira made a tearful exit shortly before the final to pursue a spark with another man, Alex Dean, outside the villa. But just like many of the other platonic bonds on this list, her friendship with Dr Alex outlasted the show.

Love Island starts Monday 6 June at 9pm on ITV2