Sophie Gradon dead: Reality stars need more aftercare, says Love Island contestant

Former Love Island contestant Malin Andersson has spoken of her shock at the death of Sophie Gradon and said that contestants on reality television shows need to be provided more “aftercare.”

Andersson and Gradon both starred on the ITV reality show in 2016, where they became good friends.

Gradon, who was the show’s first queer contestant, was found dead on Wednesday. Police are not treating her death as suspicious.

Andersson said she was devastated by Gradon’s death, calling the sad news a deep “shock.”

Andersson appeared on the second season of Love Island in 2016. (@missmalinsara/Instagram)

“I didn’t believe it. A close friend of mine rang me and told me,” she told BBC’s Newsbeat. “I thought it was a joke or something. It still hasn’t sunk in to be honest and I don’t think it will for a while.”

The reality star said she had formed a close bond with Gradon during their time on the show, and the two women helped each other in the direct aftermath of their season.

“She did talk to me a lot about personal situations quite close to when the show had finished,” Andersson said. “It was a shock for both of us when we came out of the villa, and I completely understood where she was coming from because I felt the same.”

Andersson is now calling for Love Island to provide more “aftercare” for its stars, saying reality TV is a “weird industry.”

According to her, reality stars face a “downside” that audiences do not see.

“There just needs to be more done about it and a lot more aftercare provided by certain reality TV shows,” she said.

Reflecting on her own struggles, Andersson said reality shows like Love Island can badly affect people’s mental health.

“It’s like you’re constantly reaching for some kind of high and when work dies down and things go quiet you’re constantly trying to chase it – and that’s where depression can kick in,” said Andersson.

The reality star said she had experienced similar scenarios and regretted that the issue was not “looked into much.”

Gradon was found dead at a Medburn property, near Newcastle, on Wednesday. Tributes from media personalities and fellow Love Island contestants have poured in since the announcement.

Gradon briefly coupled up with fellow contestant Katie Salmon during the show in 2016, becoming the first ever queer contestant to be featured on the programme.

Salmon paid tribute to Gradon on social media on Thursday.

Many celebrated Gradon’s “beautiful smile,” and “beautiful soul.” Cara de la Hoyde, who won the 2016 Love Island series with Nathan Massey, said she was “heartbroken” by the news.

Gradon’s boyfriend Aaron Armstrong posted a tribute on social media, writing: “I will never forget that smile I love you so so much baby your my world forever ever and always.”

Gradon was crowned Miss Newcastle and Miss Great Britain in 2009. The organisation also paid her tribute on Twitter.

Love Island honoured Gradon’s memory before Thursday night’s episode.

If you’re struggling with mental health issues, please visit resources including Switchboard, which operates a hotline for LGBT+ people.