For over a decade, Love Island has been a summer reality staple. A show about extremely hot people wearing extremely small bathing suits and doing an extreme amount of tongue-kissing, Love Island has become a global phenomenon with ten different international spinoffs airing this year.
This summer, Love Island USA launched its fifth season out of a glaring white-and-neon “villa” (read: set) in Fiji. Over 33 days, 32 different Islanders came and went, all ostensibly there to find true love. While some of the show’s early romantic favorites flickered and fizzled coming out of Casa Amor, a few true love connections were made, including the season’s winners, Hannah Wright and Marco Donatelli. A teacher and a student-model, respectively, Wright and Donatelli linked up in the villa on day two and slowly built a relationship, becoming one of the most stable, sensible, and seemingly genuine couples in the show’s history. They also became one of the most charming with their midday dips into the bedroom for a little hanky-panky, feverish commitment to winning challenges, and relatable back-and-forth about Donatelli’s farts. Now out of the villa and taking on the real world as a couple, Wright and Donatelli have pledged to give long-distance dating a try.
What made you both want to do Love Island in the first place?
Hannah Wright: My dating life in the past year was nonexistent. It was my first year teaching and it was just work, work, work. I decided to apply because I thought, What better way to focus on intensive dating than going for a summer on Love Island? And it worked out!
Marco Donatelli: My dating life since high school was terrible. I was busy trying to start companies, going to school, and providing for my family. I didn’t really have many opportunities to give my heart to a woman, especially when my mom was sick. So for those two and a half, three years, I didn’t entertain anyone.
Then I got down to Florida and I started going to school at FAU and that really helped me open up and try to get to know people, but I still had no luck on the dating apps. I model, though, and was posting some underwear pictures, and that’s when Love Island hit me up. It was like, I don’t have classes in the summer. I’m going to try it out.
You two got physical at times, including once in the Hideaway, and when the Islanders got family messages, Marco’s grandma said she felt like she was watching porn. What did you think of that?
H.W.: I just wanted to be me. That’s how I would be in real life with someone I liked: We’d be touchy. Why censor myself if this is someone I want to get to know?
M.D.: It’s ridiculous for people to think we could just sleep there next to each other after being together all day and growing our connection. Everything was realistic, and even then I would say that we waited until the last ten days before we got physical. We actually waited until after the Hideaway. I was ready as soon as she stepped foot in the house, but she wasn’t, and so we both went about it really respectfully.
H.W.: It is funny that she said it was like pornography, though, because there were times in the villa before when Marco would say, “My grandma is going to be watching this!”
You two won because people thought you had legs as a couple, but is there another couple from the villa you think can really go the distance?
H.W.: Leo and Kassy, because they’ve been through so much. If you see them in person, they’re like two peas in a pod. Their personalities are so similar, and they match each other’s energy really well. Even after what they went through, there was still love there.
M.D.: I rode for Leo while I was on the show and then he kind of embarrassed me [when he slept with another girl, Johnnie, during Casa Amor], but I would say they have the strongest chance. He’s still in school, but she’s willing to help him study. He lives in Connecticut, sometimes stays in Manhattan, and goes to school in Ohio, while she’s all the way in Texas, so it’s not going to be easy for them and they might have some time apart. But I think they’ll be able to pull through.
During Casa Amor, Leo slept with one of the bombshells, Johnnie, while he was seemingly committed to Kassy. Despite Kassy’s anger and his defensiveness, he won her back. Some viewers think he got off too easy. Was there any groveling or conflict viewers didn’t get to see? Did you lay into him at all?
M.D.: I played the big-brother role with Leo. We started off as best friends, but then he started acting in ways I wouldn’t. I was really mad at him, and there’s a clip of me saying that what he did was not okay. I mean, he was even considering not bringing Johnnie back from Casa, and I was like, “Are you kidding me? You did this. You have to bring her back.” But we’re there to test connections, and during Casa Amor, they weren’t officially closed off. He said he wanted to be, but they really weren’t.
H.W.: He got a lot of heat from everyone in there, so I never wanted to add to that. There were already all these eyes on him and all this judgment, so I remember just giving him a hug.
I have a soft spot for Leo. He’s like a brother, and he was going through it. And then to set up a date for Kassy, in order to win her back, and have Scott come in to take her on a date instead? Leo had to see her get pursued by multiple people, which is hard to do. I couldn’t imagine being in his shoes and seeing that. He definitely took the heat, and Kassy saw that and was understanding, which is something I love about her: She sees stuff from both perspectives.
M.D.: Leo had to roll with the punches, as he should. He even said multiple times, “I’ve got to walk through the fire that I set.” That date he set up on the beach was all his idea. He knew he had to face the consequences of his actions, but he wanted to fight to get her back.
There were actually multiple times that he wanted to leave, but Kenzo and I would say, “You’ve got to fight that off and stick it out.” I could tell by the eyes Kassy gave Leo that there wasn’t another choice for her in that villa. You could tell she was leaning back toward him. Even when she walked back in from Casa with Matia, it wasn’t the same energy. She didn’t feel the way she felt for Leo. We were just waiting for Leo to earn that trust back.
Shortly after Casa, there was a “Red Wedding,” in which six Islanders went home including Kay Kay and Keenan, who’d been through their own drama. Do you think about the public vote while you’re on the show? How did that night play out on your end, and what did you think about her decision to leave with Keenan after he’d been voted out?
H.W.: I felt like the public votes were always very shocking because things change so quickly. You never know what the public is thinking or what they even see. You have to go into every dumping or recoupling thinking you might go home that day. Even so, I didn’t think Keenan was going to leave at that time. We knew he did a lot, but it was still very shocking to me.
M.D.: He got the fewest number of votes, too. Keenan got even less than Mike, who was new, and he’d been there from the start. I was shocked.
And Leo went further than him sexually, and he got to stay.
H.W.: Exactly! It was like, Okay, we see what the public thinks now.
When he left, I knew Kay Kay would leave too. I don’t think she would have been as happy without him, even if she’d been coupled up with someone else. She would have been thinking about what could have been. So I understand her decision, and I think we all expected it.
What did you think of Keenan coming at Sarah Hyland for asking Kay Kay if she was sure she wanted to go?
H.W.: I didn’t agree with that. That’s Sarah’s job. She’s going to ask the question that people want to hear, and I wanted to know, too. We were all thinking it!
M.D.: She’s basically a professional body-language reader at this point, too, and she could watch what was happening between them in moments you guys might not see. I can understand why that question came up, especially if you think about the time it took Kay Kay to stand up after the announcement about Keenan — because I know for damn sure that when the public voted Taylor out, Jonah jumped out of his seat to leave. Kay Kay had to contemplate.
You two were very close almost from the jump. You closed things off first and said “I love you” all the time. Why did you wait until the season finale to officially become boyfriend and girlfriend?
M.D.: I said “I love you” about two weeks before I asked Hannah to be my girlfriend, I think, because I was waiting to hear what my family thought. They’re everything to me. Once I got the approval from them, I really started thinking about it.
I actually made some attempts to ask in the villa, but we’d have challenges or other things would come up. Then I was asking Bergie what he thought, and he said, “You know what? If you wait until you make the finals, you’ll have an unbelievable date.” So I decided to wait, and it ended up being a really special moment.
Are you worried about distance at all? Marco, you live in Boca Raton, and Hannah, you’re from Palm Springs.
M.D.: I’m fortunate enough that I’m able to support myself and have my own place, so I’ve told her she can come visit me for however long she wants.
I’m not really too worried about it. I’m pretty focused on my day-to-day life, and the last thing I want is a distraction besides her. It’s not going to be the same, since I can’t touch her and physical touch is a huge thing for me, but other than that, it’s just about being mature in your relationship. I think saying the distance is too much is just an excuse for somebody who wants to turn their back.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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