Remembering Love Island’s Sophie Gradon and all she stood for

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Kayleigh Dray
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Sophie Gradon - Love Island - ITV2

The former Love Island contestant, who has been found dead at the age of 32, used her platform to campaign against sex-shaming and bullying.

Sophie Gradon, who appeared on the first series of Love Island, has tragically been found dead at the age of 32.

Gradon’s boyfriend, Aaron Armstrong, wrote on Facebook: “I will never forget that smile I love you so, so much, baby. You’re my world, forever ever and always.”

Caroline Flack, who presents ITV2’s Love Island, added that the news was “so very sad”.

Cara de la Hoyde, who won the Love Island series in which Gradon took part, said it was an “awful day” and that her “heart is broken”.

“@sophiegradon you were only helping me battle the twitter trolls yesterday. Rest in peace beautiful,” tweeted Holly Hagan.

Olivia Buckland, who also appeared alongside Gradon on the show, wrote: “Awful awful news this morning. I am gutted. I am so sorry the world failed you. You were such an intricate, creative, intelligent soul. Words fail me.

“You helped us through so much. Your smile was one in a million. The world failed. I send all my love and my thoughts to you today.”

And Love Island producers tweeted that they were “profoundly saddened” to learn of Gradon’s passing.

Fans have since called for show bosses to include a tribute to Gradon at the end of tonight’s show, pointing out that she made history in 2016 as one half of Love Island’s first same-sex couple, after she “coupled up” with fellow contestant Katie Salmon.

Many also noted that Gradon delivered an impassioned speech during her time on the show, which championed the idea that women – just like men – are human beings with very real and valid sexual needs.

Speaking in defence of her co-star, Zara Holland, who had left the show shortly after producers told her she’d lost her Miss Great Britain title due to her sexual behaviour on the show, Gradon said: “Life shouldn’t be about judging one another.

“For example, judging a young woman for enjoying herself. A young woman who hasn’t harmed anyone, yet still a woman who has faced a torrent of judgemental and close minded opinions since leaving Love Island.”

She continued: “As an ex Miss Newscastle and Miss Great Britain, I can say that it’s time people moved forward from their old fashioned thinking and accepted the simple fact that women like to have sex.”

Following her time on Love Island, Gradon – formerly a marketing manager – made a point of following her fashion dreams, launching multiple collections from online retailer The Fashion Bible.

She said at the time: “I’m a massive lover of fashion. Coming up with my own collection is always something I’ve wanted to do so being able to turn my hand to it and getting to design one in time for Love Island was a great opportunity.

“It meant that while I was on the show and wearing the clothes, the ball was already rolling in terms of people being interested in the collection.”

As well as her fashion enterprises, Gradon also dedicated herself to several anti-bullying campaigns. Indeed, psychologist Emma Kenny – who appeared alongside Gradon at a talk on the impact of social media on children – has paid tribute to the former television star on her own social media account.

“Worked at an anti-bullying conference with Sophie a few months back,” she wrote. “[She was an] utterly lovely woman who had her life turned upside down due to trolls.”

Touching upon this same topic, Salmon shared a lengthy message on Twitter, urging everyone to be kinder to one another on social media.

“I urge everyone to be kind to every person they meet and speak with on social media and in person,” she said.

“A simple smile or nice comment can really make a difference, you really don’t know the battles they go through every single day.

“Your smile will be remembered forever. My thoughts are with your family, friends and loved ones at this horrendous time.

“Too young, too sweet, too kind. Am sending all my love, I truly am, to everyone who ever had the pleasure of being in her company.”

In the week before her death, Gradon shared a quote from author J. Raymond, saying: “I feel very deep tonight. Reflecting on life and what it means to live.”

The excerpt read: “I want to live and love recklessly. Fly higher, drive faster, feel too deeply and act on things in spite of fear.

“I want to be out of control, laugh no end, meet more strange people, make memories when I’m least expecting it, settle less, and see things that are beautiful and unusual.

“Taste new foods and fall in love with as many things and people as possible.

“I want to learn, and I want to question things more. Because, my god, our time to live is limited, and I swear, good enough never is.”

The cause of Gradon’s death has yet to be confirmed to the public, although police have said that they do not believe it to be “suspicious”.

In a statement, Northumbria Police said: “At about 8.27pm yesterday (20 June) police attended a property in Medburn, Ponteland, where sadly a 32-year-old woman was found deceased.

“There are not believed to be any suspicious circumstances surrounding her death. A report will now be prepared for the coroner.”

Image: Rex Features


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.