Love Island: ‘I turned down the show to rescue dogs’

Gina O'Sullivan gave up her chance of romance in the villa in favour of helping dogs in need.

Gina O'Sullivan Instagram

by Bella Evennett-Watts |
Updated on

With an Instagram profile full of bikini-clad poolside selfies, it’s no wonder Gina O’Sullivan caught the eyes of Love Island producers, who begged her to apply for the hit ITV show.

But the trainee veterinary nurse declined the offer – instead, she chose to focus on her work with a charity that helps rescue neglected dogs in southeast Europe.

Gina, 26, says, “The Love Island casting researchers contacted me, and I was basically guaranteed a place on the show. But after I gave it some thought, I knew my time could be better spent rescuing dogs in need.

“I know that I have the appearance the producers were looking for, but I don’t want a life of red-carpet events and screaming fans. I’m committed to animal rights and campaigning for higher welfare standards.

“I want to use my Instagram feed to inspire young girls to donate to and support animal charities – not buy clothes.”

Gina has always been passionate about helping animals. Aged 21, she joined Romanian Rescue Appeal, and travelled from her home in Leicester to Romania.

She recalls, “I’d seen a video by Romanian Rescue Appeal on Facebook, asking for volunteers to help. In Romania, dogs aren’t valued or respected in the way they are in the UK. They’re either left to fend for themselves on the streets, or kept in public shelters, often in awful conditions.

“I was desperate to help, so I signed up. But nothing could have prepared me for what I saw out there.

“The dogs in the public shelters were left without food or water, and they had no medical attention.

Gina O'Sullivan
Gina O'SullivanGina O'Sullivan ©Gina O'Sullivan

“I was only meant to be there for a few days, but I stayed for a month. Seeing the dogs in awful conditions inspired me to become a trainee veterinary nurse and get medical experience.

“The worst part was going home. I hated leaving so many neglected pups behind.”

Since then, Gina – who has over 2,000 Instagram followers – has continued to campaign for animal rights. While her social media is full of sun-soaked holiday snaps, she says she doesn’t just travel the world to relax.

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Gina says, “My followers love seeing my worldwide adventures, but I don’t just travel for a holiday.

“I went to Thailand last year, where I bathed elephants rescued from cruel handlers, who would have forced them into a life chained up and ridden by tourists.

“Then, in April, I visited Dubai. While friends flocked to the desert to ride tired, exploited camels, I went to a turtle rehabilitation project.

Gina O'Sullivan
Gina O'Sullivan ©Gina O'Sullivan

“I find it upsetting that animals have been abused by humans for years, only to be ditched when they’re no longer of any use.”

It was no doubt vegetarian Gina’s glam online persona that attracted the Love Island producers to her. She says, “They got in touch in January 2017. I’ve got long blonde hair and I like to keep in shape, so I had the look they go for.

“They encouraged me to apply and, while I was tempted, I knew I couldn’t justify spending two months in a villa, when I could have been helping animals.”

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She adds, “Besides, I’m very picky when it comes to finding love. I would never date someone who doesn’t have the same beliefs as me when it comes to animals.

“Sometimes, guys try to chat me up at bars, but I’m not interested in them if they don’t support animal rights.

“I can’t pretend that I don’t love posing for pictures on Instagram, but it’s the photos of me at protests or raising awareness of campaigns that I want people to really pay attention to.”

In October 2019, Gina went back to Calarasi, in Romania. She stayed at a home with over 150 dogs, assisting with treatment and visiting shelters.

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Gina says, “The winters in Romania can be brutal, and many of the dogs are left to freeze and starve in the public kennels.

“Some dogs I saw had even resorted to cannibalism to survive. It was horrific.

“We met one lady who took stray dogs into her home, but people took advantage of her and would throw dogs in plastic bags into her garden.

“There’s so much that needs to be done to help the dogs in Romania, I’ll definitely go back.

“Some people might think I’m mad to turn down a summer of love and fame, but I know I did the right thing to help animals in need.”

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