Joey Essex’s secret love exposed

As Love Island’s Joey Essex and Grace Jackson’s relationship hots up, insiders say their romance has been a long time coming

Joey Essex

by closer |
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The shock dumping of his Love Island love interest Samantha Kenny may have left Joey Essex in the doghouse with his fellow Islanders, but that hasn’t stopped the charmer from reigniting his steamy romance with ex-girlfriend Grace Jackson.

The couple first met last year and enjoyed a short-lived holiday romance, but things fizzled out at the end of the summer when neither Essex-based Joey, 33, or Manchester lass Grace, 25, were willing to relocate or to pursue a long-distance relationship.

And while fans may be shocked by bombshell Grace’s promise to up sticks and move down south just days after entering the Love Island 2024 villa, a source tells Closer how the pair never stopped talking, and how Joey is equally smitten.

Grace Jackson and Joey Essex
Joey rekindled his romance with former flame Grace in the Love Island villa ©ITV Pictures

Our insider says, “Joey has been harbouring a secret love for Grace before she surprised him on the show. The chemistry never died, nor did Joey’s feelings for Grace. The physical side of the relationship with her only fizzled out as Joey got cold feet and wasn’t sure he was ready to commit to having a proper girlfriend.

"That and his work commitments got in the way, but they never stopped talking. Now things couldn’t have come at a better time as Joey is ready to commit and wants true love.”

Up until Grace’s dramatic entrance, Joey had been coupled up with Samantha, who was brutally ditched from the villa at the recoupling, leading fans to call for “justice for Samantha”.

Samantha Kenny and Joey Essex
Samantha was dumped when Grace recoupled with Joey ©ITV Pictures

Just hours before, Joey had sparked fury from fans and Islanders when he had invited newcomer Grace to spend the night in The Hideaway with him – because he didn’t want her to sleep in a single bed.

“I’m struggling to see why it’s such a bad thing for Grace to sleep in a single bed? Why are they acting like she’d contract a disease if she does”, seethed one fan, while another added, “Why are Joey and Grace acting like a single bed is some form of torture? I slept in a single bed for 11 years, I think she’ll live.”

However this situation is familiar territory for well-versed ladies’ man Joey, who rose to fame on TOWIE back in 2010 when he first started dating former fiancée and co-star, Sam Faiers.

Sam Faiers and Joey Essex
Joe previously dated TOWIE co-star Sam Faiers ©Mark Milan/FilmMagic

The reality star – who has also appeared on I’m A Celebrity!, Dancing On Ice, Celebs Go Dating, Ex On The Beach and Celebrity SAS – went on to romance a string of models and reality stars, including Stephanie Pratt and Love Island’s Ellie Brown. Joey also dated his professional Dancing On Ice partner, Vanessa Bauer, last April, but the romance fizzled out just a day after the pair made their relationship official.

Ahead of going into the villa, Joey described himself as “extremely single”, adding, “I am the king of Essex and I’m ready to find my queen.”

But now the source says friends fear that Grace may be using the TV favourite to boost her own profile. The model currently co-owns a social media marketing business and has made it clear that she loves the high life.

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Before entering the villa, she explained, “I like to go out and go abroad a lot. They can’t keep up with my lifestyle! It’s the life that I want, and it helps with my business.”

The insider continues, “Friends and family are worried that Grace might not be in it for the right reasons – especially now Joey’s made himself vulnerable and let his feelings be known.

“There’s a lot riding on this coupling being successful. Grace will inevitably bag a load of modelling and lucrative collaboration deals and pals hope she’s not just seeing Joey as a meal ticket.

“He’s clearly caught up in the moment, it’s full on.”

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