Entertainment

Sophie Gradon: ITV2 leads tributes to ex-Love Island star

Sophie Gradon in 2010 after being crowned Miss Newcastle and Miss Great Britain Image copyright PA

ITV2 has led tributes to former Love Island contestant Sophie Gradon who has died at the age of 32.

Gradon, who was crowned Miss Great Britain in 2009, was found dead at her home on Wednesday. Police are not treating her death as suspicious.

A short on-screen tribute was aired before Thursday’s episode of Love Island with a photo and the words: “In loving memory of Sophie Gradon.”

Many viewers welcomed the “beautiful” tribute to the reality star.

“That little tribute to Sophie broke my heart,” one person wrote on Twitter, while another said: “Why am I crying at the 1 second tribute to Sophie Gradon on Love Island tonight.”

A spokesman for ITV2 told the BBC on Friday that the islanders had been told the news off camera.

Gradon was a personal friend of Ellie Brown, who is a contestant on this year’s show.

She had tweeted a picture of Brown as it was announced she was entering the villa, calling her “my mate Elle”.

Image copyright ITV2

But others criticised the show’s producers with one person saying it was “pretty poor” and “hardly a tribute”, while another called it too brief.

Gradon, who appeared on the 2016 series of the ITV2 dating show, was also a former winner of Miss Newcastle.

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

Love Island presenter Caroline Flack said the news was “so very sad”.

The makers of the programme also expressed condolences on Twitter.

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.”

Gradon has previously spoken about her struggle with depression and anxiety.

In August 2016, she responding to a question on Twitter about whether she would recommend applying for Love Island, saying: “Not if you suffer from anxiety or depression. It’s a VERY testing environment.”

A few months later she also tweeted: “Feel so guilty when my anxiety takes over, for not wanting to see or speak to anyone.

“Some days I get so overwhelmed I just want to nap.”

And in September last year she said she was “battling a little bit of depression”, adding she had tried hypnotherapy and meditation.

Gradon’s fellow Love Island contestant in 2016, Malin Andersson, has said reality TV stars need to receive more care after leaving shows.

She described Gradon as having an infectious smile and was “always so upbeat and so happy” on the show – but added there is a “downside to reality TV and fame” that people don’t see.

Image copyright Rex Features

Olivia Buckland, who appeared with Gradon on Love Island, described Gradon as a “beautiful beautiful woman” with a “one in a million” smile. She added: “The world failed you.”

Alex Bowen, a contestant on the 2016 series, said she was “a beautiful person with a beautiful soul”, while Kady McDermott, another 2016 participant, said she was “absolutely heartbroken“.

Cara de la Hoyde, who won the 2016 series with Nathan Massey, said her “heart [was] broken” as well, while Amber Davies, winner of the 2017 series, said she was “absolutely in shock“.

Image copyright PA

Other reality TV stars have also paid tribute, with Mario Falcone from The Only Way is Essex saying he was left “speechless” by the news.

Calum Best, who starred in the original Celebrity Love Island show set in Fiji in 2005, tweeted: “How sad, what a good woman and friend.”

The organisers of the Miss Great Britain contest said they were “sending all our love” to Gradon’s family.

Gradon coupled up with Thomas Powell in the Love Island villa and went on to have a relationship with Katie Salmon.

In a lengthy message on Twitter, Salmon said her “smile will be remembered forever”.

She added: “I urge everyone to be kind to every person they meet and speak with on social media and in person… you really don’t know the battles they go through every single day.”

Gradon, who had more than 400,000 followers on Instagram, took part in a talk earlier this year about the impact of social media on children. Psychologist Emma Kenny, who took part in the same event, described her as an “utterly lovely woman”.

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