Image Source: Beauty Works
There's no doubt about it, Ekin-Su Cülcüloğlu is a force to be reckoned with. Since winning "Love Island" 2022, the 28-year-old has become something of a household name thanks to her honesty, confidence, and passionate relationship with Davide Sanclimenti. And the savvy reality star isn't taking any of her newfound fame for granted. "I just want to be a role model who makes young girls realise who they are," she says.
As she sits down with POPSUGAR for a catch up, she is busier than ever. Having met us straight from rehearsals for the upcoming series of "Dancing on Ice", she also recently filmed her new two-part reality show with Davide for ITV2, has been to New York to promote her collection with fashion brand, Oh Polly, and we're here to discuss her latest venture as an ambassador for haircare brand, Beauty Works. Yet we can't help but ask if there was one particular job she was holding out for?
"She's funny, intelligent, smart, beautiful. ITV have made a good choice with picking her, I think."
"I did get offered," she reveals of the "Love Island" presenting gig. "I would've loved to do it, but I can't at the minute because of how busy I am. And I said I'm not ready for it . . . I want proper training. I've done presenting before, but not to the level of Laura [Whitmore]." So what does she think of Maya Jama getting the top job? "She's funny, intelligent, smart, beautiful. ITV have made a good choice with picking her, I think."
The collaboration between Ekin-Su and Beauty Works is a natural one. Having been a fan of the brand's tools and hair extensions before her reality TV fame — she used the Jumbo Waver (£75) in the "Love Island" final — her hair makes her feel more empowered. "My hair means a lot to me," she says. "I want to show my fans and women how to style your hair, how to use vegan, quality products." Kicking off the collaboration with a party edit full of gift sets and party must-haves, she prides herself on hair care, always using heat protection and a range of treatments every time she washes it. And we can't help but notice a much darker shade than we were used to seeing in the villa.
"This is my natural hair colour," she reveals. "It's the same colour as my roots. I only went lighter last year before Love Island, but it's very hard to maintain. I was doing loads of treatments all the time. Summer is gone and I just thought, 'You know what? I want to go natural now.'" She's not just embracing her natural hair colour, either. "Everything I'm doing now is going back to my natural [self]," she says. "Things like fillers will come out. Everything. I want to go back to basics. I just feel like natural is the best beauty."
Image Source: Getty/Karwai Tang
Inner confidence is Ekin-Su's super power. She oozes a warm self-assurance that should be bottled up and handed out, although she's worked hard on herself to get to this point. "I think [my confidence] comes from my mum and my childhood, having a hard upbringing, school, being bullied, being isolated from people, not being accepted in things," she says. "I had no friends, no one to talk to. It's really sad." These experiences only encouraged her to be her own friend. "I started to really talk to myself in the mirror . . . I'd be like, 'Hey, how are you doing today? I'm a strong woman. I'm doing really well. Today, I'm going to be fine.'"
As she grew older, she used heartbreak as further fuel to love herself. "I think every woman can relate. I think everyone has been cheated on at least once or been through a very heartbreaking relationship which made them stronger. And I always say people who are strong now have been people who have been through stuff in life. Whether that's relationship, family, money, they've come out really strong headed."
"I always say people who are strong now have been people who have been through stuff in life."
Now in a solid relationship, Ekin-Su and Davide are flat-hunting to take their romance to the next level. And life outside the villa has been pretty good so far. "It's the little things, like when I'm asleep, he tucks me in bed or just makes sure I have my paracetamol there for me," she says, although there are always negative rumours circulating online. "It's so sweet of him. And I wish people could see more of that but I'm the one living it, and a relationship should be private I think. People always assume things . . . I do read the negative comments but when I read them I imagine the person behind the computer or their phone and I feel sorry for them."
The happy couple took to the NTAs 2022 red carpet hand in hand, with Ekin-Su showcasing her long straight hair, which she reveals is Davide's favourite look on her. "The 26 inch raven extensions [by Beauty Works] are unreal. Doesn't even feel heavy on my head," she says. The couple have also recently filmed their ITV2 show, "Ekin-Su & Davide: Homecomings", of which she tells us, "Everyone is going to relate because no couple is perfect. Everyone bickers and argues. And it's healthy, it's okay."
Image Source: Beauty Works
She was an actress in Turkey before her stint on the dating show, so had experienced a smaller dose of being in the public eye. This experience has made her more aware of others, both when she was in the villa and since she's left. "There were certain people in [the "Love Island" villa] that every new bombshell came in, 'Do you know how many followers I've got on Instagram?' . . . And it's like, 'Why are you in Love Island? Is that why you're here? Or are you here to find love?' You can see through that."
She hasn't watched the full series of "Love Island" back yet, and doesn't intend to. And let's be honest, she's too busy. The girls have a Whatsapp chat where they check in every now and again — "they're smashing it" — while her focus is now on herself, Davide, and her career. Ekin-Su's empowering attitude is what made her such a fan-favourite. She wants to be someone "that people can look up to, and be like, 'She's humble, she's authentic, she's a great role model.' That's what I'm going to be." With a strong head, tons of ambition, and a passion for everything she puts her name to, that famous "Love Island" quip, "Ekin-who?" will certainly be long forgotten. Ekin-Su's name is going nowhere.