Exclusive Interview: Megan Barton-Hanson
by Claire Muffett-Reece
The Love Island 2018 star talks mental health – and how she’s learnt to deal with the negative side of being in the public eye
By Claire Muffett-Reece
As a feminist what do you think about that recent abortion law that was passed in Alabama?
‘It makes me so angry. I was going to comment on it but I’ve got enough negativity out there as it is. It’s disgusting that women can’t have the right of their own body. You should do what you want to do.’
What other issues have you been campaigning on since like leaving Love Island?
‘I’ve worked with The Rex Box Project, which is all about stopping period poverty. I’m shocked this is even an issue in the UK! When you go to school it’s awkward enough, let alone having to use socks and tissue paper when you get your period because you can’t afford to buy tampons or sanitary towels. Men can walk in to a clinic for free condoms, so why can’t women get help for buying menstrual products?’
You’ve also been open about your issues with mental health. How do you deal with it these days?
‘As well as seeing a therapist it’s the little things, like avoiding social media if I’m having a bad day. I just won’t look at it because for me, all I do is compare myself. I try to remember that no one puts the bad days – everyone puts their highlights.’
Your social media account isn’t as active as other Love Island stars…
‘My family were really hassled when I was on the show, so I don’t put a lot or anything too personal on there. They had journalists knocking at the door and it wasn’t a nice time for them. I don’t want to now bring them into the limelight – they didn’t choose that life, I did. Even when I am out with my friends who don’t mind being on my social media, I still don’t put posts on there. I have never been one of these people to document every single thing.’
How did you deal with the fame when you came out of the villa?
‘I tried to make light of it, but obviously I am still human and any negative comments I got hurt me. People were particularly cruel about the way I looked before. Obviously I wasn’t completely happy with my looks but I didn’t think I was hideous, which is what people were saying.’
That must have affected your mental health…
‘It did. I still have days where I wake up and feel awful. When I broke up with Wes I put a few stories of me in bed and I was actually crying. I thought there must be girls who are going through exactly the same as me, and they have got no one to talk to. I wanted to reassure girls that yeah, you might see me last week at this awards show or next week doing a photo shoot, but today I am feeling down, exactly like everyone else.’
Do you think the show portrayed the real you?
‘I realise the production company have a TV show to make, so they would use points to make me look worse than I actually am. I just don’t think it was really explained fully how much it would be cut down and condensed. I purposely haven’t watched it back because I think how I was portrayed was not true to myself.’
What more do you think production companies should do to care for participants’ mental well-being?
‘I do think Love Island looked after us. I think you need to be open with your emotions. There’s only so much ITV can do. With me, every bad thing that’s come out in the press, they have been in contact about, which is great.’
When did you first realise you needed help in terms of mental health?
‘I was at school, but there was no particular reason for why I was feeling down. My mum took me to the doctors and we got signed onto a therapist. I had six sessions with her, then I plodded along for a couple more years. I broke up with my first proper boyfriend, and it got to the stage that I asked my mum’s permission to end my life. We started CBT and it helped train my mind to think positively. There’s no shame in saying I see a therapist. In America everyone has got a therapist on hand!’
All the couples who got together on the show have since split. If everyone was single when you originally entered the villa is there anyone else you’d have coupled up with?
‘I pretty much tried out everyone in there! Rather randomly I did have a weird dream about Jack Fincham the other day. I don’t know where that came from – it must be because we’re both filming Celebs Go Dating!’
What do you hope for the future in terms of your career?
‘I love radio and am obsessed with podcasts. I would love to do my own podcast and interview people about different subjects, from the sex industry to mental health. I’ve experienced so much in my 25 years, so I think I would really like to do like documentaries on things I have experienced, rather than someone from the outside looking in. I can relate to these people, so hopefully they would open up to me more.’
Let’s talk grooming. Are you always getting pampered in beauty parlours?
‘People are shocked at how un-girly I am! Luckily my best friend is a hairdresser, so he always does my hair. When it comes to make-up I am slowly learning since being in the villa. I haven’t plucked my eyebrows in years because I went mad when I was at school and had little thin ones, so now I just let them grow.’
What happened when you had a reaction to hair dye at home?
‘My whole life I had always had highlights and bleach in salon. I was going out to LA for Coachella and I thought I’d just touch the roots up at home. I got a box dye, put it on and within three hours my face was puffy and my throat was closing up. It was scary.’
What happened next?
‘I called a private doctor – and within 15 minutes of seeing me she called an ambulance. She thought I was going into anaphylactic shock, but luckily the steroids she gave me brought it all down.’
How’s your fitness regime these days? Is it true you were training six days a week prior to going on the All New Monty?
‘I never trained six days a week. It was four maximum. I’m lucky; if I eat well I can lose weight quickly, so I try and eat good Monday to Friday and eat what I want on Saturday and Sunday. I also don’t tend to eat breakfast – it just works for me. For lunch I’ll have tuna salad or a jacket potato and for dinner I have like prepped meals that are calorie-controlled.’
Any junk food you love?
‘Crisps. I eat family bags of crisps and I always say to myself just have a few and put them back, but I never do. Crisps with a glass of wine and some cheese and crackers. I love it!’
Will you be visiting your hometown of Southend on Sea more this summer?
‘I love Southend and am back here all the time. Especially when the sun is out – I love to go to old Leigh and have a drink in one of the beer gardens. When I was younger I couldn’t wait to get out of Southend, and now I just love being home.’
Photographs credited to jamesaugustusphotography.com/