THE challenges Tasha Ghouri has overcome in her 24 years have made her, as she says, “one tough cookie”.
Born deaf into a hearing family, a cochlear implant – a small electronic device in her right ear – at the age of five allowed her to hear for the first time.
ITV2’s most-watched dating show finalist Tasha Ghouri opens about her treatment in the villaCredit: Mark Cant
The Love Island star, 24, has overcome many challenges after she was born deafCredit: Mark Cant
Since then she has flourished – overcoming every obstacle life has put in front of her. But this year’s Love Island almost proved too much for her.
Like EastEnders star Rose Ayling-Ellis who, last year, became the first deaf contestant to take part in Strictly Come Dancing, Tasha, from Thirsk, was the first deaf contestant on the ITV2 dating show. But that is where the similarities end. For while Rose was lauded for overcoming adversity and winning Strictly, Tasha’s journey was considerably harder.
While the model and dancer found happiness with boyfriend Andrew Le Page, 27, and ended up in the final four, the road to get there was difficult and often upsetting to watch.
The boys in the villa, particularly Luca Bish, 23, and Dami Hope, 26, were fixated on the idea that Tasha was a game-player who was only with Andrew to win the show and that she regularly cried for attention.
Their treatment of her during the infamous Movie Night and the Snog, Marry, Pie challenge where she was pied in the face by three of the boys and subjected to unpleasant comments, resulted in thousands of complaints from viewers.
It culminated in Tasha herself telling producers she was going to leave the show – and Andrew was going with her.
Speaking for the first time about what happened, Tasha tells Fabulous: “I knew I was gonna get pies. I was ready for it, but it was more about the comments after that…There’s a level of banter and there’s [that]. I was standing there thinking: ‘Keep your head held high and don’t show a reaction.’ There’s a clip and you can still see it in my face [how upset I was].
“It was a lot – I felt backed into a corner. It’s such an intense environment and hard to escape. You’re stuck in there together. I was ready to walk out.”
After being dumped from the island, Billy Brown, 23, and Josh Le Grove, 22, both spoke out about Tasha’s treatment, with Billy saying: “I can see why people are saying about the bullying. Luca and Dami just constantly go for Tasha.”
The model found happiness with boyfriend Andrew Le Page, 27 and ended up in the final fourCredit: Shutterstock Editorial
But the road to get there was difficult and often upsetting to watchCredit: Mark Cant
Speaking for the first time about what happened, Tasha tells Fabulous: ‘I was standing there thinking: ‘Keep your head held high and don’t show a reaction’Credit: Mark Cant
Josh said: “A producer could have easily stepped in.” As we read out these comments, Tasha gets emotional: “I didn’t know they said that. It’s happened now and I can’t go back and change it.
“A part of me wishes I had put my foot down a bit more. I’m quite an emotional person and I probably did cry a lot. That’s how I’ve always been. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I did get a lot of hate for that.”
‘I was upset’
Both Dami and Luca later apologised to Tasha during one-on-one conversations, leading fans to suspect that ITV producers might have told them to do so. Tasha was just happy to be able to move on.
“A lot had happened in the space of three days and a lot of it was targeted at me. I was upset. I did kind of walk out. I said [to producers]: ‘I’ve had enough.’ Andrew said: ‘I’m gonna go with you.’ Then all of a sudden the boys apologised…It was a bittersweet moment. I’m a very forgiving person. I didn’t want to live the rest of the weeks in a negative way. I forgive, but I don’t forget.”
Even Islanders who had left the villa continued to bully her. Jacques O’Neill, 23, filmed himself watching Tasha’s declaration of love to Andrew, shouting: “You are a liar, an actress, get the f**k out.”
Some fans thought he was mocking Tasha’s speech, which is affected by her hearing. And last week it emerged she had unfollowed him on Instagram.
But rather than driving Andrew and Tasha apart, dealing with the tirade of abuse actually made them stronger.
The fact that we fought back just proved to everybody, especially the public, that we are genuine and love each other.
“It got to the point [in the villa] where me and Andrew had to say: ‘We need to stop caring about people’s opinions whether we’re friends or not. We actually need to put our foot down.
“Andrew standing up to his friends showed how much he cared about me. The fact that we fought back just proved to everybody, especially the public, that we are genuine and love each other.”
Reliving the harder times is clearly difficult for Tasha, but her whole body seems to relax at the mention of Andrew. “It’s crazy,” she says grinning. “I still get butterflies when I’m with him. Every time I talk about him, I smile. The guy is just unbelievable! Walking into the villa I thought maybe I’d get a boyfriend but I didn’t expect to be in love.”
However, getting to this point took some work for both of them. They were voted to be coupled up together by the public on the first day in the villa, but Tasha wasn’t sure Andrew was right for her and wanted to explore other options.
They often came bottom of the public votes, which upset Tasha. And after the girls were sent to Casa Amor, Andrew, egged on by the boys, coupled up with Coco Lodge, 27. Meanwhile, Tasha brought Billy back to the villa. But the pair soon realised they had made a mistake and wanted to be with each other.
“Me and Andrew went on such a journey. For some people, that can come across as not genuine, but it’s Love Island and you have to see if there could be a better connection than the one you already have.
“It was double standards [compared to the boys who also explored other options] where I felt like everything I did was wrong. I got quite a lot of negativity and backlash, especially when I was just getting to know people.
‘I was getting hate’
“I had a feeling I was getting hate on the outside, but there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s so hard because you start overthinking. It wasn’t that I wanted to be in the final or the public’s favourite, I just had no idea what was been shown and had no control over that.”
She adds: “If I had wanted to play a game, I would have. Andrew was in the bottom three [of the public vote]. I could have stayed with Billy if I wanted to, but I’m not that girl.
“I had to think about my happiness as well. You go in thinking: ‘It’s gonna be the most amazing summer,’ but the emotional and mental side of things is so much crazier than I thought. It really did test me quite a few times.”
But it was all worth it. Tasha was thrilled her parents Tarek, 55, who owns his own management company, and Nicky, 54, an administration director, gave Andrew their seal of approval in the villa.
“A part of me was worried about the whole Coco thing. But my parents said: ‘We love him,’ straightaway. It really solidified things because my dad’s opinion means everything to me. I love that my dad could have banter with Andrew. For them to sit there and say: ‘Welcome to the family,’ that’s what I wanted to hear.”
She says she did worry about her parents witnessing their bedroom antics. “When I was in underwear and went into the Hideaway, a part of me thought: ‘My dad is going to watch this!’ but I do post on my Instagram in my underwear, so it’s not anything different.
“Even in bed with Andrew, I had to think: ‘How’s it gonna look on camera?’ We had to come up with things so it didn’t look so obvious. We were happy that we actually didn’t have sex on TV because I wanted to save that for the outside.”
Often, Love Island couples fall apart when they leave the villa bubble, particularly as the boys tend to do nightclub tours and get approached by lots of women, but Tasha says she is prepared.
“Me and Andrew have spoken about that. I have no worries at all. We trust each other.”
Now they are back from Mallorca, they are looking to the future. While Tasha’s on our Fabulous shoot, Andrew is out looking for a flat in the capital for them to live in together.
Andrew is staying at my flat in London, but we are looking. We spent one night apart and I was like: ‘Right, I need to see you again because I can’t hack it any more.
“Andrew is staying at my flat in London, but we are looking. We spent one night apart and I was like: ‘Right, I need to see you again because I can’t hack it any more.’
On the show, Tasha predicted they would be engaged within a few years, but will we see a sparkler any time soon?
“If we carry on the way we are, why not? It’s obviously up to Andrew now. I’m not the one proposing, but I definitely want to get engaged when I’m younger.”
She says ‘I knew I was gonna get pies. I was ready for it, but it was more about the comments after that…There’s a level of banter and there’s [that]’Credit: Eroteme
The show attracted more than 5,000 Ofcom complaints during the seriesCredit: Shutterstock Editorial
Babies are on Tasha’s mind after watching back the episode where Andrew took their ‘child’ Leo to the firepit
Babies are also on Tasha’s mind after watching back the episode where Andrew took their “child” Leo to the firepit and told him about his mummy’s superpower [how she describes her ability to hear].
“I got so emotional. I did not expect him to do that. I thought: ‘Andrew’s gonna be a great dad.’ It’s another reason why I adore him. All I’ve ever wanted is someone to love me for me. The fact he is proud to talk about me like that says everything really.”
Tasha didn’t just leave with a boyfriend but four girl pals in Ekin-Su Cülcüloglu, 28, Paige Thorne, 24, Indiyah Polak, 23, and Gemma Owen, 19. “Probably the final four are my closest friends. I formed great relationships with them from the start, especially Paige. We’re going to meet up soon.”
And what does she think of Ekin-Su winning the show with Italian stallion Davide Sanclimenti, 27? “I did expect them to win as they are hilarious as a couple. They went through so much and had a bit of a rollercoaster. But I can see how happy they are out of the villa. It’s just a different vibe in the real world. I think all the couples in the final have potential [to last].”
Tasha admits her hearing did cause problems for her in the villa when lots of people were talking at once. “Sometimes when people got a text, I’d be on the other side of the villa and have no idea. I wouldn’t know what was being said during some conversations. It was hard, especially the challenges. I still got to the final, though, which I didn’t expect at all. I went in for two reasons – to raise awareness and to find someone.”
So with that ticked off, what’s next? “The Love Island villa is not a real world. Everything is heightened. It’s easy to judge people.
“A lot of people had hate because of how we were perceived on TV. But now we are on the outside, it’s the perfect opportunity to be who you really are.”
In the make-up chair with TASHA
What are your skincare heroes?
I use The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm and Hyaluronic Acid Serum. I also love Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream.
Any make-up bag essentials?
I don’t really wear much make-up, but I use Brows By Vivi. I like Charlotte Tilbury Glowgasm Beauty Light Wand in Pinkgasm.
What do you splurge on?
Definitely my favourite perfume Mugler Angel. I love the smell and the star bottle.
What’s your budget buy?
Carmex Moisturising Lip Balm is amazing.
Who’s your beauty icon?
Kendall Jenner, because I love how natural she is, but she can also glam it up with a sexy, cat-eye look.
Describe your beauty evolution.
I used to use Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse Foundation and my contour wouldn’t even be blended – it would just be lines!