Dami Hope said he has been forced to keep his distance from Paige Thorne after being trolled on social media over their friendship.
In an exclusive chat with Evening Standard, the Love Island star revealed things have become so fraught that Paige has even stopped liking or commenting on his social media pages out of fear she will be targeted by angry fans.
“Paige and I can’t even be friends because every time we hang out or speak publicly it’s going to end up with [rumours] that something else is going on,” he said.
“Now she can’t even comment on my posts or really like them anymore because she always gets backlash and is afraid of that, you know.
“I mean it’s silly.
“I feel like a lot of people try to push the narrative that I only actually like white girls because of previous [black male] contestants and so I’m not really into Indiyah.
“I love black women, so it’s just not true.”
The 26-year-old opened up about the ongoing rumours that he and Paige are either having a secret romance or that he would like to pursue the 24-year-old paramedic from Swansea, in a joint chat with girlfriend Indiyah to promote their candid Bumble podcast about their relationship.
Indiyah, 23, also tells the Evening Standard that while she trusts Paige and Dami, she’s not totally comfortable with their friendship because of the buzz that comes with it.
“I’d be lying if I said it didn’t upset me," she admitted. “Dami is my boyfriend. I mean, it’s just me seeing people come up with think-pieces, especially when you’ve lived in a home with someone and you know what they’re like.
“I know Paige is not like that, but it still doesn’t help when you see [the gossip]. Absolutely not. It’s not nice to be on the receiving end of that.”
The pair have said they felt pressure from fans to make sure their relationship goes the distance as one of the few successful black couples to ever appear on the long-running show.
“We’ve felt pressure [to last as a couple]," said Indiyah. “We did a podcast [with Bumble] where we talk about our relationship and black love.
“We’re just trying to not feel like we have to live up to certain expectations or set an example. We’re just trying to live.
“We do understand that people look at our relationship, especially black [fans] and want it to represent ‘black love’ succeeding from the show. They want us to be the pinnacle of it...”
The pair also addressed challenges that they faced in the villa and how “real life” together compares.
“So far it’s going well,” said Indiyah about their relationship. “In the villa you’re so contained so now we are out, you can actually dive into each others lives and stuff... it’s better."
“Yeah, we can talk about anything now," Dami added.
“When you’re in that closed environment you almost feel that pressure to stick with the person you’re coupled-up with until the end. Not everyone does, but some do,” Indiyah continued.
“Some people feel that pressure and when you get into the real world and then you start talking to ‘normal people’ again and get time to step back then you realise it wasn’t right.
“Some people were just not being themselves.”
Dami said: “They were being fake. They felt pressure to do this or that to stay [on the show] even though they’re probably not even happy in the villa.”
Paige’s ex Adam recently lashed out at Dami for defending her in their split.
When asked if Adam was one of the Islanders he was referring to as fake, he replied: "Yeah.
"He tried to reform the ‘bad boy’ narrative that he created himself from the last time [when he was first on the show in a previous season].
"I feel like he came in trying to change it this season, but it was like, ‘[the nice guy] that’s not who you were...’
"Personally, I feel like you [Adam] should have just stuck to the original."
Indiyah adds: "Yeah. When he first came in with his reputation I thought ‘s***’, but he didn’t do anything!... I heard the producers wanted him to crossover."
Indiyah, who along with Dami, remains friends with a select group of their fellow contestants, including Jacques, Danica, Tasha, Andrew and Ekin, also had some strong words for season winner Davide.
The Italian famously insulted her looks on the show by referring to Casa Amor bombshell, Summer, as "an upgrade" for Dami - with whom she notoriously had a brief and controversial romance.
"I wasn’t aware of those comments for ages," said Indiyah, who despite Davide’s slight has since signed beauty and fashion deals with Boots and Pretty Little Thing.
"I never thought I needed to address him because I feel like the reason why he said that was mainly because of his preference.
"In somebody else’s eyes, Summer isn’t going to be an upgrade.
"I mean, if you have a set vision of what your ideal woman looks like, which Davide does, then the woman furthest away from that, me, is not gonna compete in any way.
"Also, respectfully yeah, I couldn’t give two flying monkeys what he thinks as I would never be attracted to him or his type of look."
Dami added: "I actually defended the comment when he said it to me... I never said anything bad about any woman on the show. I said ‘it’s not even about looks.’"
Dami and Indiyah, who are currently on a romantic ‘bucket list’ holiday in Iceland, are set to undergo what may just be the biggest test of their relationship by moving into a swanky three bedroom flat together.
"We have found a place and are moving in a few weeks," said Indiyah. "It just felt like the right move.
"Most of the jobs that we do are in London and we are excited."