Maya Jama Also Gets Emotional Over Love Island Drama
The series host talks Love Island Games, flirty contestants, and the advice she’d give islanders.
Nobody does drama like Love Island — and in the show’s latest iteration, Love Island Games, re-coupling is not the only thing islanders have to worry about. This time around, a starting cast of 12 fan-favorite contestants from previous seasons aren’t just signing up to sunbathe and flirt; they’re participating in intense challenges to determine their standing in the house (and hopefully win $100,000)... while also sunbathing and flirting. Maya Jama, host of Love Island U.K., is another familiar face on the new series, guiding the islanders through the treacherous world of love and games. “You don’t win the money just because you find love here,” Jama tells Elite Daily. “You actually have to be tactical.”
According to Jama, longtime fans are in for some serious surprises with the new show. The main difference? On Love Island Games, “game player” isn’t a dirty word. “The challenge element is taken very seriously,” the 29-year-old Bristol native says. “There’s a lot of sneaky behavior from islanders. A lot of tactical, nonloyal maneuvers.”
Jama can’t reveal every detail — like whether the Games will bring back Love Island’s original prize format, where one person in the winning couple decides whether to keep the prize for themselves or split it evenly between them in the ultimate test of love versus greed — but she teases, “People definitely throw each other under the bus.”
Ahead of the show’s Nov. 1 premiere on Peacock, Jama talks about hosting Love Island Games, the challenge of maintaining her “poker face” amid the drama, and how she responds when contestants attempt to turn their flirty banter on her.
Elite Daily: Snog, Marry, Pie: Love Island U.K., Love Island USA, Love Island Australia?
Maya Jama: Doing top, second, and third place... I’d have to say Love Island U.K. first just because it was the original. I’ve been watching it since the first series. Nos. 2 and 3, it’s difficult because I love U.S. and Australia. Both have had really key moments. I’d just snog them both and nobody dies or gets pied.
ED: For fans of the original show, what do you think will be the most surprising aspect of Love Island Games?
MJ: As a fan myself, the most surprising element is how tough the challenges and games actually are. Going into it, I was assuming that they’d be Love Island-esque games: not too tough, lighthearted, a lot of kissing. But there are some really hard ones where you have to use your full strength. I couldn’t do a lot of them. I would be wiped out straight away. Considering the islanders are not gladiators or athletes, they did incredible.
ED: Will there still be a Hideaway suite and Casa Amor?
MJ: I’m not sure I can reveal that, but I will say it is the same villa in Fiji where the U.S. show is filmed, so a lot of those features [carry over]. But every time, Love Island comes back bigger, better, and more extreme. So the Games have some extra pizzazz.
ED: From what fans see, you keep a straight face in even the most dramatic moments, like the first re-coupling after Casa Amor. Are there any times you’ve almost broken character as host?
MJ: I always say it’s a good thing the show isn’t live because I get so invested in the islanders. So, when the drama happens or I see them heartbroken, it is really hard to hide my natural reaction — tears or laughter. One hundred percent, there have been a few moments throughout the series where I’ve felt their feelings and had to hold it in. I’ll just turn away from the camera to feel my feels, and then I’m back to poker face to bring the drama.
If I could, I would be adding a lot more comments like “Leave that man. Get with that girl. Don’t do this. Don’t do that.”
ED: In those intense moments, do you ever wish you could tell the islanders how you really feel?
MJ: You try your best to keep it as professional as possible, but I’m only human, and I’m a similar age to most of them, so I’m always wishing I could talk to them. On the U.K. version, we do a live show every Sunday, so I get to meet them right after they leave the villa, and we have a chat about everything that happened.
In the villa, you don’t get much one-on-one time with any of the islanders, so I have to hold it down. If I could, I would be adding a lot more comments like “Leave that man. Get with that girl. Don’t do this. Don’t do that.” But we’ve got to let them have their own experience.
ED: Is it difficult to stay neutral for the funny moments as well? In Episode 1 of Love Island Games, I was cracking up at the first challenge where one contestant is meant to run through a wall, but bounces off of it instead.
MJ: I was dying at that. That was the first day, and even then I was thinking, “Hang on a minute.” Those challenges look really fun, but you can imagine running with a wig on, bouncing through walls, and trying to trench through seaweed. It is tough but hilarious.
ED: Which contestants were you most excited to see come back to Love Island?
MJ: Because I’ve watched every single series of U.K., seeing Jack Fowler [from Season 4] come back was exciting. He was on such a long time ago, and he’s grown up since then. Curtis Pritchard [from Season 5], too. We were able to see their journeys outside the villa, and now they’ve got a second chance at love. It’s great to see what they’ve learned and how they’ve matured or not.
ED: I know fans were surprised to see Scott van-der-Sluis coming back to Love Island again so soon after being on the U.K. and U.S. shows. Were you?
ED: I was shocked. He was on my series only a minute ago [on Season 10], so you forget that he’s been everywhere else. But if given the opportunity, most people would do it again. He was just making the most of it. It’s a reflection of real life, too, isn’t it? Sometimes love doesn’t work the first or second time, so maybe it will the third.
ED: What dating advice would you give to the contestants going on Love Island Games?
MJ: Think smart and keep your cards close to your chest.
ED: Is that different than what you’d tell people going on the original show?
MJ: Yes, on Love Island OG, I would say to just go for it. Love Island is where you find love. It’s a rare situation, so throw everything at it and hope for the best. But for the Games, I think you need to be more tactical.
ED: If you were ever to go on Love Island Games, would you have a “tactical” strategy?
MJ: I would team up with someone who looks like they’re good at the challenges and hope that we’d build a good rapport. I wouldn’t really be focused on romance because feelings can get in the way of your focus. So I’d go in there with a game plan and hope that my heart doesn’t get pulled to pieces.
ED: I love how cutthroat that is.
MJ: I know, heartless. But I feel like this kind of situation only comes around on a Love Island game show, so you might as well go for it.
ED: My friends and I are always saying that you’re almost too hot to host the show. You’re basically guaranteed to turn the guys’ heads. Has that ever happened to you, where a contestant made a move during the show?
MJ: They don’t fully go for it. It happens the most on Day One because they haven’t coupled up yet. The boys will make some jokes and have little one-liners. But most of it is really lighthearted stuff. I don't feel like they’d ever seriously go for it, but there are definitely little comments behind the scenes.
ED: What’s your reaction when that happens?
MJ: I would say, “I’m not available. Best get back to focusing.” I have to go into headmistress mode, basically.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.