Love Island's Ovie Soko reveals the tragic death of his friend made him apply for the show... and says he's proud to prove 'being yourself is dope'
Ovie Soko was hailed as the hero of Love Island 2018 thanks to his calm demeanor and gentlemanly manners.
The 28-year-old athlete has given a new interview with The Guardian's G2 magazine, explaining what motivated him to try his luck on the reality show and why he's pleased to have challenged the stereotype of young black men represented on television.
The professional basketball player, who is still dating his Love Island partner India Reynolds, revealed the sudden death of his colleague got him thinking about his life and where it was going.
Speaking out: Ovie Soko has explained what motivated him to try his luck on Love Island in a new interview
Signed by CB Murcia in Spain's top division, Ovie had a successful career in basketball, but things changed when his friend suddenly passed away from a heart attack while training in Macedonia.
Reflecting on the incident, which happened 'so far from home', Ovie explained: 'That year, I did a lot of thinking; there was a long time to collect my thoughts and reassess everything.'
After his brother suggested he'd be a hit on Love Island, Ovie decided to apply for the programme - and was an instant success with viewers at home.
Delightful: After his brother suggested he'd be a hit on Love Island, Ovie decided to apply for the programme - and was an instant success with viewers at home
The meme king, whose 'Message!' catchphrase and funky headgear became a talking point online, is proud to have helped inspire a new generation.
'Being a young black man is something in life that's on your mind', he mused.'It's important to young black people to know that they can be themselves and you don't have to fit into a specific mould to be one on TV.
'If there's one thing I hope it did show, it's that being you is dope.'
'Being you is dope': The meme king is proud to have helped inspire a new generation
Ovie and India finished in third place after three weeks of dating, and the sports star revealed the couple are still in a 'good place' during a recent appearance on This Morning.
Questioned whether they'd said the L-word to one another, he confessed: 'I cannot say love. Love is a thing that takes time to develop.
'We're in a good place, we're just putting one foot in front of the other. We've spent quite a bit of time together.'
The pair have been inseparable since leaving the villa, enjoying multiple dates and spending a cosy weekend at the £500-a-night W hotel in Leicester Square.
Cute couple: Ovie and India finished in third place after three weeks of dating, and the sports star recently revealed they are still in a 'good place'