10th July 2023
Love Island has been on our screens for almost a decade, and has asserted itself as a staple of the British television scene and our wider national culture ever since its inception. Love it or loathe it, it's been nothing short of a phenomenon - but almost immediately after it first aired, fans have begged for a gay version. Whilst I Kissed A Boy isn't explicitly Gay Love Island, the similarities are too numerous to ignore. And now, almost ten years later, I Kissed A Boy has finally been released to rapturous acclaim from the both the queer and straight communities for injecting some much needed life into the format. We were lucky enough to speak to one of the shows most charming contestants, Matty Holehouse, who immediately endeared himself to audiences with his dazzling good looks, his aching vulnerability in the diary room, and the endlessly relatable struggle to find love. We spoke about his time in the Masseria, his regrets and highlights, and who from the show he's still in touch with.
Hi Matty! How are you? We hear you’re off to Barcelona tomorrow . . .
Ha, I am. I've got no excuse and no reason to go. I just want to have a nice time!
There are worse places to spend the summer!
True! I do this every summer. I always feel like I need to go away somewhere and then just end up spending my whole summer there and do absolutely nothing that I was meant to do in London.
Before you head off to Barcelona, you’re doing London Pride tomorrow with the I Kissed A Boy gang.
Yes, yes, it’s exciting. I’m really excited because it's with the Terrence Higgins Trust [a British charity that campaigns about and provides services relating to HIV and sexual health]. And it’s all friends of Dannii.
What was she like to work with?
She’s so fucking nice. Like, she took us all back to her dressing room after the show and drank champagne with us. And when we went out for the press launch in Liverpool, she was out with us on the night out. She's not one of those talents that just dips in, does the job, and then fucks off. She’s really nice.
You could tell from the way that she was on the show that she was loving that gig. She was having the best time.
I hope she enjoys it as much with the girls.
I’m sure she will. But she does love her gays. She loves walking into a room and having all the gays squeal. On the topic of the show, what was it that made you want to sign up for it? How much did you know about the concept before you signed up?
I think the only thing I knew about the concept was that it was a gay dating show. And I think in my head I was like, gay Love Island. But during filming, they were like you cannot reference Villa and you cannot reference Love Island.
I did notice they loved the word Massaria.
The amount of takes we had to redo because someone said Villa or House. Because Big Brother has the house, and Love Island has the Villa, and we had the Massaria. I think in my head I imagined it was gonna be like Big Brother, and I was just gonna get to have a nice holiday with ten gay men. And I would get to live in this house and there’d be cameras on us, but we wouldn't really know what they were there. So I was like, yeah, free holiday, Italy. And I think one of the reasons I wanted to do the show was because I don't really have like a big group of gay friends. I've got a couple of gay friends, but I don't have that big group. I don't have a group of gay guys that I'm like, yeah, we're in a group chat, we're all going to Pride, we're all gonna do this. And I've been in London ten years, and for every night out I've probably ever been on, it's always been with my straight girl friends. And now I'm getting to the point where they're getting in relationships, they're all moving in together and I'm not on that trajectory. I’m a few years delayed. I just want some gay friends and I want to feel comfortable in a room with gay men without feeling like I'm being judged for this or I'm not enough of this or I'm too much of that, which is probably how I felt for a while. I do think there is a bit of a catty culture sometimes. I think I struggled with that a little bit. And so I was like, yeah, I'm gonna go in, and make some friends.
Had it been a while since you’d been in a relationship when you went in?
I'd been in a relationship months before with this guy, and I was really happy before I met that person. I was really happy and I was really ready to find a relationship with someone. And then I met this guy that I had been messaging for a couple of years online and I had kind of ignored him. But then I met him in person. I literally fell head over heels and I was obsessed with this person. I think without me knowing there was a lot going on in the background. He had lots of commitment issues. I felt very invalidated. It wasn't a good relationship. I felt really bad about myself. I was constantly being told that the sex wasn't good or we didn't have a good sexual connection. And so in that relationship, I felt so bad about myself. So I thought I want to go on this show and I want to meet someone and I want to feel good about myself again. And yeah, I was feeling really shit about myself, so I thought let’s just go and do something.
And did it work? Are we in a better place?
I think immediately post filming the show maybe not, but since the show’s aired, yeah. Because we filmed it last summer, a lot has happened since, and I think I came out of the show kind of like, did I make the right decision? But since it’s aired, I definitely think it's done good things for my self worth. But the show was a stressful experience. It was basically like working.
What was the wait like since you filmed it last summer? Were you worried about how you were gonna look?
I think so. We did all those hours of filming. And you don't know what it’s going to come out as because they can dictate which cuts get shown. So I think there was that slight worry.
Were you happy with the edit?
I think so. Yeah. Yeah.
You came across very well. There's some who didn't come across quite as well!
I feel like mine was very like Switzerland. I didn't really say or do anything too bad. I was quite happy with that. I mean, when I was in there I was quite anxious and cried quite a lot and I think the way that it was cut was maybe a bit strange. I didn't want it to look like I have all of this internalised homophobia. It was more a comment on what the world is actually like, which is that, you know, we have a lot of shame when we were growing up and it doesn't just go away. Even coming out and existing in the community, it doesn't just go away because you feel shame in other ways, like in my case with an ex partner invalidating you, so it was more of a comment on that. So I am happy with how it came out and I think there's been good conversations that have been had because of the stuff that was put on the show.
That’s what I think really elevated it above the likes of Love Island is those discussions - like what you said in the diary room and also some of the stories that the guys had about coming out to their families. You don't get that deep chat on Love Island.
No, no, it’s all very surface level on Love Island.
So did you find that group of friends? Are you still friends? I know you and Jake had a bit of a bond.
Do you know what, that friendship wasn't really shown that much on the show. I kind of felt it was a bit weird because it looks like I'm a bit obsessed with Jake and Jake’s a bit obsessed with me for no reason, but actually when we were there, because we went in together, we actually spent most of our time together. We just had such a laugh. I think going in late we were like what's going on? I've not really had too much contact with him since the show, but when we do talk, it's great. It’s because he’s got a new boyfriend, I think. And then some of the other boys, I saw them for the press launch and it was great to see them, but I don’t know if they’re like my best friends. But I still have Ben and Dan, who I see regularly and we go out together and I feel like we're very similar. We get on very well.
What were the highlights of the show?
On the show I actually had such a good time with that game - it was called Glory Hole Of Hell or something. I had such a good time doing that and I think that was the first time when I was there that I fully relaxed and wasn't feeling super anxious about stuff. Also, meeting Ben and Dan has to be a highlight now because obviously I wouldn't have known them otherwise, and they have been an amazing support since the show. And then the press launch was amazing with Dannii. So much fun. And I don't really think much else has really happened except for things kicking off in the last few weeks.
It must have changed so quickly.
Mighty Hoopla was when my episodes started to come out and that was when it really switched. That day was really nice and fun, and everyone was being so kind about the show and how I came across. That’s been another highlight, actually. Even at after work drinks yesterday, someone came over to tell me that they had watched the show. And they were like, wealth managers in the City. I was like as if you’re watching it!
I did feel for you guys at Mighty Hoopla because it was the first major event since the show aired, and it was populated entirely by the target audience of the show.
Yeah, that was exactly what it was. It was quite strange, yeah. But I think it was nice. I think that there's something about Hoopla as well with it being that sunny day and everyone's in such a good mood and everyone's really kind. And there's nothing unsafe about being there. It was actually probably the best place for us to have been that weekend.
What would you say to anyone who was going to go on a future series?
Do you want my honest answer or my fake answer?
My honest answer is don’t!
I just found it very intense and I think my image of what I thought it was gonna be like compared to what it was was very different. However, my actual answer to people going on the show is just to like, relax. I don't think I relaxed when I was there. And be yourself. And don't take the coupling so seriously in the immediate instance and just wait and see what happens, rather than sticking with a couple just to stay in the show.
Yeah, it's quite funny, actually - the gays really did latch on to each other so tightly. Which isn’t necessarily what the stereotype says that we’re like . . .
Yeah, I know, I know. But I'm kind of glad that that stereotype was not shown. But then I don't know, because then when everyone left everyone fucked everyone off anyway. Except for Dan and Ollie.
They seemed like a great couple.
They are! They’re really nice.
Was it tricky going in halfway through?
Yeah. I think maybe if I'd gone in in the beginning, it would have been a different story. Going in late threw me off. It was like getting to a party late. Everyone knew each other. But I would have regretted it if I hadn’t done it all. I would have always thought, what if? And I'm really proud to have been part of the first gay dating TV show and so many people have said it’s so important for that to have been on screen. And even with things that have happened within my family - like we're just now having conversations about certain things. Even now lots of my family were like, oh, we really hope we didn't make you feel like that growing up and it's like well, no, of course you did. It was you. But now we're having that conversation, whereas before I probably would have felt too ashamed to have had those conversations with them. I think it's very important. If I was younger and that was on my TV screen, I would have really needed that. And little things like my family, not my close family, but people had said, I couldn't watch the boys kissing, but I watched the rest of it. And I'm like, no, that's why we need it. It needs to be on your screen. Because you’d be fine watching a heterosexual couple kissing. So why aren't you fine watching two gay men kiss? So that's why it's important.
It is very important. Apart from I Kissed A Boy, what else do you have going on? You mentioned after work drinks. What’s your main hustle?
Well, the thing that pays the bills is sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day, basically as a climate change sustainability consultant.
Can you see a way of merging these two things, the day job and the new-found opportunities of the show - like sustainability influencer or something?
Yeah, I hope to. But then I probably shouldn't be influencing anyone to buy anything or do anything really except for reduce, reuse, recycle. I wanna not have to sit at a desk all day and not have to do all the corporate stuff, but still do the climate change sustainability stuff. I don't know whether it might be me doing some docs. I just wanna be like the gay David Attenborough.
Thank so much for chatting Matty, it’s been a pleasure!