WHEN AJ Bunker was told she’d scored a spot on Love Island as a ‘bombshell’, sent in to shake things up and steal someone’s man, she immediately felt pressure to look “perfect” for TV.
The 28-year-old former hair extension technician, who set her sights on Liam Reardon, 22, and Hugo Hammond but was friend-zoned by all the lads, got cheek filler three times within a MONTH in a bid to “fix” a tiny line under her eye.
She hoped the injections would make her look younger, but they left her with “hamster” cheeks and dubbed “granny AJ” by trolls.
Andrea-Jane, from Dunstable, Bedfordshire, tells Fabulous: “When I found out I was going into the Villa, I panicked. I decided to get cheek filler last minute and once I had it done, I just kept going back. I thought ‘I need more, I need more’.
“I was hoping it would make me look younger, because I had this line under my eye which I thought looked like a big wrinkle or an eye bag; I didn’t want to look tired. I spent all this money but it did the opposite.
“I was so infatuated in getting rid of this one line, I didn’t realise how much it changed my face shape. It was only when I watched myself back on TV, I realised ‘oh my God that doesn’t even look like me’. I looked like a hamster, my cheeks were so chubby.”
AJ forked out more than £1,000 on fillers, paying £250 a pop for 0.5ml cheek and 1ml lip injections.
Another professional, Dr Ahmed El Muntasar, has since told her the “botched” cheek fillers were injected “incorrectly” and in the wrong part of her face.
AJ says: “Someone should have said ‘no, you’ve had enough’, but they just kept taking my money. In that process, I didn’t realise it was making my face look worse.
“There is definitely pressure to look a certain way (when you go on Love Island). It wasn’t the casting crew, more from looking at past contestants and popular girls on Instagram.
“I was chasing this generic idea of perfection, rather than learning to love myself and my flaws. You think ‘I’m going to be on TV, I have to look a certain way, this is how girls on TV look’.
“When I did my auditions, I didn’t have any filler, because I applied for last year’s show (which was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic). So the producers probably thought ‘what happened to her face?’
When I found out I was going into the Villa, I panicked. I decided to get cheek filler last minute and kept going back. Someone should have said ‘no, you’ve had enough’, but they just kept taking my money
“After being dumped from the Villa, my dad rang me and said ‘you’ve been getting trolled about your age’. I thought ‘OK perhaps it’s just because I am a bit older than some of the contestants this year’.
“But then I went on Twitter and realised it was about my filler and how my face looks old, not actually about my age. It was definitely upsetting.
“People were saying ‘her face is so overfilled’, ‘she looks so fake’, ‘she looks old’, calling me ‘granny AJ’ and ‘she looks like their mum, rather than someone who should be looking for love’.
“Trolling is never nice and you think with everything that’s happened in the past we would have moved past that, but we haven’t.”
In 2018, former Love Island contestant Sophie Gradon killed herself, months after admitting she was struggling to cope with “horrific” online abuse. Fellow alumni Mike Thalassitis and the show’s much-love host Caroline also died by suicide, in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
Although she is keen not to criticise those working on the show, AJ adds: “It was tough in the Villa. Obviously none of the guys were interested and now I do think ‘is that because I looked overfilled?’
“I didn’t look like my normal self and you can’t help but think ‘what if?’ If I hadn’t had the work done, would more of the guys have been interested in me? I went on that show looking for love.
“It doesn’t help that the guys were quite a bit younger this year. The majority of them were 21 or 22. When I went in, the oldest guy was Teddy and he was still only 26. So not only was I the eldest, but I looked a certain way too. It just adds fuel to the fire.
I can understand why people trolled me, because I agree with what they are saying. When I look at my promo pic and video interviews (from after she left the show), I think ‘my face looks awful, I do look old’. Now I think I’ll always be known as ‘granny AJ’.”
Trolls were saying ‘her face is so overfilled’, ‘she looks so fake’, ‘she looks old’ and ‘she looks like their mum’. Now I think I'll always be known as 'granny AJ'
AJ insists the casting crew warned her not to get work done, but says fears of getting trolled made her ignore the advice.
She says: “I knew I was going to get judged and thought ‘I want to look a certain way’. I saw this ‘flaw’ which no-one else would have even noticed, but I was trying to iron it out so no-one else could pick on me for it.
“Ironically, that ended up causing the trolling. My lips looked fake too, but they weren’t as bad as my cheeks.
“The reaction was a shock. It never even crossed my mind I would be trolled for looking ‘old’, because in my mind I looked good. I thought maybe I’d be trolled for being too skinny or because I’ve got a skin condition.
“Even now when I’m in the press, I can’t help but look at the comments and people still say ‘you look old’. People message me abuse too.”
An expert’s view
Dr Ahmed El Muntasar, aesthetics doctor who helped AJ reverse the effects of her original filler, said:
"People tend to put a lot of thought into what treatments they want to get done, but don't always look into the doctor as thoroughly as they could.
“It's really important people feel empowered and have the confidence to ask questions when they are considering which doctor to use – like how many procedures they have had done or have any of their previous patients ever had any complications.
“No doctor, at least not a properly qualified one, will mind answering any questions and this will really help ensure you're making the right choice.
"There has also been a rise in influencers getting treatments done and being very open about it on social media, inspiring people who have been considering getting a treatment to finally go ahead and do it. But what is essential to bear in mind is that a treatment that is suitable for one person may not be suitable for another.
“Everyone's face is different and so to achieve a certain look may require filler in one person, but it may require Botox in another.
"Luckily, in AJ's case, reversing the effect of the filler she had done was possible. Not everyone is so lucky.
“In more extreme cases, filler that has been administered incorrectly can lead to devastating health problems such as necrosis (where the tissue dies) or permanent scarring."
Last year, Love Island runner-up Molly Mae Hughes got her facial filler dissolved, admitting she reached a point where she “didn’t recognise” herself.
In September, AJ followed suit by getting her filler removed by Dr Ahmed, who urged her not to get more done.
The reaction was a shock. It never even crossed my mind I would be trolled for looking ‘old’, because in my mind I looked good
She says: “I paid so much money before I went on Love Island, just to have it all removed months later. I’m so happy I met Dr Ahmed and he could point out the areas which needed fixing.
“It’s so refreshing having someone being honest with you and not just taking your money, but actually saying ‘no this doesn’t look good, this isn’t a good area to get it’ or ‘you don’t even need it at all’.
“As soon as he dissolved my filler, I looked so much more natural and instantly felt like me again. I haven’t got any cheek filler now and he’s recommended I get my lips dissolved at some point too.”
AJ warns anyone thinking about getting filler not to rush into it, adding: “Make sure they give you the right advice because before getting my cheek filler done, I went to someone else and she said ‘you don’t need this’.
“I just said ‘OK, I’ll go somewhere else’. But I wish I’d stopped and thought ‘do I need to get this done or am I just conforming to the idea of looking a particular way?’
“I know it’s difficult but you need to remember Instagram isn’t real. The pictures are usually edited, it’s not real life. And you need to learn to accept your flaws, loving yourself is the main thing.”
Love Island's Shannon Singh previously told Fabulous how she got trolled for having "shark teeth" but is sick of seeing fillers and fake boobs on Love Island.
Meanwhile, Faye Winter also got her lips dissolved – as she went back to her natural look for the first time in years.
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