Love Island's Megan Barton-Hanson slams beauty double standards and says it's 'old-fashioned to think you can't be sexy and a feminist'

“I am quite a sensitive person and I’m just human like everyone else,” she says. “I might have a blue tick, but I still have feelings.”

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The person in question had commented on a photo of Megan from a celebrity event and “kindly” informed her that she was “so fat now”.

Megan, 24, was momentarily crushed, but fury quickly took over and she decided to publicly call the troll out and encourage other women to embrace their curves.

“I really made an effort that night. I got a stylist, got my favourite hair and make-up artist, and I felt like a princess.

"I was in such good spirits and then to see all these negative comments, I was like: ‘What the hell?’. It’s so nasty to look at a picture and to take time out of your day to criticise and pull me apart.

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"I’m a size 10, I lead a healthy life, I go to the gym, I eat right and yeah I’ve put on weight since the villa, but I’m not overweight and I’m not fat!”

The stone Megan has gained in the five months since Love Island is, she says, a sign of her happiness.

“I’m in love and I’m living my best life. I work out, I do yoga, but I’m never going to go on a juice cleanse diet. If there’s nice cake, I’m going to eat it!

“How can you call someone fat at size 10? I’ve got hips and I’ve got boobs, a bum and thighs. Personally, I love burlesque and the whole pin-up image of women when they’ve got curves. You don’t wanna be a stick, it’s too much hard work!

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“Yes, I’ve put on a stone, but I’m comfortable with my figure. I like being womanly, and that when I wear a pencil skirt it goes in and out.”

And what does Wes Nelson, the man she fell in love with in the villa and who helped build her self-esteem back up, think of her new curves?
“He loves it! He loves my big bum. He says it’s even better now!

“I just want girls to know there are always going to be people with something negative to say. You could be a size 6 and they’d say you were too skinny. You can’t win.

"But these people are sad and lonely and I just think by calling them out now and again, the less brave they’ll be about giving me a load of crap.”

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When Megan first sashayed her way into the Love Island villa, all wiggly hipped and oozing sex, it was easy to make a snap judgement. A blonde bombshell former stripper with a surgically enhanced Jessica-Rabbit-esque body and a pout to match, she appeared supremely confident and completely secure in her sexuality.

She was also fully aware of the effect it had on men, as we watched her (bed) hop from Eyal to Wes, briefly to Alex Miller and then back to Wes.

But Megan turned out to be more than just tits, teeth and titillation. In fact, of all the islanders she was the least sure of herself and arguably the person who went on (cliché alert) the biggest journey by far.

Behind the racy facade, Megan was actually deeply unhappy, damaged by her past and suffering from a chronic lack of self-worth.

While for some of the contestants the show brought 15 minutes of fame and a glut of teeth-whitening deals, for Megan it turned her life around.

“You wouldn’t believe that a reality show could have such an effect, but those eight weeks have changed everything for me.

“It’s the first time that I’ve felt worthy of being loved and that someone could love me just for me and not for any of this false s**t on the outside.

"It made me put things into perspective. I got rid of all the outside influences like social media, money, cars and material things – everything was so stripped back.”

It was 20-year-old Wes’ gentleness, affection and reassurances that gradually helped dissipate Megan’s insecurities. She was worried about what his family would make of her sex industry past and convinced herself she wasn’t “good enough” for the nuclear engineer, who she describes as “perfect”.

“I had in the back of my mind that because I’ve done that job [stripping], people wouldn’t see me as girlfriend or wife material. I struggled with that.

“I think having that conversation with Wes after the Lie Detector [Megan asked Wes if he would be embarrassed to take her home and the result was undetermined] was the first time in my life that the penny dropped.

"I am enough. This boy loves me because of me. Not because I’m out, drinking loads and being a clown in front of my friends.

"Not because he’s seen my Instagram and my sexy pictures that have been Photoshopped. He loves me for me. I’m really lucky to have found him. I never thought someone like that would love someone like me.”

Meaning what? “Like, how I would feel if my brother, for example, came home with a me or a sensible Sally? A perfect prim and proper girl or someone who’s got half-naked pictures on their Instagram.

“In reality, we’d pick the good, sensible girl, wouldn’t we?

“So that was my main concern: will his family like me? Will they think: ‘Oh god, she’s older than you and she’s a stripper,’ and instantly hate me? I’m not naive.

"I knew a lot of people would have something negative to say about the fact I was a glamour model. But as long as Wes’ family love me and he loves me, that’s all that matters.”

She won over the show’s female audience too, who by the end saw her as one of the girls rather than an untrustworthy maneater.

“Before I went in I had 200,000 Insta followers and it was 99% men. Now I have 1.8 million and it’s 87% women,” she says. “Every day I get messages from older woman, young girls, people suffering from mental illness, and it’s amazing. It makes my heart feel full and happy replying to these messages and being able to help someone.”

This, she says, is the happiest she’s ever been. She laughs as she describes herself as “skipping down the street” – as stark a difference as you can get from where she was at the start of 2018.

“January of this year was the lowest point,” she says. “I was just super-unhappy…”

At one point she was suicidal and asked for her mum’s blessing to take her own life. Tears stream down her face, but she turns down our offer to pause the interview.

“It’s OK. I’ve just never really spoken about it since then. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have any direction and I remember going to my mum asking her permission to end it. Like, is it OK to do it? Because I don’t wanna be here any more. I just didn’t know what I was doing.”

After leaving school at 16, Megan spent three years as a legal secretary before turning to stripping and webcam work to make more money.

At first she thought she was living the high life with plenty of cash, cars and designer clothes, but somewhere along the way she lost herself. She doesn’t want to comment on reports she supplemented her income with escort work.

“I hardly had any money, so that’s when I went into stripping, and for the first six months I thought I was rich. I thought I was living the life. And then I realised I was still going home lonely.

"I had money and that didn’t make me happy. I didn’t know where to turn or what to do next. I had no direction. There’s pressure on social media to be living your best life and it’s not always perfect.”

She says after “dropping in and out of therapy”, she plans to have regular sessions in the new year to help keep her mental health in check.

“I think it would be good for me. In America, everyone sees a therapist, it’s just standard. But because we’re British and we have got the stiff upper lip: ‘No, can’t do that. No, that makes me look weak.’ But I think it’s healthy.

“I know you have times where you can’t see past that darkness. But that’s what my message is: trust me, it will get better, because look at me in January and look at me now.”

Megan says she is a feminist, although she has faced criticism from some quarters who question how that squares with her extensive cosmetic surgery and sex industry work.

“As long as you empower women and support what women do with their bodies, that’s a feminist as far as I’m concerned,” she says. “If someone never wants to get surgery or shave their armpits, that’s fine. If I wanna go out and spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on surgery, that’s also fine.”

What does she think of the point some feminists would argue that, while men can effectively buy and sell women’s bodies, equality is an impossibility?

“For me, it’s not just about [erotic] dancing for them. Some of them, their wives have died. Some of them are just lonely. Some of them live at home with their parents. They’re there for companionship.

“And a lot of the time the women are rinsing the men. They’re taking what they can, getting them p**sed and making loads of money off this guy’s night out that he goes repeatedly back to and wastes loads of money on a 10-minute dance. So, you know, swings and roundabouts.

“I also think it’s old-fashioned to think that if you wanna be glamorous and sexy, you can’t be a feminist. It’s like you’re not allowed to be pretty or have surgery and be open about the fact you like sex if you’re a feminist.”

Megan says society’s double standards mean that women often feel that being vocal about enjoying sex is shameful.

“If a man says he’s slept with 20 women he’ll get high-fived and he’ll be a legend, if a woman says she’s slept with 20, it’s shocking. People think it’s outrageous if a woman says: ‘I went on a date, we had sex and I enjoyed it.’

“People like Amy Schumer and Emily Ratajkowski are paving the way for more women to speak up because it’s not a ‘bad thing’ to be open and sexual.

She’s also adamant that women need to stop faking orgasms.

“I’ve never done it in my life, I’m too selfish! I’m in it to enjoy myself and if I don’t, I’ll make it clear that I haven’t. Every woman should speak up.”

Megan shoos away the £25,000 figure, which was the reported total worth of her cosmetic surgery (“I don’t know what it was, but I worked hard for it”), but says she doesn’t actually look as drastically different as has been made out. The large specs in her “before” picture distort the reality.

“It’s a particularly awful picture. I look like some kind of European tourist. I think the only thing that’s massively changed is my lips are slightly bigger, I’ve got whacking great big white veneers and a smaller nose.

"I think people who haven’t had surgery shouldn’t really comment because they obviously don’t know how it feels to be insecure, to wake up every day, look in the mirror and think negative thoughts.”

What does she see when she looks in the mirror now?

“I’m super, super-happy. I won’t get anything else done unless I have kids and I breastfeed. Then maybe I might treat myself to some new tits, but that’s it.”

While several of their fellow Class of 2018 Love Islanders have split up since the show, Megan and Wes seem solid, and have recently moved in together in north London.

The only blip in the relationship post-Majorca came when it was reported Megan had “disappeared” with Pete Wicks during a night at a club while Wes was out of town, the implication being they were, um, at it.

“It was tough,” says Megan, denying that anything happened. “Wes got a phone call from his management before the story came out, but we’re just lucky we’re strong and he believes me. I think people who were there got in touch with Wes to put the record straight.”

She thought about contacting Pete, but decided against it. “I wanted to message him. I was going to ask Ferne McCann for his number, but then I thought it might make things 10 times worse, so I didn’t. It was really stressful, but it’s part and parcel of it.”

Wes has been busy training for Dancing On Ice, but when asked if she’ll go to support him, she grimaces.

“Do you know what? I’m nervous to see him in sequins. I think I’m going to cringe so hard. That is so not manly. So we’ll see how it goes.

"First week, if he’s not absolutely repulsive and cringing me out, I might go back." Megan! That’s terrible! She’s laughing, but… poor Wes! “It’s the ballroom faces they do. I can’t watch that.”

Megan says she hopes to use her platform to be a voice for females suffering from bullying and mental health issues, as well as some modelling and presenting.

She’s been choosy about which deals she’s signed, conscious that she’s in this for longevity rather than to make as much cash in the quickest time possible.

“So many people have said to me: ‘What are you doing? Where have you gone? You’ve only got a year to be relevant!’ But it’s not about that for me. I signed with Pretty Little Thing and I’ve worked with a brand called Woowoo, but other than that, I’ve not spread myself thin.

“Of course it’s tempting when everything gets thrown at you. Everyone wants you to promote the teeth whitening, hair extensions and fake tan.

"But a lot of our followers are young girls who don’t have a lot of money and I think it would be so false for me to start advertising teeth whitening when I’ve clearly got veneers!

“Money isn’t happiness, so I think by being a bit more reserved, taking time out for me and Wes and myself, that is the best way.”

Feeling sociable

Fave platform?

Instagram and Pinterest are my go-tos for outfit inspo, interiors and food porn.

Insta faves?

I love Amy Schumer – she’s so real – and Ricky Gervais is comedy gold, especially his selfies.

Who influences you?

Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner. I love their looks.

Are you on Facebook?

No, I don’t rate it. Before Love Island I made a fake account on Instagram to stalk exes! Every girl does it!

Last DM?

Wes and I have a few fan pages, and have group DMs with them.

How do you take the perfect selfie?

I’m so shaky, I need to hire a professional!

  • Hair: Dino Pereira using Diva Pro Styling  
  • Make-up: Bethan Owens using Bobbi Brown
  • Styling: Nana Acheampong
  • Stylist’s assistant: Corrine Corrodus
  • Watch Love Island: The Christmas Reunion, tomorrow, 9pm, ITV2.

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