For 'Love Island USA' superfan Ariana Madix, hosting the show 'does not feel like work'

There was a scene in Season 10 of Bravo's “Vanderpump Rules" — before the real-life cheating fiasco dubbed Scandoval was revealed — where Ariana Madix and her then-boyfriend Tom Sandoval acknowledged they weren't spending enough quality time together. Sandoval wanted to party like a rock star while Madix wanted him to stay in with her, watching her favorite TV show, “Love Island USA," with friends.

“I don't have time to watch 50 (expletive) episodes of ‘Love Island.’ No, I don't.” he said.

“That's literally all we talk about so..." Madix responded, in a get-on-board or you're-out-of-luck kind of way.

Cut to about a year and a half later and Madix and Sandoval are no longer together. The Scandoval of it all is that Sandoval had been cheating on Madix for more than six months with a “Vanderpump” co-star. Madix is now the host of “Love Island USA" on Peacock, taking over for previous host Sarah Hyland.

It's a fitting development for Madix, whose nearly 10-year relationship fell apart publicly. Since then, she's competed on “Dancing with the Stars" and performed on Broadway as Roxie Hart in “Chicago." Her initial stint was extended due to ticket demand, and she'll return to the role next month. A former bartender, Madix released a bestselling cocktail recipe book and opened a sandwich shop called “Something About Her” in Los Angeles with “Vanderpump” co-star Katie Maloney.

For the last month, Madix has been in Fiji filming “Love Island USA." She says the job is a dream come true for a superfan like herself.

“I love watching how this show is made," said Madix in a recent Zoom interview. "There’s a crew of maybe 400 people or so that work on the show to make this happen and to turn these episodes around almost in real-time. It is so impressive.”

On “Love Island USA,” a group of single men and women move into a remote villa with the goal of finding love. The contestants couple up based on first impressions. Those relationships are tested. Do they have lasting chemistry? They also have the option to explore connections with other people, including a stream of new singles who arrive throughout. At different times, viewers are invited to vote for their favorite couples. Contestants are also eliminated at different points, and in the end, the public votes for the winning couple who gets a cash prize.

In a Q&A, Madix speaks about “Love Island USA” and future opportunities. Answers are edited for clarity and brevity.


AP: As a fan of “Love Island USA,” you're seeing how the sausage is made by working on the show. What's that like?

MADIX: I love it. I think that there’s some things that are so interesting about this show in comparison to other reality shows where there are cameras everywhere. These are fly on the wall cameras and there’s no person walking around with a camera on their shoulder, which is what you would be used to with, say, like a ‘Real Housewives’ or ‘Vanderpump’ or something like that. I enjoy how unpredictable it is. It does not feel like work at all.

AP: What about it appeals to you?

MADIX: It feels to me like a study in sociology or something. Aside from the big dramatic moments that you see, I’m also fascinated by just the mundane day-to-day conversations and the little moments that they have as well and conversations. I feel like it's a culture study. A group of people are in a fishbowl, and I’m just watching them interact and fall in love and fall out of love.

AP: Before you were on the show did you vote? Were you that invested?

MADIX: I couldn't with the UK version which was available in the U.S. after the initial airing in the UK, but I have voted in the past for “Love Island, USA." I started with Season 4, which was the season that they shot in California.

AP: When you're not on set or working, are you still keeping up as a viewer?

MADIX: I am constantly texting people who are working in the villa on days that I’m not there to get the tea on what is going on.

AP: Do you get to interact with the contestants outside of what we see on the show?

MADIX: I get to say hi to them when I come in, but it also depends on what I’m coming in to do. Recently there was an audience vote resulting in one girl and one guy going home. That was a night that I wish that I could have talked to them more. And when I come in, you know, sometimes they’re excited to see me. Sometimes they can tell, I think, by the look on my face that I’m coming in to deliver bad news. I always wish that I could talk to them more and hang out with them more because I love all of them in different ways. I feel bad when someone’s, like, initially excited to see me and then I have a poker face so you know it's going to be bad.

AP: You recently turned 39. If you think about it, your 38th year was really exciting with many opportunities. Do you anticipate this year to be as busy?

MADIX: I have some things that I’m working on. I hope this year is just as great, of course. I'm hoping to really blow it out and make it something super fun and just a last hurrah to my 30s.

AP: There was obviously a lot of interest in you in the immediate aftermath of Scandoval, but you kept getting presented with opportunities — “Chicago” may not have come about without “Dancing with the Stars.” Have you gotten to take that in?

MADIX: It’s not often that I stop and think about things, but if I do, I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of my team because they absolutely kill it in every possible way. We’ve all kind of come up together in a sense, working so hard together for many years. Self-doubt and things like that are things that creep in. I really try to push any of that stuff out and focus on just how hard we’ve worked and how we’ve earned these things. And hopefully, we’ll continue.