Love Island host Laura Whitmore has spoken candidly about the grief and survivor’s guilt she is working through following the death of Caroline Flack.
Flack, who died by suicide on February 15, had been friends with Whitmore for a decade. Speaking to Kate Thornton on her Yahoo podcast White Wine Question Time, she opened up about the moment she discovered Flack had died.
“I found out about Caroline on the Saturday and I found out in a way I wish I didn't,” she said. “It was something on Twitter that someone had tweeted initially that I disregarded. Because there's always so many things that would be said about Caroline that you wouldn't take everything as truth. So I kind of ignored it.”
‘I thought the tweets were fake news’
Shortly after seeing the tweet, Laura received a call from a friend, asking her to come home.
“She was being really weird about it,” Laura said of the situation. “I just said, ‘Is this anything to do with Caroline?’ And she said, ‘Just come home’.”
She continued: “Then I did that thing – which I wish I didn't – I went on Twitter and you see different things, different people posting things. I can't really remember what happened after that.
“It wasn't the way that you think you would find out a friend had passed away, so I just got home as quick as I could and that's when I came in to my friend and she said it was true.”
Choking back tears as she recalled the moment, Laura said her thoughts immediately turned to boyfriend and Love Island narrator Iain Stirling, who was in South Africa, where the show was being recorded.
“I knew it was his day off and he was out with a few people in the pub having a few drinks,” she said. “I just wanted him to get to a safe space, if that makes sense? Not to be exposed. Because everyone wants to see what your reaction is.”
All over the place
Laura revealed that she is still struggling to come to terms with what happened.
“I haven't really been doing any interviews,” she told host and friend Kate Thornton. “I think only because this is you Kate, it felt safe and secure. I think it's really good to talk, but part of me sometimes wants to lock myself away and not talk to anyone.”
The former MTV-presenter said her emotions are all over the place, however, guilt is definitely something weighing heavily on her.
“I've had a lot of people asking me how I am, and sometimes I feel guilty. I feel guilty for so many people asking how I am because I'm here. It's the people who aren't here or the family of Caroline.
“Sometimes I'll be watching TV and I laugh at something and then you feel guilty for laughing and then you'll forget. And then you'll remember. I’m kind of all over the place. There's no right or wrong way to feel; it's just whatever you feel in the moment.”
Responding to Whitmore, Thornton said she hoped Whitmore’s comments would be treated with respect. “I would ask anybody that’s listening to this, if you’re going to take this conversation and report it in some way, please do it honestly because it’s really important none of this gets misconstrued.”
‘I wanted Caroline’s blessing’
Whitmore was appointed to take over as Love Island host after Flack was charged with the assault of her boyfriend, Lewis Burton. On being asked to take the job, Laura admitted it was “challenging” and a “rollercoaster”.
The broadcaster, who aspires to make her name as an actress and screenwriter, said that while she enjoys Love Island, saying yes wasn’t a simple decision
“I'm a fan of that show, but I'd worked in television and I had the radio show and I really tried to do something different, which is with the acting and going back and studying and writing my first screenplay.
“I kind of felt there was a little bit of momentum starting and there were a few exciting auditions. Then suddenly this came up. I'm like, ‘Oh, am I going to go back to doing a show that's so ‘in the papers’ all the time?’”
One thing she was sure about was that she wouldn’t take the job without talking to Caroline first – and thankfully she got her friend’s blessing.
“It happened so quick. I had to make a decision within a day,” she said.
“At the time I wanted to message her [Caroline] and they said, ‘Just wait until we know if it's going to happen’ because obviously there's contracts to do. I said, ‘I’m just not agreeing on anything until I've said it to Caroline’.
“She actually texted me first saying, ‘I really hope you get to do it’, but it's still a shit situation. To get a job is so great, but in those circumstances…”
A little bit of positivity
Laura, who was criticised by some on Twitter for attending the Brit awards so soon after Caroline’s death, also spoke to Kate about how dancing has been a therapy for her in the past.
“There's so much pleasure in just dancing,” she said. “Even after everything that's happened in the last few weeks… Sometimes you just want to go out, have a glass of wine and have a dance. It’s so therapeutic.”
It’s a love she and Caroline shared. During Laura’s emotional tribute to her friend on her BBC 5 Live show, she referenced Caroline’s love of dancing – ending her speech by playing Angels by Robbie Williams, a song Caroline had danced to on Strictly Come Dancing.
“Caroline loved dancing and Angels by Robbie Williams always reminds me of her because she danced so beautifully to it on Strictly. Caroline loved music, she loved to dance. We shared many a dance floor, gigs, festivals.”
Ultimately, Laura is hopeful that something good will come out of Caroline’s death and that people will think before they type.
“Maybe I'm being naive – I feel change is happening,” she told Kate. “I just feel in all this tragedy that some little bit of positivity might happen.”
“We all are to blame in some way [for] things that we say and things that we do. It's more about all of us individually looking at ourselves.
She continued: “I think we need to humanise people. When we read about people in the press, we forget that they're human.”
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Hear Laura Whitmore talk about her emotional tribute to Caroline, why she’s scared to go out in London and just what it’s like to work with her boyfriend. Listen now on iTunes and Spotify.