The tragic news of Sophie Gradon's death was announced on Thursday by her boyfriend Aaron Armstrong. In a devastating Facebook post, he wrote: "I will never forget that smile I love you so so much baby your my world forever ever and always." She had passed away the night before aged just 32, and upon hearing the announcement, heartbroken fans had been hoping Love Island would pay tribute to Sophie Gradon when the show aired later that evening. ITV bosses of course did not let them down.
Before Thursday night's episode aired, Love Island displayed a picture of Sophie in complete silence to remember her. The image appeared on screen for several seconds with a caption written underneath. It simply read: "In loving memory of Sophie Gradon."
Immediately afterwards, viewers took to Twitter to to praise ITV bosses for paying tribute to the former islander, and acknowledging her passing. Although some would have liked the channel to have done more, the overwhelming majority thought the tribute was perfectly fitting and were emotional at seeing her picture on TV, at the start of the show that made her a household name. The tribute quickly started trending online afterwards. Here are just a few of the reactions on Twitter from people, who were watching at home:
I for one am glad ITV acknowledged Sophie's passing. Indeed, it seems she was on a lot of minds in the ITV and Love Island camp over the course of Thursday. A spokesperson for the broadcaster told Bustle in a statement earlier that day: "The whole ITV2 and Love Island team are profoundly saddened to hear the news about Sophie, and our deepest sympathies and thoughts go to her family and friends."
Sophie was an undeniably huge character in the 2016 series of the show and her life and career as a whole was super inspiring. Just earlier this year, she teamed up with fellow Love Island contestant Zara Holland to talk about online bullying in the hope of helping to prevent it. Sophie also actively spoken out in defence of Zara when she was stripped of her Miss Great Britain crown back in 2016 for having sex on the show.
Having previously held the title once herself, Sophie said while in the villa: "As an ex Miss Newcastle and Miss GB I can say that it’s time people moved forward from their old fashioned thinking and accepted the simple fact that women like to have sex. Life shouldn’t be about judging one another. For example, judging a young woman for enjoying herself."
Following news of her death, Zara shared a picture of her with Sophie on Twitter, alongside the caption: "I’m beyond heartbroken, I’m in shock. My gorgeous girl, why. You will be truly missed, I will think about you every single day. The nicest, kindest, caring, hard working girl I have ever met. Sending all my love to your family. I love you x."
In her series of Love Island, Sophie initially pursed a relationship with Tom Powell. However, after he was eliminated, Sophie, who openly identified as bisexual, coupled up with Katie Salmon. Together, they were Love Island's only LGBTQ+ couple to date.
Although Sophie's relationship with Katie did not go the distance, the pair remained good friends. In fact, both Katie and Tom took to social media following the news of Sophie's death to pay their respects. Katie wrote on Instagram: "The world has failed you beautiful...Your smile will be remembered forever, My thoughts are with your family, friends, and loved ones at this horrendous time. Too young, too sweet. Too kind. Am sending all my love. I truly am to everyone who had the pleasure of ever being in her company!"
Tom later took to Twitter and wrote:
Much respect to ITV and Love Island for sharing a tribute to Sophie and I send my sincere condolences to Sophie's friends and family at this incredibly sad time. RIP Sophie.
Love Island airs on ITV2, Sunday to Friday at 9 p.m.