When Northampton native Joel Bierwert received a direct message on Instagram from a Love Island USA recruiter, he decided to seize the moment, not knowing what he was getting himself into.
“Being on the show was like being a kid again,” Bierwert said. “There are no responsibilities, and you just hang out with your best friends.”
Love Island is a dating reality show based on the British show of the same name, where an even number of men and women live in a villa together. Contestants are made to hang out and participate in challenges with each other, often steamy in nature, with the ultimate goal of “coupling up.” One winning couple is awarded a cash prize (in addition to true love).
According to the show’s description, “Every few days the (contestants) pair up and those who are not coupled are at risk of being dumped from the island.”
Throughout the show, bombshells – other people – are placed in the villa. The new additions are meant to mix things up and test the couples, resulting in drama and breakups. This show is different from your average dating reality show because there is a new episode every night, with the contestant turn-over being days instead of months.
Northampton local Bierwert, who goes by “the real swole joel” on social media, was a bombshell in season four of Love Island USA. He came in looking for the woman he was going to marry, and spoke to the Recorder about his experience.
“The whole point of the show is to enjoy the moment,” Bierwert said. Not much plot development happens on the show, but instead the audience watches as the contestants interact as their genuine self in a setting where they are not able to go anywhere or see other people.
“I was vulnerable and everyone welcomed me,” he continued. Bierwert described the moment when he entered the show, halfway through the season as “terrifying and anxious,” but he was able to come out strong with what he was looking for.
Bierwert explained the people on the show were so cut-off from the real world that they never knew what time of day it was in the villa. He explained they looked at the sun trying to figure out what time it might be.
One aspect of the show that intrigues viewers is the bedroom, which is a long, pitch-black room filled with beds. As soon as people couple up they sleep together in the beds. Bierwert was shown in the first nights he was on the show sleeping by himself, generating sympathy from the audience. “I didn’t sleep at all on my first night,” Bierwert said. “But you get used to it.”
Bierwert said dating on the show is different from dating in real life, where you would normally see each other for a few hours and then leave. On the show you are living with the person you couple with, so “if you have something to ask them, you have to be honest.”
“It’s like speed dating,” Bierwert continued. “It’s a fast, intimate, romantic connection.”
On the show, Bierwert stayed single for many days. He coupled up with an other contestant and was quickly dumped from the island. When he left he said he planned on reaching out to Bella Barbaro, a contestant that left the show earlier. Now the two ex-Love Islanders are dating. “We are trying to take it slow,” Bierwert said.
Barbaro lives in Long Island, New York, and has many modeling jobs, but when the two have free time, Bierwert comes to visit.
Bierwert said it is difficult for him to date in Northampton. “I’m a big goofy guy,” he said. “I don’t fit in in Northampton even though I grew up here.”
When not visiting Barbaro, Bierwert spends his time fixing up and doing lawn work on his Northampton house that purchased from his grandmother in Northampton. Other than that, he loves his seasonal sports including hiking all the local mountains, water skiing in the summer and snow skiing in the winter.
“It was amazing growing up in Western Mass,” Bierwert said. He explained he has a family-oriented lifestyle, and when he graduated from Auburn University, he knew he was going to come home to Massachusetts.
For work, Bierwert is a metal worker. He started as an apprentice in high school at Salmon Studios in Florence, and today works there full-time. Along with metal, Bierwert works on his body. A professional bodybuilder, he can often be found at Anytime Fitness on King Street in Northampton.
Bierwert’s best piece of dating advice: go for it. “The worst thing they can say is no,” he said. “No one is out of your league. You are never worse off for taking advantage of the opportunity and seizing the moment.”
As for what’s next, Bierwert said, “I hope I can get on another reality show, only time will tell.”
Bella Levavi can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4579