Love Island's Valerie Bragg On Her Elimination And What Happened With Jesse - Exclusive Interview

This article contains spoilers for the first six episodes of "Love Island" USA Season 4.

Once upon a time, the only reality dating show to exist was "The Bachelor." The notion of watching one man date 30 women was pretty scandalous when the show first premiered in 2002. But time dated the franchise, and it had to reinvent to keep up with the plethora of romance shows cropping up. Suddenly, we got the likes of "Love Is Blind" and "Too Hot To Handle," and the idea of ripping the clothes off the hottest person on the beach suddenly became untenable.


But perhaps the reality dating show that has taken off in an unparalleled sense is "Love Island." Now with iterations in the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, and more, "Love Island" has taken the reality dating world by storm. Of course, drama, tension, and jealousy are integral ingredients, making for one of the most entertaining shows on the air.

"Love Island" Season 4 has brought some incredibly dynamic cast members to the screen, among them Costa Rica native and Florida resident Valerie Bragg. At just 23 years old, Valerie may be in the early years of her adulthood, but she clearly knows what she wants. Sparking a bond with fellow cast member Jesse Bray, Valerie spent her time in the Santa Barbara villa thinking that she could walk out of the experience with a man beside her, the two becoming a new "power couple" on the reality scene. Her experience, however, was cut short when she became the first person eliminated from the island. On the heels of her exit from the show, we sat down with Valerie for an exclusive interview and asked her point blank: What happened?


What was Valerie looking for romantically before Love Island?

Take me back to the early days — were you a fan of the show before joining the cast? How did your casting come about?

I actually had never seen the show before I got cast. I knew of the show because I had a mutual friend who went on the show. That's how I first heard about it, but I never watched it. I only saw certain clips whenever he was on the show. Then I saw an ad on Instagram, and I was like, "Wait, that's the show that Javonny [Vega] was on." I was like, "Oh, let me apply." I literally just applied, and they reached out a couple weeks after, and the whole casting process took three weeks or so. It was actually very fast.


What did that casting process look like? Was it screen tests? Was it interviews?

It was mainly interviews and it was all via Zoom — questions about myself and stuff like that to get a sense of my personality — and definitely very personal questions, I will say that.

I know you're from Costa Rica, but you lived in Florida. Where are you now?

I'm in Maitland. It's a small town, but the major city close to it is Orlando, so I'm basically in the Orlando area.

With Florida, I think of the Miami guys in the scene there, but what was it that you were looking for romantically when you initially joined the cast?

Honestly, I was hoping to find ... I assumed that people that go on the show, they have to be, in a sense, outgoing and have a good personality. I was hoping to find somebody that would match my energy and take it outside from the villa, and [we would] become a power couple. That's what I envisioned, but everything happens for a reason. If I didn't find it in there, I'll most likely find it out here.


Valerie dishes about her initial connection with Jesse

You came to the villa after the initial 10 were there, where things definitely got shaken up. Tell me about that initial connection that you had with Jesse [Bray], and if Deb [Chubb] gave you any off-camera indications that she was upset or how everything started to go down.


Coming in, I wanted somebody to show they were interested in me, and I didn't want to be reaching for something if they didn't feel that mutual feeling. It's hard, because then you're put in there and you're only with those people for a couple hours, so it's hard to tell. You have to base off everything from first interactions. Jesse was the first one to actually tell me, "I'm very interested in you. I want to get to know you. I feel like I can learn a lot about you." I like that.

The one thing that made me pick him was that he made a comment and he said, "The thing I like about you is that when you walk into a room, your presence is known. You have such a bold personality. I love the way you carry yourself. I love that about you." That's something that really got to me, because I'm like, "Damn, I feel like he can see me for who I am and he likes that," and that's what I was looking for. That was the comment that actually made me pick him, other than already having a physical attraction to him.


From my conversations with the other guys, everybody seemed very indecisive. That's why I was like, "Okay, he looks like he knows what he wants, so I'm going to go for that." With Deb — honestly, Deb and I were actually pretty cool. There was never an issue with us or anything. I did have an issue with one of the girls, which wasn't Deb — which is funny, because you would expect Deb and me to have something going on. But we were cool, honestly. She was really nice to me.

That's good. It's nice that the narrative didn't play out the way that a lot of people, especially in the reality TV scene, would predict. Now that I know that you didn't watch the show previously — what about the experience of being on camera in this very vulnerable, putting-yourself-out-there sense? What was that like for you? What surprised you? What challenged you?

Honestly, going in there, I didn't know what I was going to expect. I had never done anything similar to that, so it was very much like everything was new to me. I'm very comfortable, in a sense, when it comes to adapting to situations, so I don't think it was an issue for me to be there and speak about my feelings. It wasn't awkward or anything like that. I don't know. I feel like it becomes natural. You get used to it, and that's it. I didn't have any issues or anything like that going in.


I've talked to a number of people on the reality TV circuit and it can definitely trip you up, having a camera following you everywhere.

Yeah. I expected it — there's going to be cameras, but it didn't bother me like that. At times, you laugh. If it's a serious moment, you have to hold your laugh for a second. In one of the re-couplings, I was actually dying laughing, and I was trying to hold my laugh because I'm standing there and everybody's looking at me. I'm like, "Okay, serious moment. I have to be serious."

She was ready to say goodbye to Jesse

Your time on the show came to a close. After that one-on-one picnic date with Tyler [Radziszewski], there was that dreaded text. What was your initial reaction to that? Did you think that Jesse [Bray] was being sincere when he said he was sorry for leading you on?


When I first got the text, I was very happy, but ... I was already mentally disconnected. I haven't watched my last episode, so I don't know if you can tell in the camera if my personality changed or anything like that, but my expectations were that I was going to go in there and I was going to find a spark and a connection, and I was going to go for that and pursue that, and I didn't find that. Part of me got down, in a sense. I was definitely interested in Tyler, but I was also not mad about not having that.

After the situation with Jesse and stuff, I was like, "Okay, I came, I saw what it is here, and it wasn't anything for me." A part of me was already mentally disconnected. Tyler was really mellow. Even though he was cute and he was definitely smart, which is very attractive, he probably wouldn't have been a good match for me anyways. [But] given the circumstances, I have to pursue whatever's in there. 


Maybe if I had pursued something with him, it would have been more of me expecting somebody else to come in, and somebody would come in and see if I like him. After the whole Jesse situation, I was ready to be like, "Okay, it's time for me to go." That's the way I took it.

Well, you definitely don't want to be with the wrong person.

Exactly — that's what I'm saying, too. I was like, "I don't want to be with someone just to be with someone and wait it off." I really did want to have a connection, and if I didn't find it, it was for a reason. With the whole Jesse thing, I don't know if he meant it, honestly. I feel like a part of him does, maybe, because he knows what he did to me. But then again, he knows what he did to me. It's like, "Do you really mean that, or are you just saying that now that you know that I'm leaving mainly because of you?"

Valerie doesn't think Jesse felt genuine sadness watching her leave

Jesse [Bray] said, in a confessional, that he was sad to see you go. What's your response to that, in retrospect?

I don't think he really means that. I'm sure he has to show some sort of empathy or something, but if he had been honest from the jump, I wouldn't have been in the position that I was in. He'd just be leading me on. At least [he could have told] me, "Hey, just so you know, I'm going more for Deb right now; I would like you to pursue other guys in the Villa," rather than making it seem like he was very much interested in me. 


That's what I was looking for. For him to show me that, I was like, "Okay, yeah. I'm great. Let's explore this." Then [he was] also cuddling me at night and playing with my mind. I thought we had something. But in reality, he was telling other people something else.

I was watching that unfold on-screen, relating to it on a personal level. I've been led on; so many of my girlfriends have been led on. It's such an infuriating thing to watch someone go through that, because we're all thinking to ourselves, "I know exactly how this feels." In what ways did you grow from that situation, both romantically in what you're looking for, but personally as well?

Honestly, I have been led on in the past, too. In a situation like "Love Island," a lot of people just want to stay. The longer you stay, the longer you get to experience it. But having that mentality stops you from being yourself. With me literally not caring about how long I stayed in there, but wanting to show myself as I am, it allowed me to make the decisions that I made. 


[With] a lot of people, one of the things that they say is, "You should have gone for this person, and you probably would have stayed longer." But I wasn't trying to stay longer. I was trying to find a connection. [Watching] that situation ... if anything, makes me feel proud, because I feel like I made the same decisions that I would have made in the outside world, and maybe even encouraged some women, too. 

Speak your mind. If you're not being treated the way you want to be treated, or if somebody is playing with your head, you should say something. You should confront them about it. Never be scared to speak up for yourself. Me making that decision — I knew right after that that it was going to put me in a vulnerable spot and maybe even [make me] go home. But I didn't care, because I was like, "You know what? I'm going to deal with any situation the same way I would deal if I wasn't here, and I don't do disrespect." I'm very much an honest person, and I know what I have to offer, so if he didn't want to see that, then honestly, I took it as his loss.

Would Valerie change her Love Island experience?

The authenticity that you brought to the screen — fans were so sad to see you go and said that you were robbed of time. I also appreciated that you were yourself. In retrospect, watching it back, are you happy with all the decisions that you made?


Oh, for sure. I have no regrets. Even thinking, "What if I had done something different?" — I could have, but then I wouldn't have been able to really show myself. If I'm just in there trying to ride it out, I can't show my true self, in a sense, because I'm more focused on staying. But by going in there wanting to make a connection, I was able to show my personality and the type of woman that I am. I'm very happy, and I'm proud of myself for staying true to myself and showing the world how it is.

You've had to deal with some negative social media attention in the past. In what ways are you hoping that this experience showed people a very different and far more authentic side of you that they may not have otherwise known about?


People get misled by looks, and from the type of woman that I am, I know what I have to offer. Going on the show showed a side of my personality that not a lot of people get to see, because they don't know me. One of the comments that a lot of people tell me after they meet me [is], "Wow, you're a lot nicer than I thought." I'm like, "What do you mean?" 

A lot of people expect me to be a mean girl or mean for some reason, which I get, because a lot of pretty girls tend to come across that way. But once they meet me, you're like, "Wow, you're actually so nice." It's nice to be able to show that and show myself. I don't let sh*t slide, but at the end of the day, I'm very genuine, and I do truly believe that.

With that said, what's on the horizon for you? What can fans expect to see from you next, if you can say?

Honestly, I'm still taking the time to decompress. I have a certain perspective on things, and I want to have influence on women, and I want to be able to help them through situations and maybe bring out a little bit more confidence when it comes to making decisions or showing themselves. I have in mind starting a podcast or YouTube channel and having people ask me about topics that they would like me to speak on, and maybe something that I can share my views on. Right now, that's what's on my mind. I haven't started it yet, but I'm sure when I do, I'll be posting it on social media.


"Love Island" USA Season 4 drops new episodes Tuesdays through Sundays on NBC's Peacock, with recap episodes releasing on Saturdays.

This interview was edited for clarity.