A GoPride Interview

Carsten Bergersen and Taylor Smith

Love Island cast flies into the Windy City

Fri. June 28, 2024  by Jerry Nunn

Literally 10 days later I was in Fiji.
Carsten Bergersen and Taylor Smith

carsten bergersen and taylor smith

photo credit // jerry nunn

Carsten, Taylor, Kenzo and Carmen present a Love Island popup

Love Island is a reality competition television series where a group of single people move into a luxury villa together to search for connections and a cash prize. After a successful British launch in 2005, Love Island has become a popular franchise with over 20 versions. Season 11 is currently airing this June, but the production team is already preparing for more content.

On June 22, the parking lot at Old Town Chicago on Wells Street was filled with hopefuls auditioning to be cast at Peacock Love Island USA Mobile Villa Activation. Makeup stations and photograph opportunities were offered in the popup lot. Attendees could make audition tapes for the producers right on the spot in the unique outdoor setting.

Previous season five cast members Carsten Bergersen and Taylor Smith attended the gathering to meet fans of the show and to give advice.

JN: (Jerry Nunn) Where are you from originally?

TS: (Taylor Smith) California.

CB: (Carsten Bergersen) I am from Minnesota.

JN: What are your backgrounds?

CB: I went to undergrad at Dakota State University in Madison, South Dakota. I studied exercise science. I originally thought I would have a double major in biology and become a medical doctor like my grandpa. I realized that doctors don’t get to spend much time with their patients. I am someone who likes spending time with people and helping them recover. This made me go the physical therapy route so now I am going back and getting my doctorate in physical therapy. I hope to work in a clinic in the next three years.

TS: I went to California State University Long Beach and I graduated in hospitality management. I majored and minored in human resources. That is my career path and I work in dermatology now as a patient coordinator. I am working my way up in the corporate world.

JN: How was the process of being on Love Island?

TS: I just filled out the application and they got back to me the next day. I made sure my answers were truly authentic.

CB: I had a completely different experience than what she had. I applied in December of 2022. I forgot I applied because it took so long for them to get back to me. They called me in March and the call was from California. I thought it was a scam and hung up!

They left a voicemail stating they were the head of casting from Love Island. I called them back right away and the next thing I knew I was doing an interview. After the first interview, I had a gut feeling that I would be on the show and I showed every different part of myself with every question they asked me.

JN: What would you recommend the people attending the pop-up today to do at their casting audition?

TS: They should be energetic and their true selves to the audition. They should answer the questions authentically and bring out their personality. That is what production wants to see. Bring out the comedy and stand out from the rest.

CB: If they do the online application they should fill it out completely. Sometimes someone will just put one sentence instead of writing a paragraph. The producers want to understand who the person is so write more.

JN: What are the best and worst parts of being on a reality television program?

TS: The best part is living in that exciting environment. Not everyone gets an opportunity like this.

The worst part is when a relationship is being built on TV not everything is televised. There is a backstory and the audience isn’t able to see everything. They might see a snippet but not the whole story.

CB: The vacation to Fiji was the best and the worst side is viewers thinking that we are just characters on a television screen. They sometimes don’t think we have feelings or we are an actual person.

JN: Talk about finding love on Love Island.

TS: We fell in love.

CB: Love Island does work when people are looking for a relationship.

TS: There are people who go on the show to get clout or cause drama, but Love Island works when someone is genuine. You can really tell when you are in the villa and someone tries to connect with you. It’s easy to pick up on a person that is there for the right reasons.

JN: When the cameras are turned off then you can really tell I bet.

TS: Exactly.

JN: Did you forget the cameras were around at times?

TS: Sometimes yes and sometimes no, because they are on top of you sometimes.

CB: When they are right on your face it’s hard to forget them.

TS: During our date, we had like 40 cameras on us!

JN: That seems like a lot of pressure.

TS: It is. A lot of couples don’t stay together when they leave shows like this because they are tested. We live in a bubble but when we leave the villa it’s a true test of the relationship.

CB: We got to know each other better after the show since there were certain things we couldn’t talk about when they were filming.

TS: We did. We learned about our family backgrounds and a lot more.

JN: What would you like to take away from Love Island?

CB: My goal is to finish school and get my doctorate. The next step is to move in together. If there are more television opportunities we would do it.

TS: We would have more fun now as a couple on a show together. We would like more time to show our relationship in a spinoff since we had limited time on Love Island. We are coming up on our year anniversary so we feel blessed. I am excited for our future and what is to come!


While Bergersen and Smith came in third place, Kenzo Nudo and Carmen Kocourek finished in fourth place in the same season. The happy couple answered a few questions on the pink carpet that day.

JN: (Jerry Nunn) Start off by talking about your background.

CK: (Carmen Kocourek) I am from Wisconsin, so from the Midwest. I went to college in Arizona. I have moved back to Wisconsin with him.

KN: (Kenzo Nudo) I am originally from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I moved to Scottsdale, Arizona when I was 10 years old. I was there for my whole life after that.

In the last few years, I have been traveling around the world. I made it back and got the call from Love Island. I got to meet her and now I am living in Milwaukee.

JN: Eres Mexicano?

KN: Si.

JN: I have been to Puerto Vallarta’s Pride and it was really fun!

KN: I took her for the first time this past February. I showed her around…

JN: Did you love it there, Carmen?

CK: I did and didn’t feel too much like a tourist because I could see everything through his eyes.

JN: Would you ever want to move back, Kenzo?

KN: Right now we are in Wisconsin with her family and I am trying to convince her to go to Mexico for a few months to see how she likes it.

CK: We are thinking somewhere in Europe just temporarily.

KN: I am half Italian too, so Italy is a possibility as well. We will figure it out but we are happy right here in Milwaukee.

JN: Was it challenging to be cast on Love Island?

CK: It was a weird process for me because they messaged me three weeks before the show started. They were searching last minute and it lined up where I was doing interviews for a week. Literally, 10 days later I was in Fiji.

It was a quick turnaround. I didn’t have time to think about it, but that is what made it fun. I just gave it my all!

KN: The production people reached out to me in February of last year. I had never seen the show before. I don’t watch reality TV. When I first saw the message I thought it was fake.

They reached out to me again two weeks later on Instagram. I asked my brother about it and he said that both he and his girlfriend watch it all the time. They even watched the UK version. He encouraged me to do the show.

It was kind of a long process. It was two interviews a month. I didn’t know until a month before the show started that I was getting close. They called me two weeks before I had to fly out.

JN: Wow, that sounds intense.

KN: Being on the show was a whole different ballgame. It was a lot of fun and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was happy that I did it!

JN: What advice do you give this crowd auditioning here today?

CK: There are no secret hacks. People should be themselves. They will be recorded 24 hours a day and seven days a week. If they try to be a character then that doesn’t translate all day long. People will like someone when they are authentic. Those moments are what connect people to someone.

KN: I agree with her. Being authentic is important. The producers can tell when someone is acting fake. People should always express who they are and that’s what the casting agents are looking for.

JN: Did you notice a big jump in your social media number after being on Love Island?

CK: Mainly when we first left the show, but it has been very constant since then.

KN: I don’t follow a lot of it and didn’t know people’s numbers from the past. When it came out I couldn’t believe the number of people that watched the show!

JN: It’s like being in a bubble isn’t it?

CK: Yes. When you are on the show it doesn’t feel like anyone is watching. Even when they say the public has been voting I didn’t believe it.

KN: When I was in the gym two older guys came up and asked if I was on Love Island. I was shocked that they watched the show. They were very complimentary about us being on it.

CK: Everyone has been so nice.

JN: A friend of mine found love on Bachelor in Paradise, so it can work.

CK: I have been a longtime reality television fan, but have always taken it with a grain of salt. I knew it was entertaining, but I didn’t know if it was real. Now I have to stand by it because clearly it works!


Interviewed by Jerry Nunn. Jerry Nunn is a contributing writer to the GoPride Network. His work is also featured in Windy City Times, Nightspots Magazine and syndicated nationally.