Valley native finds love, money on TV’s ‘Island’
Marco Donatelli made it to the state finals playing football with the Girard Indians in 2018.
The prize in his latest competition is even greater — $100,000 and love.
Donatelli, who grew up in Vienna and now lives in Boca Raton, Fla., where he is studying to be a chiropractor, and Hannah Wright of Palm Springs, Calif., were the winning couple on the Peacock reality series “Love Island.”
Young, beautiful people are sequestered together in a lavish villa on an island in Fiji, where they pair up and face various challenges, and viewers get to vote on their favorite couple.
His sports background came in handy during filming.
“Competition is everything to me,” Donatelli said during a joint interview with Wright via Zoom. “I was trying to explain, in Youngstown it takes a kind of guy like me — kinda cutthroat, always serious, competitive as hell, and I was competing for her heart. I wasn’t competing for money.”
Donatelli proved that in the finale. As a final twist, the $100,000 prize only was awarded to one of the two winners, and Donatelli got the lucky envelope. He could keep all of the money, which probably would kill any hopes of a long-term relationship, or he could split the prize with Wright.
He chose love.
Donatelli admitted he didn’t realize just how challenging the show would be when he first applied.
“I just knew it was an opportunity to find love and be in front of a camera, two things I love to do,” he said.
Donatelli had 171,000 Instagram followers before the series started. He now has 374,000 followers.
The couple realized just how much their lives might be different when they visited Disneyland after the final episode debuted. They were about 10 feet inside the park when the first person asked them for a photograph, and they were recognized by hundreds over the course of the day.
“It was a good way to be thrown in — OK, this is our new reality,” Wright said.
On one of the final episodes, they talk about where they will take the other one when Donatelli comes to California and Wright visits Florida.
Asked where he plans to take Wright in the Mahoning Valley, Donatelli said, “Definitely the two Avalons. We could get a couple nights’ room there and show her the pool and take her to Avalon Pizza in downtown Youngstown. Maybe catch a Penguins game … And White House (Fruit) Farm, 100 percent.”
The couple will be back in the area later this month for Girard’s football game against Pymatuning Valley on Sept. 15. Donatelli will talk to the team before the game.
“We might have to come back,” Wright said. “He tells me how pretty it is during Christmas with the snow, and I’m not used to that.”
Donatelli also is looking forward to reconnecting with his family. He talks about the connection he has with his family and impact the death of his mother had on him several times on “Love Island.” He hasn’t seen them since the show started, except for a video shown during one of the final episodes where they expressed their approval for his relationship with Wright (although his grandmother says some of the scenes on the reality series verge on being “porno”).
“When I got the video, it truly showed they were proud of me,” Donatelli said. “They talked about Hannah more than they did me. When I got their approval and heard Hannah is passing every expectation and then some for my family, it was a closed deal. I knew she was the one for me.”
Wright added, “Hearing that from his family made me feel so special. Hearing from them that they are so supportive of us, because we think so much of our families, it would have been difficult if it was a negative response.”
The show created different obstacles that each couple had to face.
The biggest one occurred during “Casa,” a week where the show separated the couples and allowed the men to interact with different women and vice versa. The producers told Donatelli he would get to reunite with “Hannah,” but it wasn’t Wright, it was “an ex-situation,” Donatelli said, a former fling from Florida who was flown to Fiji by the producers.
“It was terrible,” he said. “That was the biggest curve ball.”
It was just as bad for Wright, who only got to see a clip of Donatelli saying, “Oh my goodness, it’s my ex,” and not his full reaction to her arrival.
Despite the occasional trickery, Donatelli referred to being on the show as a relationship “cheat code.” It took away all of the distractions of the outside world and let them focus on their relationship 24/7.
The couple now is entering the opposite situation with lives on opposite coasts. But that may be short-lived.
“Even in there, Marco was very transparent – ‘I’m in school in Florida, this is my life right now,'” Wright said. “The great thing about teaching and the point I am in my life now, I can move. I don’t have to be in southern California. We’re going to Florida tomorrow, and I’m going to see his lifestyle, but I feel like I am going to move, because I want to be with him. I always said, ‘I’ll move when I find my person.’ It’s good I’m in a state where I can move and I’m going to. That’s my plan so we can start our lives together.”