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I'm A Celebrity 2019: You Can't Help But Love Justin Lacko

One of the most talked about celebrities to enter the jungle this year had to be Justin Lacko, but with the public forming such strong opinions around the reality star, we wanted to figure out he was all about.

The former Love Island star will be the first to tell you he’s not just a model, he’s an artist, an actor, a clown. He’s the whole package. His lips are constantly slick with chapstick, they’re smoother than the underside of a dolphin.

He was the camp philosophist, the world record holder for most publicly voted trials and the Human Wheel of Emotion. Yet what he lacks in self-awareness, Justin makes up for tenfold in heart.

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Looking half the size he did before entering the jungle, Justin beamed as he described his time in the camp as “a tremendous experience”.

“I am so privileged, lucky and fortunate to have gone on such a beautiful journey where I got to find out more about myself and experience this with some of the warmest people I’ve met in my life,” he said grinning.

Justin quickly fell victim to the former reality TV contestant curse on I’m A Celebrity, with the Australian public voting him into ten trials, more than anyone else worldwide. For some, it would be frustrating but for Justin, he saw it as a way to prove his worth to his campmates.

Despite being afraid of heights, not really being keen to eat a whole pig’s face and really not being thrilled about running the Sunday Slam four times, Justin went into every trial and gave it his all.

“I punished myself when I lost and brought home nothing for the campers,” Justin said following the first Slam, “I was really disappointed, I just wanted to be alone. I needed to discipline myself and be away from everyone because I didn’t deserve to eat that night. I let everyone down.”

Justin brought home more stars than any other celebrity in camp, but his one failure still hangs over him.

Still, his decision to always speak his mind -- even with a foot firmly in his mouth -- seemed to rub some of his campmates, and the viewing audience the wrong way.

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“He’s always been a person that likes to make an impact, he’s not shy expressing himself. That’s who Justin Lacko is,” Justin’s father Nandor told 10 daily.

“That’s the way we raised him. Be honest and true to everybody and they’ll love you for who you are or they’ll hate you for who you are.”

Justin’s mother, Kerry, echoed his father, adding that watching Justin form relationships in the camp was emotional for her, knowing how it would affect his time in the jungle.

“It’s often somebody unexpected like Richard Reid,” Kerry said, “he was almost like a proud dad when he had that talk with Angie and Justin apologised.”

“I know there’s so much we don’t see on the TV but there’s so much Justin’s going to take out of there and people he loves in there.”

During his time on Love Island and again on I’m A Celebrity, Justin was a lightning rod for insults across social media. His parents weren’t entirely concerned saying people are entitled to their opinions but, “They haven’t seen the struggles he’s had,” Nandor said. “A lot of people don’t know two of his siblings have disabilities.”

“He doesn’t advertise or say ‘feel sorry for me’,” Kerry added, “He fights for them, he sees the struggle they go through in life and he defends them.”

Justin was less sure of himself when the topic of dealing with outside negativity came up.

“I don’t necessarily deal with it very well,” Justin said, “I feel like I’m a good person, I have a warm heart and I don’t think anything malicious.”

Trailing off, Justin thought for a moment before adding, “Everyone’s battling through different things. It’s important not to take too much on board but it’s difficult to ignore everything all the time.”

“I can take it on board, and it can kind of bring me down.”

During his time in the jungle, through the trials, the challenges, the squabbles, the (terrible) dancing and the many, many applications of chapstick Justin was completely polarising and exceptionally endearing.

But above all, he emerged as a man of great intentions.

“If I’m making people laugh then that’s a beautiful thing in life. If I can continue to make people enjoy their day, put a smile on their face… that’s awesome.”

Just before we wrapped up our chat, a hungry, exhausted Justin said, “What’s… what’s that saying?”

Without any clues to assist, we just sat in a brief silence as he scratched his beard in frustration.

“Oh -- A day without a smile is a day lost.”

The I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! finale airs Sunday, February 17 at 7.30 on 10 and 10 Play.