What You Never Knew About Love Is Blind

If you're into reality dating shows, there are plenty to choose from at the moment. "90 Day Fiancé," "Too Hot to Handle," "Married at First Sight," the list goes on. So what is it about "Love is Blind" that's making Season 2 one of the hottest shows on Netflix? Show creator Chris Coelen told Entertainment Weekly that this series is different because it's all about one thing — the fact "that everybody wants to be loved for who they are on the inside."

You might wonder why anyone in their right mind would pop the question to someone they've never laid eyes on. Well, on this show they are taking that leap, and for some, it's working. Spoiler alert! Season 2's Jarrette Jones, who married Iyanna McNeely on the finale, admits he was skeptical when he signed on to do the show.

"I used to be a firm believer [that] you can't fall in love after a couple of weeks or months; I don't think that anymore," he told the Chicago Sun-Times. So how does "Love is Blind" make the magic happen? What is going on when the cameras aren't rolling? We have all the scoop that you won't see on TV.

The concept behind the show

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Chris Coelen said the principle at the core of "Love is Blind" is unplugging devices so that people can have more meaningful conversations. "That technology — those dating apps — make a lot of people feel very disposable. It's a very surface-level experience." So rule number one is no outside media: no phones, no TV, and no WiFi. 

Before anyone meets in person, singles get to know each other through a series of conversations in soundproof "pods," per Variety. When you subtract all the outside noise, Coelen explained to the outlet, the human voice can be a very powerful thing. "They can't touch each other, they can't see each other, but it's almost as if they can feel one another's presence," he said. Unlike "Married at First Sight," no decision is made for the "Love is Blind" cast members. "They don't have to go through with the wedding ceremony," Coelen noted, referring to the show as an "experiment" in which it's crucial to find "people who are genuine, people who really wanted a long term relationship."

Producers choose cast members who live in the same city where the show is filmed (giving them the chance to avoid long-distance relationships), so all of Season 2's participants lived in Chicago. In the Windy City, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, the casting team actively recruited singles on dating apps, "directly over social media," in bars, and even through matchmaking services.

How Love is Blind works

Filming begins with 15 women and 15 men, creator Chris Coelen told Variety. For the first few weeks, the entire cast lives on set, divided by gender. In a process similar to speed dating, everyone rotates through a series of conversations in the pods that last no more than 10 minutes, per E! News. Each person starts to narrow down whom they want to keep talking to and whom they don't, and pairs who do connect end up spending a lot of time in those pods! "They were there pretty much 24-7," Coelen told Variety of some of the couples. "It's funny because we would encourage them to take [breaks]. ... 'You gotta eat! You gotta get some sleep!' But they didn't want to." 

Once a man or woman proposes, they get to meet their other half face-to-face for the first time. Each season, six couples who get engaged are followed on the show. After a romantic getaway to the luxurious Grand Velas Riviera Maya resort in Mexico, the couples return home to a temporary apartment, while they work at introducing their fiancé(e) to their friends, families, and living situations.

And of course, they have to prepare for their wedding in about four weeks. Yeah, it's a lot! Coelen told E! News, "We liked the idea that if you started with pure love that was focused on just who that person was, could that love stand the test of time and survive the outside world."

Producers don't interfere with pod conversations

"Love is Blind" creator Chris Coelen told Oprah Daily that producers did everything they could to make cast members feel comfortable discussing anything they wanted to in the pods: "We wanted them to make the decisions and them to control their destiny," he said. "They were never interrupted in terms of like a producer saying, 'Hey, talk about this, talk about that,' they just did what they wanted to do," he told Variety.

Hosts Nick and Vanessa Lachey are there to listen, but they can't give advice to any cast member based on something another person may have shared with them. As summed up by The Daily Beast, Nick "views his role more as a 'traffic cop' than a relationship counselor." He told the outlet, "It's like, when your kids turn 18. ... 'We've given the best advice we can, and now you gotta go out and make your own mistakes and figure your own way.'" Producers were on hand, however, to help cast members make their time in the pods feel like real dates.  

Coelen told Variety, "For example if someone said, 'I love Italian food and I'd love to have an Italian dinner with my date,' we would get some lasagna and arrange that." Even though the couple couldn't physically dine in front of one another, they'd still share that same sensory experience in real time. "We really wanted them to feel like it's their own thing," Coelen added.

If you don't get engaged, it's over

For Season 1, producers actually started out with about 40 to 50 people in the casting pool, Chris Coelen told E! News. "There was a certain point where we did a whittling down of people just to focus internally on the people who were really connecting, to allow them more time." Coelen explained to Variety that "as producers, we don't have any control over what happens. We don't try to exert or [hold] sway over any of the participants."

So, if someone said they didn't want to talk to a certain person anymore, that was it. Those who didn't get engaged by day 10 were cut from the show, but understandably, the show is about love and focuses on the couples who find connections quickly enough for this unique scenario. Coelen added that there was limited space for participants' stories.

The creator revealed to the Los Angeles Times, "We probably have more footage, in a way, on this show than we do on any show I've ever been a part of — 30,000 hours of footage or some crazy amount. ... You're seeing 10 hours of the journey across all the couples. Obviously, [we]'re picking and choosing what we feel like, ultimately, are the most relevant storylines."

Some couples got engaged and still got the boot

In Season 2, there were actually two couples who got engaged and were never featured on the show. Caitlin McKee and Joey Miller are one pair. Caitlin wrote a lengthy reflection on Instagram and explained, "What you didn't see is that I also found love in the pods and left the show with a fiance." The couple, who are no longer together but are still friends, "vibed from first pod date," according to Joey's Instagram recap.

Also engaged that season were Kara Williams and Jason Beaumont, who have likewise split. "There has been a lot of people asking me why I had no luck in the pods... SURPRISE! kara_williams & I walked out of the pods an engaged couple as well!" Jason wrote in a since-deleted Instagram post (via ET). He added that their parting could "never take away the feelings & love I had for her throughout this process."

Such ousting is not unique to the second season. Per People, there wasn't enough space in Season 1 for two engaged couples: Leslie Skipper and Wesley Baer, plus Danielle Drouin and Rory Newbrough. But apparently, it wasn't personal. A "Love is Blind" representative told People that when the cuts needed to be made, "They practically picked names out of a hat because it was hard to predict what the outcomes would be for anyone." Those Season 1 couples parted ways, despite the romantic moments each had experienced.

Are Season 1's married couples still together?

Cameron Hamilton and Lauren Speed, who got hitched on Season 1, are still together, per Us Weekly. Lauren said that one big challenge after "Love is Blind" for both of them was adjusting to being public personalities. "The hardest thing for us at the time was just kind of learning how to let people's opinions roll off of us. ... We're human. You know, we're not love robots."

It all came to a head when the couple announced that they were trying to get pregnant, as Cameron explained to Elle: "Everyone's like, 'Hurry up. Where's the baby? ... Oh, does Lauren not want to have a baby?'" The couple has a lot of other exciting projects. In 2021, Lauren hosted another reality dating show, the MTV series "Match Me If You Can," and the couple hosts a YouTube channel called "Hanging With the Hamiltons."

Amber Pike and Matt Barnett also tied the knot on Season 1, and their relationship seems to be on solid ground, as well. The couple, who double-dated with fellow cast members Lauren and Cameron, have not been so friendly with castmate Jessica Batten. Per Insider, at a party during the cast's 2020 reunion, the pair steered clear of the woman Amber claimed tried to steal her man. "We made it really clear that we wanted nothing to do with the drama. That's not our life," Amber said.

What happened to troublemaker Shaina Hurley?

Season 2's resident bad girl, Shaina Hurley, packed her bags and ditched fiancé Kyle Abrams after their first night in Mexico, but he still held out hope. He's not carrying a torch for her any longer. In an interview with Us Weekly, he said, "There's nothing left. I mean, we're not friends or anything. ... That ship has sailed." Kyle, an Atheist vegan, who was wooing the Christian carnivore, added, "I didn't wanna quit. I wanted to give everything I had. I didn't want any regrets of just ending it to end it."

Shaina, who had feelings for Shayne Jansen before he was engaged to Natalie Lee, tried to drive a wedge between the duo, per ET.  In an off-camera phone call, she told apparently Natalie, "If Shayne and you don't work out, I have a friend who's interested. He's a millionaire and I showed him your Instagram profile, so if you're interested, he's available" (according to Natalie). Shaina also told other castmates that Natalie's connection with Shayne was "fake" and "laughable." 

Some fans of the show were quick to pounce on Shaina, per The Blast. One person wrote on Instagram, "... like how do you be a Christian but trying to manipulate and ruin someone else's happiness." Another person wrote, "Like you said yes to a proposal and then went to tell another guy you have deep feelings for them? Girl I'm gonna put on some shades!"

What cast members do between dates

The entire "Love is Blind" set is designed around the pods. The men's and women's living areas each have a designated lounge where groups hang out in between dates. Some cast members liked to chill, and some needed to blow off some steam, like Diamond Jack, who told Refinery29, "One guy and I, we started dancing cause he knew I loved to dance, and we did salsa in the pod. So we were just making it more fun than anything."

Lauren Speed said she enjoyed a twerking class, playing pool, and talking to the other girls. Kenny Barnes said, "There were so many different things: plank challenges to get some testosterone and stress out. I baked a cake for the guys because I love cooking and stuff like that. We're getting four hours of sleep on cots. We'd wake up and go for runs. Like, we've got to get blood flow going or we're gonna lose our minds." And of course, some people just took naps to rest up from long days of filming, even when the accommodations were not exactly four-star. 

In Season 2, contestants got to sleep in real beds at hotels, a step up from the former cots and trailers, per Netflix's Tudum site. As the pods were furnished with plenty of drinks, bathroom trips by the lounge were also a standard pastime.

Cast members can request specific snacks

All that soul-searching and deep discussion is bound to make a person hungry or thirsty. In terms of food and drink on set, the production crew was on hand to take care of all kinds of special requests from the cast on this show. Kenny Barnes told Refinery29, "If you wanted a special snack they'd go run and get it. Bailey's and coffee was my go-to. ... I couldn't eat 'cause I was honestly just messed up emotionally."

Kelly Chase said she was just fine with meats and greens, "but everyone else was being very, very particular. Like, 'I need the chocolate chip pop tarts with chocolate frosting." As for alcoholic beverages, anything the cast members wanted, they would get. What better way to get two people loosened up for a blind date? Cameron Hamilton told Refinery29, "Lauren and I had bonded over our love of Hennessy at one point. We went into the pod one day and then there was Hennessy in there for both of us. [The producers] listened."

With all those free-flowing foods and drinks, The Washington Post joked about "the cacophony of odors" in the dwelling spaces. "Here's another dating show idea: You can't see or talk to your date but you can smell them. Call it 'Love Stinks!'"

Some cast members feel 'connected for life'

There is one thing that happened on "Love is Blind" that producers didn't see coming: the friendships that were forming behind the scenes. Cast members say they have made forever friends. Lauren Speed told Oprah Daily that sometimes there was a little competition, but all of it changed her life anyway.

"Life at the facility felt like a sorority. You'd think that people would be catty because some people would like the same guy. But we actually formed a sisterhood, no lie. We bonded through this once-in-a-lifetime experience. How else would we explain this to other people? No one else would understand. We all shared that, and it created a family," Lauren said.

Mark Cuevas said he still remains close with the guys from Season 1, who were there for each other as they tried to sort through their emotions and be vulnerable: "There was such a big support when you saw someone fighting the experience. We were like, 'Listen man, what's up. Let's talk about this.'" Lauren told Elle when discussing her friends from the show, "We're connected for life."

Is Love is Blind pretending 'looks don't matter'?

"One of the ways that relationships go wrong has to do with many surface things," Chris Coelen told E! News. But looking at the casting, some critics have said the show is missing the point. "Love is Blind" certainly isn't the first reality series to be criticized for its narrow ideas of beauty, but it has followed in the footsteps of shows like "The Bachelor" that have historically lacked diverse physical appearances among contestants.

Amanda Prahl from PopSugar said that "Love is Blind" is pretending "that looks don't matter." If they don't, she asked, "then why cast an entire group of people who are conventionally attractive?" At the same time, she warned against dramatizing relationships between contestants with different looks, recalling 2000s reality shows like "Beauty and the Geek" that made looks the whole point.

Alex Zaragoza from Vice bluntly wrote, "If love is, indeed, blind, and this show aims to challenge us to see beyond physical attraction when it comes to finding a partner, where the hell are the uggos to prove their theory?" And for Marie Claire, Anne T. Donahue acknowledged that physical attraction can grow over time with the right person, adding, "But why not celebrate the range of people who exist on this planet? Why champion traditional definitions of beauty while claiming not to prioritize looks?" Viewers at home seemed to echo these calls for better representation following Season 2.

Is love really blind?

In the dramatic Season 2 finale, there were five weddings, but only two couples actually tied the knot. Iyanna McNeely and Jarrette Jones, and Danielle Ruhl and Nick Thompson, all said "I do" (according to People), with Danielle concluding on screen, "So, love is blind, obviously." Salvador Perez and Mallory Zapata parted sweetly as he said, "I just need more time." But it was Deepti Vempati who shook things up when she rejected "Shake" Chatterjee, saying at the altar on their wedding day, "No, I cannot marry you."

This came after Shake revealed that he did not "feel an intense physical connection" with Deepti. All of this brings us back to a couple of basic questions. Chris Coelen told Oprah Daily, "This is a show where the participants know everything about one another where they choose one another." Can you really know everything about a person you've never seen and have only spoken to through a soundproof booth for 10 days?

And should the show even be called "Love is Blind?" In an interview with Vulture, Coelen had this to say: "The show's point of view is not 'love is blind.' It's 'is love blind?'" Then, maybe love isn't blind after all. Perhaps it's just about how you look at it. In any case, Netflix has already committed to Season 3, per Decider, and the Season 2 reunion episode has given fans much more to talk about.

Jessica Batten called her Love is Blind run 'very traumatic'

On Season 1, Jessica Batten accepted Mark Cuevas' proposal, but it wasn't a match made in heaven. The couple struggled with their ten-year age difference, and Jessica ended up leaving Mark at the altar in the show's finale. As it turns out, she wanted to avoid walking down the aisle altogether, but she was apparently told by producers she had to stay. "It was really frustrating because I kind of knew [Mark and I] weren't going to get there," she told Entertainment Weekly in 2020. "I definitely had some conversations and attempted to leave, but I wasn't able to." 

On top of all the emotional drama she was going through, her dog was very sick and nearly died. By this point, the podcast host said she needed some time to adjust and fly solo. "After the show wrapped, I didn't date for quite a while just because it was a very traumatic experience," Jessica explained to Us Weekly in 2021. "More than anything, I was just trying to duck and cover, and fly under the radar," she added. 

In 2020, the Healthy Crunch spokesperson met Benjamin McGrath, and he put a ring on it the following fall. Around the same time, Mark announced he was expecting his second child with his fiancée. "Every time I have any type of news, it's like he's out there in the media one-upping me," Jessica joked, adding that she didn't believe this was purposeful on her "Love is Blind" ex's part.

A contestant is suing over allegedly 'inhumane' conditions

Season 2 contestant Jeremy Hartwell might have been signaling something was up when he made this Instagram post in February 2022. "Filming for 'Love is Blind' was one of the most intense and memorable events of my life," he wrote in part. Jeremy had only worked on the show for less than a week, but he later claimed cast members were deprived of their basic human needs and paid less than minimum wage. By July, he was taking the case to court for damages, per Variety.

In the lawsuit, Hartwell's attorney, Chantal Payton, alleged that the show's producers "deprived [the contestants] of food, water and sleep, [and] plied them with booze." The complaint further claimed that the series also "cut off their access to personal contacts and most of the outside world ... [which] made cast members hungry for social connections." In addition to accusing producers of making its stars work 20-hour days every day of the week, for which the cast made just $1,000 a week — this breaks down to about $7 an hour — the suit also claimed that contestants faced a $50,000 penalty if they exited production prior to completing their filming obligations. Per the lawsuit, this "combination ... all either required, enabled or encouraged by defendants contributed to inhumane working conditions and altered mental state for the cast."

While Payton estimated that over 100 other plaintiffs could join the class-action suit, the show's production company, Kinetic Content, vehemently denied Jeremy Hartwell's allegations, claiming that there was "absolutely no merit" to them.