Love is Blind launched to the world during the height of 2020’s first lockdown, providing viewers with a fresh take on reality dating shows.
With the drama of the fifth Netflix series from across the pond fresh in our minds and the impending 2024 release of the UK’s first series, experts from the UK’s leading wedding website Hitched.co.uk sat down with one of the remaining couples from series one, Lauren Speed-Hamilton, to discuss her time on the show, planning a wedding when no one knows you’re in a relationship, and the lack of diversity in reality experiments like Love is Blind.
Keeping the secret
What many viewers don’t realise is that the experiment all happens a year and a half before it plays out on our screens, and they are not allowed to share their news until the show eventually airs. Lauren tells Hitched how difficult keeping the secret was for all that time.
“Oh man, it’s actually very difficult because we couldn’t post pictures, and we’re talking about a year and a half, almost two years of being married that we couldn’t post pictures together.
Not all of my friends even knew that I was married. Of course, my close friends and family knew, but it was a real secret that we had to keep quiet, and that’s difficult because you want to celebrate your marriage. When you’re newlyweds, you want to tell everybody, and so that’s kind of hard.
I would be on vacation and just posting myself at the beach, so that was weird. People were thinking that I’m just going on all these trips by myself while I’m there, knowing that I was actually there with my husband.
So it was difficult because it’s such a big thing that happens in your life, and you want to tell everybody. So it was tough not being able to do that. But on the same note, I’m glad that we had that time to really solidify our marriage.”
The casting process
As contestants in the first ever series of the show, Lauren and her husband Cameron had nothing to base their expectations on when signing up for the experiment. Lauren tells Hitched how she was approached to be on the show through a sneaky DM slide.
“I think one of the big differences is that during our season, Cameron and I didn’t seek out to go on Love is Blind”, says Lauren. “The cast actually approached us. For me, it was one of the casting people sliding into my DMs, like, “Hey, there’s a new show coming out, and we think that you might enjoy it.”
“And for the longest time, I ignored it because I never really wanted to do reality TV. It just always seems so messy, and I felt like black women weren’t always portrayed in the best light on reality TV, so it wasn’t like I was like, “Yeah, reality TV!”
“But the more that I talked to the casting director, she was very persistent and learned more about the experiment. Coupled with the fact that my dating life was basically trash, I started to grow more interested in the show, and there was just the possibility that this could be something where I could potentially meet somebody, and if not, it’s just a good time.
But once I decided that I did want to try to move forward with the whole casting process, the paperwork was like a mountain. You have to go through a psych evaluation just to make sure that you’re mentally fit to be on the show. Which, thinking about that, there were some people there that I don’t know how they passed, but they were there.”
Mental health support
Supporting people’s mental health is a big priority in the UK with regards to reality TV, and Lauren explains what support was offered to contestants before, during, and after the experiment aired on TV.
“I’ve been told that if you inquire about getting help, that production will provide you with mental therapists or counsellors. But honestly, I feel like they should have a mental therapist or counsellor throughout the whole process, from the start and continuing after you get married, specifically.
Because in this process, you’re digging up so much dirt from past relationships, traumas, and family relationships, so going into something new, you have to deal a lot with your own mental struggles outside of just trying to attach to someone else.
It’s like, man, I didn’t even know that I was doing this mental blocker with myself. I didn’t know past relationships were affecting me like this and so on. So, that aside, in addition to trying to join lives with someone so quickly, I just think that adding that element would be very much appreciated.
Because now it’s like they have producers and they say tell the producers how you feel, but that’s a little different than talking to an actual mental counsellor or therapist. I definitely feel like that should be implemented as well as, after you get married, either pursuing your own counselling or, even if you don’t get married, just going through the show, which in a way is trauma. Because that’s what it is.
Trauma doesn’t always have to mean something bad; it just means something that kind of came and interrupted your life. I know I definitely had to go through it.”
Diversity and representation
Lauren tells Hitched how important representation is when it comes to reality shows like this, saying, “I think that the world is so vast and there’s so many different types of people, relationships, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and religious beliefs that represent the world. And I feel like if you’re going to have a reality TV show, it should reflect all of that. Because that’s what we are, is a society like, why not?”
“And I think that in reality TV, I would love to see more of that, but it’s not even just in the casting; it’s like, OK, if you cast these people, show them on TV and give them the camera time. We want to hear their story; we want to see them because it’s easy for passing directors and shows to be like, we cast them, but they didn’t make it on the show for whatever made-up reason that they say.
I feel like if you’re going to cast them, follow through, and show their stories. Show them interacting in the house together, because that’s what we need to see on TV. It helps us understand each other better as a society.
It also gives people a chance to see a different viewpoint, learn something, and educate themselves. Variety is the spice of life, and I am an advocate for seeing that reflected in the media. It’s something that needs to happen, and it’s 2023; we’re about to be in 2024. Why is that such a taboo?
I definitely feel like there could be an LGBT version of Love is Blind, because those are relationships too. You have heterosexual relationships; you have queer relationships; so show it all, because there’s somebody who’s watching it who wants to see people who represent them, and everyone should be represented in the media.”
Spilling the tea on other couples
With couples from the latest series taking issue with their physical appearances after their meeting and the idea that certain contestants knew each other before appearing on the show, Lauren shares her thoughts.
[On JP’s comments about Taylor’s makeup] “I just think that’s absolutely ridiculous. I think that Taylor’s beautiful without makeup, and if she wants to wear makeup, that’s her choice. I mean, I just thought it was ridiculous.”
[On Uche and Lydia’s confirmed history] “If I were on this season’s cast and that happened, I’d be really disappointed because I feel like they really robbed people of an experience.
“It just seems like it robbed a lot of people, including the viewers, of the experience of seeing what could have been. It robbed the people that were in the pods of the experience of genuinely meeting someone, and it was just unfortunate and shouldn’t have happened. I feel like it was left on the show because it was going to be a controversy. But it really did the show disservice, I think.”
Advice for UK couples
For those British couples about to face the same instant fame that Lauren and Cameron did on the back of their time on Love is Blind, Lauren says the “important thing is just to focus on your story.”
She continues, “If you focus too much on the public and their opinions, then you’ll get in your mind, second-guessing your worth and yourself. And it’ll start becoming a validation type of situation. And that is not what you want because you’ll start beating yourself up, and you never want to attach your worth to public opinion.
Whether it’s good or bad, it’s like you have to know that regardless of what people think, I’m happy with myself. I’m happy with who I am, and I’m happy with my life. And I think that’s something that I had to learn because it was difficult at first.
Yeah, we got a lot of love, but we also did have people who left nasty comments, believe it or not. And it’s so easy to read a pool of love and a pool of positive comments. But you see two or three negative comments, and those are the ones that stay with you, and you just replay them in your mind.
So it’s tough, and it takes a lot of mental strength to do anything in the public eye. Let alone open yourself up to such a vulnerable space when it comes to love and relationships. So I would just tell future people to keep that in mind as much as you can, don’t read the comments, and don’t get so caught up in other people’s opinions that you start to question your worth because, at the end of the day, that’s their business; it has nothing to do with you.
And as long as you’re OK with you, that’s what matters.”