Relationship Present ‘Love Is Blind’ Was ‘Emotional Warfare,’ Contestants Say

Briana Holmes was having hassle respiratory.

The 25-year-old was filming the Netflix actuality present “Love Is Blind,” the place younger singles get engaged with out ever assembly face-to-face. The person Holmes was courting by a shimmering blue wall had simply admitted he wasn’t positive he needed to marry her.

Determined to flee the cameras, Holmes ran exterior the present’s Atlanta set and collapsed on the steps of the hair and make-up trailer, shaking and sobbing. She was having a full-blown panic assault.

Producers and a digicam operator did not miss a beat. “They actually chased me off of the set to the trailers, cameras in my face,” Holmes mentioned. “I am like, that is an excessive amount of. I do not need this. I do not wish to be right here. I do not wish to do that.”

Holmes give up the present that day. The 20-hour filming days, coupled with the strain to get engaged to somebody sight unseen in beneath two weeks, was an excessive amount of.

“It is so much,” Holmes mentioned. “None of it was scripted. All the pieces you see is actual. These are individuals’s actual lives and actual feelings.”

“Love Is Blind” premiered on Netflix on February 13, 2020, a month earlier than COVID-19 shut down the US. Viewers had been captivated by the excessive stakes and weird moments (like when a contestant gave her canine crimson wine). Virtually instantly, the present grew to become the de facto lockdown exercise, with 30 million households tuning into the primary season. It had all of the hallmarks of a cultural phenomenon: an “SNL” sketch; contestant appearances on “The Ellen DeGeneres Present;” and Twitter endorsements from celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Chrissy Teigen.

Actuality reveals are identified for tormenting contestants, however “Love Is Blind” — which is hosted by Vanessa and Nick Lachey — promised one thing completely different. It was a “good” actuality present, a social experiment that valued genuine emotional connection over bodily look. On the sequence, 30 contestants (15 males and 15 ladies) spend 10 days occurring blind dates with one another in custom-built pods, the place they cozy up on velvet couches, drink wine from golden goblets, and speak to their dates by audio system. After the ten days, forged members should determine whether or not they wish to get engaged to a different contestant sight unseen — or go residence. The engaged {couples} are despatched on a short trip earlier than returning to their hometowns to plan their weddings, which happen just a few weeks later.

Man standing in balcony with a city skyline in the background.

The season-two contestant Nick Thompson mentioned “Love Is Blind” did not adequately assist its forged members — throughout or after filming.

Evan Sheehan for Insider

However whereas viewers cannot get sufficient of the present, some forged members mentioned being on “Love Is Blind” was a traumatic expertise. They had been so exhausted that they’d typically go to sleep throughout dates. Many had been hardly ever noticed with out an alcoholic beverage in hand. Throughout the 10 days of filming within the windowless set, contestants noticed daylight solely once they used a toilet in a trailer exterior. Three forged members advised Insider that they had panic assaults whereas filming, and one mentioned producers pressured her to remain on the present even after she confided she was having suicidal ideas. In June 2022, the season-two forged member Jeremy Hartwell sued Netflix and the present’s manufacturing firm, Kinetic Content material, accusing them of labor-law violations and of subjecting contestants to “unsafe and inhumane” working situations by depriving them of sleep, not supplying sufficient meals and water, and offering an extra of alcohol. (Kinetic has denied Hartwell’s claims, saying they’ve “no benefit.”)

A number of contestants advised Insider they had been left depressed and sought remedy after filming. One even give up her job as a result of she felt unable to return to her outdated life. Contestants mentioned Netflix and Kinetic Content material handled them as if they had been disposable and failed to offer adequate mental-health providers whereas filming and within the present’s aftermath.

Netflix didn’t reply to requests for remark. In an announcement to Insider, Kinetic Content material wrote: “The wellbeing of our members is of paramount significance to Kinetic. We’ve got rigorous protocols in place to take care of every particular person earlier than, throughout, and after filming.”

“You thrust us into this example with none assist, and every part’s amplified,” Nick Thompson, a season-two contestant, mentioned. “It actually ruins lives.”

Actuality TV has at all times walked a advantageous line on the subject of morality. Exhibits like “Survivor” and “Worry Issue” are rooted within the struggling of their contestants. Different applications, like “Love Island” and “The Bachelor,” have preyed on forged members’ vulnerabilities, which are sometimes divulged to producers in the course of the screening course of. However as individuals’s consciousness of psychological sickness has grown, so has their understanding of the toll these reveals can take. In 2018 and 2019, two former “Love Island UK” contestants died by suicide. Final spring, Insider printed an investigation into “America’s Subsequent Prime Mannequin,” wherein former contestants mentioned that they had on-set panic assaults and sustained accidents whereas filming in unsafe situations.

Many forged members believed “Love Is Blind” can be a reduce above different actuality reveals. “I used to be like, wow, OK, truly making a reference to somebody not primarily based on appears?” Kelly Chase, a season-one forged member, mentioned. “What a stupendous, superior idea.”

Contestants had been scouted by casting professionals on Instagram, LinkedIn, and even Tinder. Earlier than being forged, people needed to undergo interviews with producers and go a felony background test, in addition to a psychological screening, the place they mentioned their previous relationships.

A number of contestants, nonetheless, mentioned the screening felt perfunctory.

“I joke they do not need you to be too loopy, however simply loopy sufficient,” Danielle Drouin, a season-one contestant, mentioned.

Danielle Ruhl, who married Nick Thompson on season two, mentioned she was shocked she handed the psychological screening as she’d disclosed her historical past of psychological sickness and that she had tried suicide. In hindsight, she does not suppose she ought to have been cleared. “Wanting again I am like, they’re solely doing that to test the field,” she mentioned. “They did not care.”

As soon as contestants are forged, they signal a contract agreeing to be recorded 24/7 for as much as eight weeks for a weekly stipend of $1,000 that has a cap of $8,000. In Hartwell’s lawsuit, he argues that Kinetic Content material “willfully misclassified” contestants as unbiased contractors as a substitute of staff, which meant their $1,000 weekly stipend translated to about $7.14 an hour — lower than half of the $15 minimal wage in California, the place filming within the pods occurred after season one. Months after Hartwell filed his lawsuit, he found Kinetic had despatched him a W-2, the tax kind used to report wages for workers.

Woman sitting in couch, her face lighted by the orange lamp next to her.

Season one’s Kelly Chase mentioned she was intrigued by the thought of falling in love with somebody with out understanding how they seemed: “What a stupendous, superior idea.”

Rita Harper for Insider

Contestants should additionally acknowledge that being on “Love Is Blind” would possibly destroy their reputations. The contract says showing on the present might expose data that’s “private, non-public, stunning, defamatory, disparaging, embarrassing, or unfavorable” and open them as much as “public ridicule, humiliation or condemnation.” 

But, as Hartwell, who participated within the pod dates however did not finally match with anybody, advised Insider: “There was nothing within the contract that would have ready anyone for the expertise we had been put by.”

Upon arriving on the set, forged members had been reduce off from the surface world. They advised Insider that their telephones and passports had been confiscated for the ten days they dated within the pods and that they weren’t even allowed to take heed to music on the bus rides from the resort to the set. They hardly ever noticed daylight and infrequently misplaced observe of what day and time it was, three contestants mentioned. Kinetic Content material dictated once they might sleep and the place and once they ate.

Manufacturing assistants escorted forged members all over the place — together with to the toilet. The PAs had been forbidden from talking with the contestants. “We had been advised if a woman comes on the bus and he or she feels self-conscious, feeling dangerous about her physique, do not reply,” mentioned a manufacturing assistant on seasons two and three, who requested to stay nameless for skilled causes. “Simply ice her. That bizarre cult vibe of, ‘Do not speak to them, they can not speak to you.’ It is all concerning the isolation.”

Within the present’s first season, which was filmed in Atlanta, some contestants had been shocked to search out they had been anticipated to sleep in drab trailers full of bunk beds in the course of the 10 days courting within the pods. All 15 ladies had been to remain in a single single-room trailer, with the 15 males in one other. 

Drouin mentioned when she first noticed the trailers, she thought it was a joke. “There was no privateness, it was chilly, it wasn’t snug,” she mentioned.

A season-one forged member mentioned she slept on a mattress on the trailer ground as a result of she did not belief that the bunks had been steady. When among the ladies noticed cockroaches within the trailer, it was the ultimate straw.

Following a flood of complaints, the trailer lodging had been scrapped after the primary night time and the forged was moved to a resort. Manufacturing assistants stood guard within the hallways to ensure contestants did not go away their rooms in the course of the few hours they had been allotted to sleep.

Sleep was typically laborious to return by. Throughout the 10 days of pod courting, forged members had been required to movie as much as 20 hours a day of dates, confessional interviews, and mingling within the lounge, in keeping with a number of contestants. Some individuals nodded off in the course of the day and tried to sneak naps throughout breaks, however sleeping on set was almost not possible due to the brilliant lights and foot visitors. 

“The sleep deprivation was actual,” Drouin mentioned. “I really feel like they do it on goal as a result of they’re making an attempt to interrupt you. They need you in your edge.”

Entry to meals and water was additionally a priority. A number of former forged members mentioned meals had been inadequate and water wasn’t simply accessible. “They might run out of meals,” Ruhl mentioned. She added, “I bear in mind each time we might get to the freaking kitchen, there’d be like one hard-boiled egg and it was like a struggle to see like who might truly get the stuff.” Hartwell’s lawsuit says contestants had been required to work by their meal breaks and had been “commonly denied meals each on the Defendants’ manufacturing set and of their resort residing quarters.” The sinks within the on-set lounges did not work, so contestants needed to ask manufacturing assistants to carry them bottled water. The manufacturing assistant mentioned requests for water had been typically intercepted by a producer, who would recommend bringing alcohol together with it. 

(In an announcement to Selection, Kinetic responded to Hartwell’s lawsuit, saying there was “completely no benefit to Mr. Hartwell’s allegations” and it will “vigorously defend in opposition to his claims.”)

Woman standing between two buildings, as the sun shines from the back.

Danielle Drouin mentioned the “Love Is Blind” mental-health screening felt perfunctory. “I joke they do not need you to be too loopy,” she mentioned, “however simply loopy sufficient.”

Bryan Regan for Insider

In the future in the course of the pod interval, Ruhl was ingesting Champagne when she fainted. She hadn’t eaten, slept, or drunk sufficient water, she mentioned, however a crew member insisted she take a COVID-19 check. The check got here again detrimental, but slightly than getting Ruhl medical consideration, producers had her do an on-camera interview instantly after passing out. “That was it,” Ruhl mentioned. “I needed to go proper again into it.”

A number of individuals advised Insider it typically did not really feel as if manufacturing had contestants’ greatest pursuits in thoughts. Holmes, the season-one forged member, mentioned she was struck by the sheer quantity of alcohol available. She mentioned she prevented ingesting however sooner or later made a joke about wanting a particular kind of liquor. The subsequent day, the manufacturing workers introduced her not one however 4 bottles. “I used to be like, is that this a joke?” she mentioned. “Possibly they had been making an attempt to do it to be good. I do not suppose so, although.”

The manufacturing assistant mentioned producers steadily advised PAs to high off contestants’ alcoholic drinks. “Particularly for the dates, we had been always refilling their glasses,” the PA mentioned. A season-two forged member mentioned producers inspired her to take a shot of whiskey proper earlier than she met her fiancé face-to-face for the primary time, telling her that everybody else had completed the identical. Later, she mentioned, she came upon she was the one one who’d taken a shot. “I did not get drunk the entire time as a result of I used to be actually cautious,” she mentioned. “Nonetheless, they made it appear like I used to be a celebration woman.”

Contestants’ bodily exhaustion was intensified by what one known as the “emotional warfare” of filming. 

Throughout one-on-one interviews, producers preyed on contestants’ anxieties, pushing them to disclose their deepest insecurities and traumas, individuals mentioned. Hartwell advised Insider that in one among his interviews, producers spent greater than 20 minutes digging right into a painful previous relationship in “excruciating element.”

“I used to be bawling my eyes out. It was actually embarrassing and distressing,” he mentioned, including, “They might elicit no matter emotional response they needed, and so they had been very, superb at it.”

In the meantime Ruhl, the season-two contestant, advised Insider that earlier than filming commenced, she confided in her producer about her previous struggles along with her weight. She mentioned she felt snug as a result of the producer mentioned he’d misplaced 70 kilos and understood how doing so might have an effect on courting. 

Ruhl was dismayed when producers turned her physique picture right into a central storyline. In on-camera interviews, producers would ask Ruhl whether or not she felt she was worthy of affection or whether or not she felt her fiancé, Thompson, would nonetheless love her if she gained weight. “They might use this stuff to form of reduce you down day over day,” Ruhl mentioned. “The interviews had been horrible.”

I saved telling them: ‘I do not belief myself. I’ve tried committing suicide earlier than. I do not suppose I can proceed on this.’

A season-one forged member mentioned she felt “disgusted” after a pod date wherein producers refused to let her and her date end an emotionally charged dialog concerning the deaths of their mother and father. “We’re not even considered as human beings at this level,” she mentioned. “I get that you just’re filming a present. However we’re human. We had been having a real second of grief and it was like, ‘Sorry, too dangerous.'”

A number of former forged members mentioned a therapist ought to’ve been out there on the set. “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” have an on-call therapist, as does “Massive Brother,” the place contestants are equally remoted. In 2019, ITV, the manufacturing firm behind “Love Island UK,” introduced it will enhance efforts to guard contestants’ psychological well being after filming.

“It is best to have check-ins,” mentioned Holmes, who labored as a mental-health skilled earlier than becoming a member of “Love Is Blind.” “Individuals neglect that your emotional, psychological, and bodily well-being may be interrupted with any remembrance of trauma.”

However as a substitute of being aware of the contestants’ psychological well being, producers appeared most involved with holding them on the present — even when the pressures of filming grew to become an excessive amount of. “Love Is Blind” contracts stipulate that forged members should pay $50,000 in damages to Kinetic Content material in the event that they go away the present early with out producer approval, and that engaged {couples} are obligated to indicate as much as their marriage ceremony even when they do not wish to marry their companion, resulting in dramatic “I don’ts.” 

Steven Stein, a psychologist who screens candidates for actuality reveals, mentioned the hefty advantageous for leaving early was “excessive” and dangerous to forged members’ psychological well being. “Why would you like somebody who’s coerced to be in your present?” he requested. “What sort of leisure is that going to be?

Drouin of season one mentioned she grew to become distraught and requested to go residence when producers refused to let her name her twin siblings on their birthday after beforehand agreeing to it. The season-two forged member who mentioned she was painted as a “occasion woman” requested to depart the present after her engagement as a result of she knew she could not marry her fiancé, who wasn’t a Christian. In each circumstances, producers persuaded the contestants to remain, telling them they’d discovered love and the present was going to make them well-known.

love is blind contestants danielle ruhl and nick thompson speak in hotel room in mexico

Danielle Ruhl and Nick Thompson needed to depart the present after Ruhl had a panic assault whereas the 2 had been on trip in Mexico.


Ruhl and Thompson had their very own run-in with producers throughout a post-engagement journey to Mexico. The primary night in Cancún, producers advised Ruhl she could not attend a celebration for all of the newly engaged {couples} as a result of they thought she may need COVID-19.

Left alone within the resort room, Ruhl grew increasingly anxious, ruminating on how her lack of attendance can be portrayed on the present and why her fiancé was allowed to attend (regardless of their having been collectively all day) whereas she wasn’t. She additionally felt distressed after telling Thompson earlier that day a few traumatic occasion from her previous. She recalled considering: “I can’t do that. I can’t mentally be on a TV present.” She had a panic assault, hiding within the closet to make sure it would not be filmed as a result of she believed there have been hidden cameras within the room. 

When Thompson returned and realized what had occurred, he took off his microphone and threw it on the producers, he mentioned, saying that they had been completed with the present and sick of being exploited. Ruhl advised producers she did not really feel mentally steady sufficient to maintain filming.

“I saved telling them, ‘I do not belief myself,'” she mentioned. “‘I’ve tried committing suicide earlier than. I am having suicidal ideas. I do not suppose I can proceed on this.'”

However producers persuaded them to remain, assuring them they’d be portrayed sympathetically and saying issues like “you are the love story” and “you are Lauren and Cameron,” referring to the fan-favorite couple Lauren Velocity and Cameron Hamilton, who received married in season one. “Love Is Blind” finally aired a scene suggesting Ruhl had a panic assault as a result of she was upset about Thompson talking to a different girl on the forged occasion.

After leaving “Love Is Blind,” many forged members struggled to reenter their lives.

Holmes, who did not match with anybody, was devastated to comprehend she’d gotten nearly no display time. “It made it really feel like every part I went by was for nothing,” Holmes mentioned. “I wasn’t adequate to make it greater than 30 seconds on the present? It was like a smack within the face.”

Per week after leaving “Love Is Blind,” Holmes give up her job as a mental-health counselor; she mentioned she felt the work would’ve always reminded her of her detrimental expertise on the present. She mentioned she did not hear from Netflix or Kinetic once more till Netflix despatched her a cease-and-desist letter for posting images with different forged members at a Friendsgiving earlier than the season aired.

The season-two forged member mentioned she grew to become depressed after watching her season and discovering she’d been portrayed as a villain. She was bombarded by hate messages, with individuals accusing her of being racist and homophobic. Some even DMed her pastor, blasting him for permitting her in his church when, they mentioned, she was “evil” and “the Antichrist.”

“I will be very trustworthy — it sounds silly as a result of it is actuality TV — however my physique was beneath a lot stress due to PTSD,” she mentioned.

That is after I began to crumble mentally

In December, about 18 months after filming on season two had wrapped and three months after the “After the Altar” episodes had been launched, she had a miscarriage. “My physique was hanging onto the stress of the present,” she mentioned.

Some contestants who reached out to Kinetic for assist after filming mentioned they had been ignored — or met with outright aggression.

Just a few forged members mentioned that they obtained a handful of sporadic check-in calls after filming from a mental-health skilled employed by Kinetic, however that it wasn’t sufficient.

Thompson mentioned he obtained roughly three calls between filming and the present’s premiere, with every lasting just a few minutes. He mentioned the particular person would ask how he was doing, and when he responded “not good” or “my marriage is falling aside,” they’d say, “OK, tell us if you happen to want something.”

“It felt like checking a field,” he mentioned. Thompson mentioned that when he and Ruhl began having marital issues, he known as a couple of individuals at Kinetic and requested for assist discovering a {couples} therapist. “I actually begged for assist, and I did not get it,” Thompson mentioned. “Like, I wish to repair my marriage that you have thrust us into for revenue. And it was nothing.”

love is blind cast member jeremy hartwell

Season two’s Jeremy Hartwell mentioned he contacted Kinetic to speak about how “Love is Blind” contestants had been handled, however the manufacturing firm’s lawyer advised him to “fuck off.”

Evan Sheehan for Insider

In August, Ruhl filed for divorce, and inside a couple of days the information broke on TMZ, igniting a brand new wave of social-media harassment. Thompson mentioned he obtained messages calling him “abusive.” Others accused him of being a narcissist or speculated that he was homosexual. He mentioned he was terrified to choose up his cellphone for months. “It was brutal,” he mentioned. “That is after I began to crumble mentally.”

Thompson mentioned the one communication he received from Kinetic on the time was a cellphone name assuring him he would not be sued for breach of contract, despite the fact that the contract forbade {couples} from getting divorced till after their last episode aired. (Ruhl’s submitting got here only a few weeks earlier than their season’s “After the Altar” follow-up episodes had been launched.)

Hartwell known as Kinetic’s talent-relations supervisor, Erin Web page, in February 2022 to speak about how contestants had been handled throughout and after filming. He mentioned he needed the manufacturing firm to acknowledge “the hurt prompted.” Web page advised Hartwell that Kinetic took his complaints significantly and promised that her supervisor would attain out to him in a day or two, Hartwell mentioned. When greater than two weeks glided by and Hartwell nonetheless hadn’t heard something, he reiterated his complaints in an e mail to Web page. “At this level I can solely assume I am being ignored / dismissed,” he wrote.

A month after Hartwell’s first dialog with Web page, he was lastly put in contact with Kinetic’s inside authorized counsel, who recognized himself solely as Jay. On a cellphone name, Hartwell as soon as once more defined that he felt Kinetic mistreated the contestants. In keeping with Hartwell, the lawyer dismissed Hartwell’s issues and ended the decision by telling him to “fuck off.”

Whilst “Love Is Blind” stays massively in style, some viewers are beginning to query the ethics of the present.

A Vox article from final month proclaimed “Love Is Blind’s fourth season is its villain period.” Final August, a sociologist wrote an op-ed arguing that the present’s two public divorces proved its “experiment” is predicated in pseudoscience. When the third season aired final fall, followers accused the present of casting “poisonous” males.

The manufacturing firm got here beneath hearth specifically for letting the season-three contestant Brennon Lemieux on the present, despite the fact that he had been accused of assaulting a lady he was courting throughout a struggle only a few months earlier than filming. In keeping with a police report obtained by Insider, Lemieux, a fan favourite for his “good man” demeanor, received into an argument along with his ex-girlfriend within the early hours of January 27, 2021. He requested her to depart. Within the police report, the girl says that when she refused, Lemieux grew to become “extra upset” and threw the 22-year-old in opposition to a wall, inflicting her to “strike her head” and momentarily knocking her unconscious. Within the report, the girl accuses Lemieux of then hitting, pushing, and scratching her with each arms. A grand jury declined to indict Lemieux due to an absence of adequate proof. 5 months after the altercation, Lemieux married Alexa Alfia on the present.

love is blind cast members brennon lemieux and alexa lemieux at a promo event for season four in los angeles

Followers criticized “Love Is Blind” for casting Brennon Lemieux, who’d been accused of assaulting his then-girlfriend (not pictured) a couple of months earlier than filming.

John Salangsang/Selection through Getty Photographs

Individuals blasted “Love Is Blind” for failing to catch the report or, worse, ignoring it. Lemieux mentioned on Instagram that the report was falsely filed and famous that it was thrown out. Stein, the psychologist, mentioned producers ought to have instantly disqualified any forged member accused of violence. “It is completely not well worth the danger,” he mentioned.

Followers accused one other season-three forged member, Matt Bolton, of “abusive” on-camera habits towards his fiancée, Colleen Reed. In a single episode whereas the 2 had been on trip in Malibu, Bolton flew right into a rage after Reed advised him one other forged member, Cole Barnett, had flirted along with her. Whereas Reed sobbed, Bolton yelled and threatened to depart her, livid that she hadn’t shut down the change shortly sufficient. In a later episode he once more grew to become infuriated and threatened to depart when Reed got here residence late from clubbing with different forged members.

Some individuals actually did discover love on the present: 4 {couples} from the primary three seasons are nonetheless married. However for a lot of others, it wasn’t value it. “I believed I would discover my husband,” the season-two contestant who had a miscarriage mentioned. “I had no thought it was going to be plenty of emotional warfare.”  

The season-two contestant mentioned manufacturers typically messaged her about paid promotion offers, however she did not wish to settle for them for worry of extra hateful messages. “I really feel prefer it destroyed my repute to the purpose the place it did hold me from going additional with sure alternatives,” she mentioned. 

Some forged members who struggled after “Love Is Blind” complained that the general public wasn’t sympathetic as a result of they had been those who had agreed to go on a actuality present. However none of them knew precisely what they had been signing up for. “You haven’t any thought what it is like till you expertise it,” Stein mentioned. 

Hartwell mentioned the reality-TV trade should not get away with “exploiting and emotionally and psychologically abusing human beings for revenue.” He plans on beginning a nonprofit advocacy group to offer assets for present, previous, and future reality-TV contestants to raised perceive their rights and keep away from being exploited. 

For a lot of, they’re nonetheless making an attempt to rebuild their lives postproduction.

“I do not suppose that I’ve felt myself since earlier than filming,” Ruhl mentioned, including that she even attended trauma remedy to course of her expertise on “Love Is Blind.”

“I am making an attempt to refind who I’m as a result of it fucked with me a lot.”