If we were on one side of a pod and the concept of Love Is Blind was on the other, we would probably run a million miles. And yet here we are: a world head-over-heels obsessed with the Netflix dating show, which has topped global rating lists over the last four weeks.
The self-named ‘social experiment’ involves 15 males and 15 females entering into a purpose-built facility, with the end goal of finding a fiancee in mind. The only rule? They’re not allowed to see each other before getting engaged.
And while there were success stories and there were car crash endings, the real winner was clear: us, the viewers. But what was it actually like for those entering into the pods? For those heading on dates with people they’ve never met before, basing their potential combined future on only the tones of each other’s voices? Cosmopolitan UK spoke to Lexie Skipper, who was part of the experiment from day one and eventually got engaged, but didn’t make it to the final five couples.
‘I was contacted on Instagram about this new Netflix show, and it came at a time when I was just really fed up of dating,’ she tells us. ‘I’d been living in Atlanta for three years and was at a crossroads in my career, and I just thought, :”This is something totally different, and maybe it will work”. I was really intrigued by the concept and I didn’t really have time to contemplate whether it was the right thing for me – four weeks after that first message, I was in the pods. I took a leap of faith and signed up to Love Is Blind.’
On the first day in the pods, every contestant went on 15 dates – every woman dated every man, and vice versa. ‘It’s the most dates I’ve ever been on in my life! We were essentially speed dating – every meeting lasted for seven minutes. And then at the end of the day, everybody ranked their dates from 1 – 15. Each day from there, the number of dates you went on would decrease, and the length of those dates would increase, as producers knocked people off the bottom of each other’s lists.
‘Essentially, it was a bit like an algorithm, and producers were matching up your priority list with other people’s priority lists, and looking at who was high on each other’s matches. By the end, we were spending hours chatting to a select number of people – we’d chat into the night, and early in the morning. There were a lot of dating rounds that weren’t really shown in the series – bearing in mind I went on dates with EVERYONE.’
And yes, that does include the likes of Barnett, Mark and Kenny. ‘I knew when I first talked to Cameron that he was a super-intelligent, caring guy. It’s funny now that I know what everyone looks like – I can match faces up with the voices, having dated them all in the pods. Technically we’re all exes!’
During those initial dates, the contestants lived in the purpose-built facility, divided into gendered quarters. ‘It was like living in a sorority house – the girls spent all our time in this shared space with a gym, kitchen and hang out area, and then our bedrooms were there too. We’d cook together, chat, drink – I’ve made friends for life. We were living feet away from the guys, which was even weirder because we were so close but had never seen each other.’
Lexie’s romantic connection came four days into the experiment with 27-year-old Westley Baer, a sales manager from Atlanta. ‘I was spending more time with him and our dates were getting longer, and I knew in my gut that he was the right person for me. It felt better than any other relationship I’d ever been in – I felt just as close to Westley as I did to the man I was in a relationship with for four years.
‘The pod intensifies everything – you have no distractions and are totally cut off from your real life. It was so nice not being judged on your appearance, or at a surface level – you were really given the chance to dive deeper into your emotions and connect with someone.’
By day 10, Westley proposed by decorating Lexie’s pod with flowers, cheesecake and wine – something which contestants were allowed to do for each other, but was never shown on the series. ‘I couple of days earlier, I had decorated his pod with Christmas decorations after he mentioned how it hadn’t been a big thing for him growing up.
‘In return, he filled my pod with my favourite things, and I walked in and knew he was going to propose. He asked me to marry him through the wall, and I said yes. Waiting to meet him was the longest day of my life – I felt like I was putting all my faith into someone and wasn’t allowed to see who!’
It’s unsurprising, then, that Lexie was full of nerves for their first meeting on that red carpet. ‘I was standing there shaking. I was so excited but so nervous at the same time – I kept thinking, “Is this really happening to me? Is this someone I could potentially be with forever?” We hadn’t really discussed what we looked like – we wanted to stay true to the process. He started running over to me and we embraced for the first time – it was a special moment.’
After their initial meeting, Lexie and Westley chatted face to face for the first time, but ‘the next thing we know we were separated from each other, and a producer informed us we weren’t going to Mexico with the others. It was really hard to take – if I’m honest, I don’t really know why it happened. It wasn’t a long conversation – they just said they didn’t have the capacity to cover our relationship, and that our journey on the show was over.’
That didn’t mark the end of Westley and Lexie’s relationship, though. ‘When the news had sunk in, my first question was “Where’s Westley?” and he was waiting for me. I was so happy to be able to spend time together without the cameras on. Since the show [which was actually filmed 18 months ago], we’ve spent a lot of time together, but Westley eventually moved to Bali for six months. We kept in contact but it was hard for it to be anything more than that.
‘As for where we are now, we talk every day and are definitely in a good place. We watched a lot of Love Is Blind together, and I wish more of our journey was shown. We’ve talked through a lot of what-ifs – if we went to Mexico, would we be married now? Would we be together? Our lives changed completely because of the show, but maybe they would have changed even more.
‘I don’t regret anything about going on Love Is Blind. I stayed true to myself the whole time, and I think in turn it’s made me a better communicator and friend. I would do it again in a heartbeat.’
This post originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com
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