There’s been a flood of virtual Love Is Blind spin-offs in quarantine, based on the Netflix show where participants go on blind dates in pods where you can only hear—not see—the other person. But Alesia Smith, a paralegal for the federal government, noticed the same issue she saw in the Netflix show playing out in the virtual series: A serious lack of racial and cultural representation. In response, Smith decided to start her own version with two friends called Chocolate City Is Blind, geared specifically towards black Washingtonians. They’re recruiting participants now through April 30 and the dates will start on May 4.
“Being a DC local, I was kind of saddened and disappointed with the variety of folks presented in these local spin-offs,” says Smith. “It’s kind of like getting back to the black roots of DC—why don’t I do my own version specifically for that culture and that target audience?”
The project pairs 10 men and 10 women in the DC area, streaming their journey in a private Facebook group. It’s currently for hetero relationships only; Smith says they could expand later, depending on how this first season goes. Viewers pay a $5 admission fee (to the Venmo handle @ChocolateCity-IsBlind) to see all the content, from the recorded dates to the post-date debriefs Smith will conduct with each participant.
One detail Smith says she clarifies frequently is that, unlike the Netflix show, a marriage proposal is not a necessary outcome. Smith just hopes these singles find someone they want to get to know further. Before quarantine, she attended some IRL meet-ups, speed dating, and other singles events. Recently, she’s tried virtual dating events, too.
“I felt underrepresented in doing these events [because] at times I would be the only black woman, or one of very few black women, with one maybe two other black men in the mix,” says Smith. “For me, I have no issue dating anyone, any color, race, background, but it was just something that you notice—and it’s hard not to notice when you don’t see people that look like you.”
Smith hopes that daters won’t face the same hurdles in Chocolate City Is Blind. It’s all about making connections and having a good time, despite the craziness happening outdoors. For those who aren’t in the running, watching the drama unfold online might be just the right distraction.